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Hamamelis virginiana - L.                
Common Name Witch Hazel, American witchhazel, Common Witchhazel, Virginian Witchhazel, Witchhazel
Family Hamamelidaceae
Synonyms Hamamelis androgyna Walter. Hamamelis corylifolia Moench. Trilopus nigra Raf.
Known Hazards Avoid long-term use due to cancer risk (from high tannin content). Avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 1g ingested can cause vomiting, nausea, impaction. Topical use may cause dermatitis [301].
Habitats Edges of dry or moist woods, in rich soil and on the rocky banks of streams[43, 82]. The best specimens are found in deep rich soils[229].
Range Eastern N. America - Nova Scotia to Wisconsin and south to Texas and N. Florida.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Bloom Color: Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early fall, Early winter, Late fall, Late winter, Mid fall, Mid winter. Form: Rounded, Vase.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of shrub
Hamamelis virginiana is a deciduous Shrub growing to 5 m (16ft) by 5 m (16ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower from Sep to November, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)

USDA hardiness zone : 3-8

Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel, American witchhazel, Common Witchhazel, Virginian Witchhazel, Witchhazel

Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel, American witchhazel, Common Witchhazel, Virginian Witchhazel, Witchhazel
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Seed.
Edible Uses: Tea.

Seed - raw or cooked[232]. An oily texture[4, 102, 177, 213]. The seeds are about the size of a barley grain and have a thick bony coat[2]. The reports of edibility must be treated with some suspicion, they all seem to stem from one questionable report in the 'Medical Flora' of Refinesque[2]. A refreshing tea is made from the leaves and twigs[102, 105, 177, 257].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antidiarrhoeal;  Astringent;  Haemostatic;  Homeopathy;  Miscellany;  Sedative;  Tonic.

Witch hazel bark is a traditional herb of the North American Indians who used it to heal wounds, treat tumours, eye problems etc[254]. A very astringent herb, it is commonly used in the West and is widely available from both herbalists and chemists[222]. It is an important ingredient of proprietary eye drops, skin creams, ointments and skin tonics[238]. It is widely used as an external application to bruises, sore muscles, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, sore nipples, inflammations etc[238]. The bark is astringent, haemostatic, sedative and tonic[4, 14, 21, 165, 171, 222]. Tannins in the bark are believed to be responsible for its astringent and haemostatic properties[222]. Bottled witch hazel water is a steam distillate that does not contain the tannins from the shrub[222], this is less effective in its action than a tincture[238]. The bark is used internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, colitis, dysentery, haemorrhoids, vaginal discharge, excessive menstruation, internal bleeding and prolapsed organs[238]. Branches and twigs are harvested for the bark in the spring[238]. An infusion of the leaves is used to reduce inflammations, treat piles, internal haemorrhages and eye inflammations[213]. The leaves are harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use[238]. A homeopathic remedy is made from fresh bark[232]. It is used in the treatment of nosebleeds, piles and varicose veins[232].
Other Uses
Cosmetic;  Miscellany;  Rootstock;  Tannin;  Wood.

Used as a rootstock for the ornamental species in this genus[182]. The plant is very rich in tannin[7]. It is used cosmetically as an ingredient in almost any preparation made to relieve capillary weaknesses[7]. The stems have been used for water divining[257]. Wood - heavy, hard, very close grained[82]. It weighs 43lb per cubic foot[235]. The trees are too small to be a useful lumber source[229].
Cultivation details                                         
Landscape Uses:Border, Pest tolerant, Specimen, Woodland garden. Prefers a moist sandy loam[14, 130] in a sunny position[1], though it tolerates some shade[14]. Prefers a rich well-drained soil[1]. Dislikes dry limy soils but will succeed in a calcareous soil if it is moist[130]. Prefers a position sheltered from cold drying winds in a neutral to slightly acid soil[200]. A very hardy plant tolerating temperatures down to about -35°c[184]. Plants seldom produce seeds in Britain[4]. Witch hazel is a widely used medicinal herb. The bark is harvested commercially from the wild in N. America[61]. The twigs have been used in the past as dowsing rods for water divining[229]. A slow growing shrub, it takes about 6 years to flower from seed[200]. The flowers have a soft sweet perfume[245]. This species is notably susceptible to honey fungus[200]. Special Features: North American native, Attracts butterflies, Fragrant flowers, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
Seed - this can be very slow to germinate. It is best to harvest the seed 'green' (as soon as it is mature but before it has dried on the plant) around the end of August and sow it immediately in a cold frame[80, 98]. It may still take 18 months to germinate[200] but will normally be quicker than stored seed which will require 2 months warm stratification then 1 month cold followed by another 2 weeks warm and then a further 4 months cold stratification[113]. Scarification may also improve germination of stored seed[80]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Overwinter them in a greenhouse for their first winter and plant out in late spring[78]. Layering in early spring or autumn[78, 200]. Takes 12 months. Good percentage[78]. Softwood cuttings, summer in a frame[200].
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[14]Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs.
A good herbal.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[43]Fernald. M. L. Gray's Manual of Botany.
A bit dated but good and concise flora of the eastern part of N. America.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[80]McMillan-Browse. P. Hardy Woody Plants from Seed.
Does not deal with many species but it is very comprehensive on those that it does cover. Not for casual reading.
[82]Sargent. C. S. Manual of the Trees of N. America.
Two volumes, a comprehensive listing of N. American trees though a bit out of date now. Good details on habitats, some details on plant uses. Not really for the casual reader.
[98]Gordon. A. G. and Rowe. D. C. f. Seed Manual for Ornamental Trees and Shrubs.
Very comprehensive guide to growing trees and shrubs from seed. Not for the casual reader.
[102]Kavasch. B. Native Harvests.
Another guide to the wild foods of America.
[105]Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World.
The most comprehensive guide to edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
[113]Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
[130]? The Plantsman. Vol. 4. 1982 - 1983.
Excerpts from the periodical giving cultivation details and other notes on some of the useful plants, including Distylium racemosum and some perennial members of the family Berberidaceae.
[165]Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.
An excellent small herbal.
[171]Hill. A. F. Economic Botany.
Not very comprehensive, but it is quite readable and goes into some a bit of detail about the plants it does cover.
[177]Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption.
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
[182]Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos.
Contains a wide range of plants with a brief description, mainly of their ornamental value but also usually of cultivation details and varieties.
[184]Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Shrubs.
Excellent photographs and a terse description of 1900 species and cultivars.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[213]Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food.
A nice book to read though it is difficult to look up individual plants since the book is divided into separate sections dealing with the different medicinal uses plus a section on edible plants. Common names are used instead of botanical.
[222]Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
[229]Elias. T. The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
[232]Castro. M. The Complete Homeopathy Handbook.
A concise beginner's guide to the subject. Very readable.
[235]Britton. N. L. Brown. A. An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada
Reprint of a 1913 Flora, but still a very useful book.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[245]Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World.
An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
[257]Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
[301]Karalliedde. L. and Gawarammana. I. Traditional Herbal Medicines
A guide to the safer use of herbal medicines.

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