Witch Hazel

Other names: hazelnut, pistachio, spotted alder, hazelnut, tobacco wood, winter bloom

Scientific name: Hamamelis virginiana, H. ovalis, H.vernalis (North America), H mollis (China) H japonica (Japan)

Common names: Hazel nut, snapping hazel, tobacco wood, hamamelis water, spotted alder, and winterbloom.

Ayurvedic names: 

Chinese names: Chiu-lu-mei

Bangladesh names: Kakrasringi

Arabic names:    الهماميلس (Hamamelis )

Rain Forest names:

Family: Hamameliadaceae

Approximate number of species known:

Common parts used: Bark, leaf

Collection: Spring

Annual/Perennial: perennial

Height: Upto 15 feet

Actions: Astrigent, anti-inflammatory, haemostyptic, vulnerary

Known Constituents: tannins (3-10%) including hamamelitannin including catechins, gallotannins and procyanidins;, gallic acid; essential oil; flavanoids

tannin, gallic acid, catechins, proanthocyanins, flavonoids (kaempferol, quercetin), essential oil (carvacrol, eugenol, hexenol), choline, saponins, and bitters 

Constituents Explained:


A shrub

There are five species, three in North America, one in China and one in Japan.

It derives it’s name from it’s similarity to hazelnut, and the word witch in old english which meant ‘flexible.;

Generally it doesn’t produce enough oil to make extracting the oil worthwhile, so it is often combined with alcohol.

Traditional Use:

This herb was used by the Native Americans as a poultice for the skin.7  They would boil the stems and condense the steams in a form of distillation.  They would boil the tea and use it to treat internal hemorraging, menstrual pain, colds and fevers.

Commonly used on the skin, it is a recurring ingredient in cosmetic and anti-wrinkle products.  It is commonly externally applied to varicose veins, haemorrhoids and to help stop bleeding. Externally, It has also been used for bruises, wounds, ecazema, psorisis and insect bites.

In cases of sore eyes it has been used by soaking cotton wool in witch hazel and placing it on top of a sore eye.  An eye bath can be made by placing a few drops in water, and rinsing the eye, optionally with the addition of a small amount of sea salt.

The tannin content is believed to be what is responsible for the astringent qualities.

It has been used to stop bleeding.1  While it has been used internally its important to make sure it is an extract that is safe for human consumption as the majority on the market are sold for external application only on the skin.

It got its name from a greek word because of its similar look to an apple tree.

Clinical Studies:


               Hamamelis virginiana

Latin name: Hamamelis virginiana

Family: N.O. Hamamelidaceae

Other names: 

Spotted Alder, winter bloom, and snapping Hazelnut.

Hamamelis virginiana is a species of Witch-hazel native to eastern North America, from Nova Scotia west to Minnesota, and south to central Florida to eastern Texas.

It is a deciduous large shrub growing to 6 m (rarely to 10 m) tall, with a dense cluster of stems from the base. The bark is light brown, smooth, scaly, inner bark reddish purple. The branch lets are pubescent at first, later smooth, light orange brown, marked with occasional white dots, finally dark or reddish brown. The foliage buds are acute, slightly falcate, downy, light brown. The leaves are oval, 3.7-16.7 cm long and 2.5-13 cm broad, oblique at the base, acute or rounded at the apex, with a wavy-toothed or shallowly lobed margin, and a short, stout petiole 6-15 mm long; the midrib is more or less hairy, stout, with six to seven pairs of primary veins. The young leaves open involutes, covered with stellate rusty down; when full grown, they are dark green above, and paler beneath. In fall, they turn yellow with rusty spots. The leaf stipules are lanceolate, acute; they fall soon after the leaf expands. The flowers are pale to bright yellow, rarely orange or reddish, with four ribbon-shaped petals 10-20 mm long and four short stamens, and grow in clusters; flowering begins in about mid fall and continues until late fall. The flower calyx is deeply four-parted, very downy, orange brown within; imbricate in bud, persistent, cohering with the base of the ovary. Two or three bract lets appear at base. The fruit is a hard woody capsule 10-14 mm long, which splits explosively at the apex at maturity one year after pollination, ejecting the two shiny black seeds up to 10 m distant from the parent plant. It can be distinguished from the related Hamamelis vernalis by its flowering in fall, not winter. The bark contains tannin, partly amorphous and partly crystal, Gallic acid, a physterol, resin, fat and other bitter and odorous bodies.

It has long been used by the North American Indians as poultices for painful swellings and tumors. 

The decoction has been utilized for incipient phthisis, gleet, ophthalmia, menorrhagia and the debilitated state resulting from abortion.

Herb Name: Witch hazel

Others names: Snapping hazelnut, winter bloom, Hamamelis, Common witch-hazel

Latin name: Hamamelis virginiana

Family: Hamamelidaceae

Common part used: Leaves, Twigs, Bark

Description: Witch hazel is a shrub with green leaves (turning yellow in fall) and little narrow yellow flowers.

Properties: Witch hazel is an herb that is used in herbal medicine to treat heavy and painful legs and sore nipples. Witch hazel is also used as a skin tonic. This herb is a good astringent, it has slight aromatic properties, and it can help to curb bleeding, lessen mucus discharge, reduce inflammation, and has localized hemostatic qualities.

Contents: Witch hazel contains large amounts of tannins. The bark contains a mixture of catechols and hamamelitannins (digalloylhamamelose). The leaves mainly contain ellagitannins, proanthocyanidins and a small quantity of essential oil with safrol and ionon.

Internal use: Internally, it is commonly used for acute diarrhea, heavy and painful legs, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, colitis, and excessive menstruation.

External use: Externally, Witch hazel can be used for hemorrhage, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, skin inflammation, sprains, bruises, burns, and sore nipples. As a mouthwash, it helps to reduce gum and throat inflammation. Witch hazel is also an extremely popular ingredient in cosmetics and is added to various cosmetic preparations.

Essential oil and aromatherapy use: Not noted.

Safety precautions: Internal use can interfere with the absorption of other medications.