Witch Hazel


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When I moved to a new house in Briarcliff Manor, NY, one of the first things I planted was a witch hazel tree (or shrub). That’s when I discovered that people really hate them or love them.


My reason for planting it was to have some winter color just outside the sunroom. I was not disappointed. I loved looking out the window and seeing the bright yellow flowers against the snow-covered yard, with the Hudson River in the background and bright red cardinals on the branches. Unfortunately, I can’t find a picture of that scene with the witch hazel in front of me. The photo above shows what I would see standing with the witch hazel behind me, so you’ll just have to imagine it. 


Although witch hazel provides a beautiful little splash of color during the cold winter months, it’s not all that attractive the rest of the year and needs a fair amount of pruning to keep it in check. That’s why there are many gardeners who don’t bother with it. I have to say I miss that unruly witch hazel… and the snowy winter days (if not the work of shoveling snow), now that I’m in North Carolina. We might have to go to the mountains one weekend to find some snow, although 2016 is not looking promising on that account. I wonder how the warm weather has affected the witch hazels here. I hope they get around to blooming at some point!


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When I chose to plant witch hazel I had an unrealistic and unrealized dream of removing some bark and making my own homemade witch hazel extract. Those were the days I was studying herbology and was inspired to do far more than I had the time or energy to actually complete. Luckily witch hazel extract and products are easy to find. See my Featured Product for January.


Witch hazel provides many benefits and is extremely safe to use. A tea made from the bark and/or leaves is good for digestion and was used traditionally for a bleeding stomach and “complaints of the bowels.” (Grieve, A Modern Herbal). Witch hazel, applied on cotton pads or as a suppository is still used to reduce the swelling and stop bleeding of hemorrhoids. Dilute it with sterile water, saturate a cotton pad and apply onto swollen eyelids during hay fever season.


Witch hazel is a very effective astringent and is still sold today as a face toner and acne treatment. It also relieves inflammation, reduces varicose veins, and soothes bug bites, burns, dermatitis, eczema, boils and many other skin discomforts. I use Thayer’s Witch Hazel on my face daily, and although I’ve tried many other more expensive toners, I believe plain old witch hazel works best, whether your skin is sensitive, oily, or dry.


If you get a chance, plant a witch hazel tree!

© Bobbi Mullins 2011, All rights reserved. FOOD FITNESS FAITH™