Friday, November 6, 2015

Witch Hazel

Several of you asked yesterday about the yellow squiggly things in two of my pictures and I said that I was pretty sure it was witch hazel. But I realized I'd never paid attention to the tree or shrub that these pretty late fall flowers appear on.

So I took a look -- down by the barn where we park our go-to-town car, a good-sized dogwood spreads its canopy. And mixed in amongst its branches are the branches of the wild native witch hazel, growing high and reaching far in search of sunlight.

(In the picture below, the witch hazel trunk is just above the flag and the dogwood is to its right.)

 An internet search tells me that witch hazel was used by Native Americans to treat any number of ailments from tumors, skin irritations, burns, and eye inflammations to hemorrhoids.

The most common preparation seems to be Witch Hazel water, obtained by soaking the tannin rich twigs and/or bark in warm water, distilling this, and finally adding alcohol.Back in my teen years, I remember occasionally using a commercial tincture of witch hazel as an astringent on my face, hoping to ward off the dread pimples.

So why is it called Witch Hazel? Wikipedia says (for what it's worth) that it comes from the Old English wice, meaning 'pliant' or 'bendable' and the the use of the pliant twigs for dowsing or 'witching' water may have influenced the 'witch' part of the name. 

Maybe so. I'd sure like to think so.

There's an excellent article HERE -- about witch hazel and distillation and dowsing -- a very good read.


Barbara Rogers said...

Thanks so much for the info on witch hazel. Never knew half of it. Seems like a good plant to have around.

Frances said...

Vicki, I share your memories of witch hazel's uses, and also think it's rather pretty to look at.

Thanks for the info and links. xo

NCmountainwoman said...

I loved the article. And I love Witch Hazel. What a treat it is to be walking in the woods and come upon that delightful smell long before we see the blossoms.

Jim Egerton said...

You have done it again. I haven't thought of witch hazel in years. Now I am curious.
Thanks again, I think, Vicki