pronounced HAY zuhl, is a shrub or small tree used to make a soothing lotion. Witch hazel
grows in the eastern United States and Canada. Its jointed, twisting branches point in all
directions. The forked twigs have been used for divining rods, and the name witch hazel
comes from this use by superstitious people. Witch hazel is also called tobaccowood,
spotted alder, or winterbloom.
After the leaves have died, in October or November, witch hazel bears its flowers. They
grow in feathery, golden clusters. The fruits do not ripen until the next year. Then the
seeds shoot from their small woody capsules to a distance of several yards or meters.
Witch hazel lotion, or hamamelin, is a tonic and healing astringent, applied on the skin
or taken internally. It is made by distilling the bark and leaves in alcohol. Doctors
prescribe it for bruises, sprains, hemorrhoids, ulcers, bleeding, and skin troubles.
Scientific classification. Witch hazel makes up the witch hazel family, Hamamelidaceae. It
is Hamamelis virginiana.
Contributor: W. Dennis Clark, Ph.D., Associate Prof. of Botany,
Arizona State Univ.