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Witch Hazel a Native American Remedy

By Darrell Miller

The witch hazel plant is a deciduous shrub that grows from three to eight meters tall. The leaves of the plant are oval and about four to sixteen centimeters long. They have a smooth, wavy margin. The horticultural name means 'together with fruit,' as its fruit, flowers, and leaf buds for the following year all appear on the branch at the same time. Sometimes, the flowers are produced on the leafless stems in winter, which gives it the alternative name, "winterbloom."

Witch hazel, in its medicinal form, is an astringent that is produced from the leaves and bark of the North American witch hazel shrub. Naturally, the plant grows from Nova Scotia west to Ontario, Canada and south to Florida, and Texas in the United States. This plant was widely used for medicinal purposes by the American Indians. Witch hazel extract was produced by steaming the twigs of the shrub.

Witch hazel was used by Native Americans for cuts, bruises, muscle aches, wounds, and also as a general tonic. Also, they drank a tea made with this herb for sore throats and to prevent miscarriage, fevers, and colds. The herb was used in steam baths for coughs and congestion. Witch hazel is one of the most valuable remedies native to America. Colonists began using witch hazel thanks to the natives. This herb was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1862 through 1916. It was also listed in the National Formulary from 1916 through 1955 as both an astringent and anti-inflammatory.

Externally, witch hazel is used as an alcohol extract for insect bites, varicose veins, burns, hemorrhoids, and to stop bleeding wounds. Internally, the herb is used to stop bleeding from the lungs, uterus, and other internal organs. It can also be used as a mouthwash for bleeding gums and inflammation in the mouth and throat. Compresses of witch hazel can be applied to the skin in order to treat headaches, sores, skin irritations, insect bites, sunburn, other burns, and infections. The herb is a safe treatment that possesses a mild and gentle action.

The leaves and bark of this herb contain tannins. These tannins are known to have astringent properties. The use of an alcoholic fluid extract has been found to produce vasoconstrictive activity in animal studies.

In short, the bark of witch hazel is used to provide alterative, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, hemostatic, and sedative properties. The primary nutrients found in this herb are copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, vitamins C, E K, and P, and zinc. Primarily, witch hazel is extremely beneficial in treating internal bleeding, gum problems, hemorrhoids, mucous membranes, and varicose veins. Additionally, this herb is very helpful in dealing with bruises, burns, cuts, diarrhea, dysentery, bags under the eyes, hemorrhage, insect bites, excess menstruation, sore muscles, scalds, sinus ailments, swelling, tuberculosis, tumors, and venereal disease.

In order to obtain the best results when supplementing with this, or any herb, it is important to consult your health care provider before beginning any regimen. For more information on the many beneficial effects provided by witch hazel, please feel free to consult a representative from your local health food store with questions.

About the Author

Heal the body with an old native American remedy called witch hazel. VitaNet ®, LLC