Common Names: Witch hazel, Spotted Alder, Winter bloom, Snapping
Botanical description: It is a small deciduous woodland tree that grows up to 5m. The leaves are oval with coarsely toothed edges. The flowers are yellow with a strong scent and appear in the winter months, hence the name Winter Bloom. The flowers are followed by brown fruit capsules that eject the ripe seeds up to 4 m away from the tree hence another common name of snapping hazelnut. Many of the plants grown in this part of the world in people’s gardens are hybrids with different colour flowers which probably have some medicinal action.
Location: Canada and Eastern USA. Cultivated elsewhere.
Part used: Leaves, bark, distilled witch hazel water. Nuts are eaten as a food
Cultivation/Harvesting: The leaves are gathered in the summer and dried. The bark is gathered in the autumn and dried as quickly as possible.
History/Folklore/Taste/Energetics: Cooling and drying. A traditional remedy for the eyes, cooling tired and sore eyes. It is also valuable for treating bruising and varicosities. For many people its scent reminds them of childhood bumps and bashes being tended and its aroma seems rather reassuring. For women after childbirth it is a most wonderful healer and restorer of the perineum and vulva.
Constituents: Leaves- tannin up to 10%, mainly gallic tannins and also condensed catechins and proanthocyanidins, Saponins, Choline, Resins, Flavonoids
Bark-also some volatile oil, fixed oil and up to 6% tannins.
Actions: Astringent, Anti-haemorrhagic, Anti-inflammatory, Tonic, Sedative
Traditional and current uses:
· Compresses or cream to treat bruises, bleeding, haemorrhoids and other varicosities
· Compresses or cream for varicose eczema and other tender and itchy skin conditions
· A lotion is prepared to use to treat cysts and skin tumours.