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Glitter Witch Gardens

Witch Hazel

By 01/20/2024January 26th, 2024No Comments

Materia Poetica

Sung to “Pop, Goes the Weasel”

Blooming strong in winter snow
When people are more frail
The tree dawns yellow flowers bright
Yup, that’s Witch Hazel

Hamamelis virginiana
Gets native as its label
Eastern half of the United States
Yup, that’s Witch Hazel

Stops cuts and scrapes from bleeding bright
On chins and cheeks and nasal
The H in Preparation H
“Hamamelis” – it’s Witch Hazel

Used long ago and recently
As a dowsing rod to enable
Finding treasures way down and deep
Yup, that’s Witch Hazel

My Shamanic Life podcast logo
Episode 144

My Shamanic Life Podcast

Hosted by Debbie Philp

Sheri Kurdakul, of Glitter Witch Gardens, brings us lots of goodness about a winter-blooming herb, witch hazel. You’ll hear about the origins of commercial witch hazel production and why witch hazel is a favorite for dowsing. I also revisit bones, this time from a garden perspective. Enjoy listening!

 ~ Rev. Debbie Philp

LISTEN HERE
Hamamelis virginiana

Witch Hazel | The Winter Bloomer

Hamamelis virginiana typically blooms from October through January. There is a hybrid – Hamamelis √ó intermedia, a hybrid witch hazel of garden origin between H. japonica (Japanese) and H. mollis (Chinese) that blooms February through March.

Because it blooms late in the season when most insects have sought winter shelter, flowers are mostly self-polinated, but also pollinated by noctuid moths.

Witch Hazel has leaves that resemble the distantly related hazelnut (Corylus americana) tree, but are asymmetrical at the base. Another plant in the family Hamamelidaceae is the witch-alder, Fothergilla major, and is probably the second most recognizable and utilized member of the witch hazel family among gardeners. It is also the genus most closely related to Hamamelis. 

FUN FACTS

  • The name¬†witch¬†in witch-hazel has its origins in¬†Middle English¬†wiche, from the¬†Old English¬†wice, meaning “pliant” or “bendable”, and is not related to the word¬†witch meaning a practitioner of magic. – Wikipedia
  • Witch hazels are self-pollinating. Because they bloom in the cold, therefore fewer insects around to pollinate the flowers, witch hazel evolved to make the pollination of its flowers easy to be pollinated by gnats or moths.
  • The seeds often take more than 2 years to germinate and only about 1% of witch hazel flowers will end up becoming fruit.¬†When the seed pod splits open to release the seed, it actually makes a cracking sound and can shoot the seed up to 30 feet!
Witch Hazel branch
Recipe (Mountain Rose Herbs)

Yin Yoga Mat Spray

This “recipe” is straight from Mountain Rose Herbs. I loved that they provided a recipe to keep the funk off your (yoga) junk and incorporated witch hazel to do so. If you want a printed copy of your very own, Mountain Rose Herbs is happy to email you a copy. Just CLICK HERE and make sure pop-ups are allowed. This recipe makes about 8 oz of spray.

INGREDIENTS*:

Purple yoga mat in a grove of Witch Hazel trees

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Fill clean, dry 12 oz. mason jar or glass pantry jar half way with dried thyme leaf.
  2. Fill the rest of the jar with witch hazel extract. Be sure liquid covers the herb.
  3. Infuse for 2 to 3 days, shaking 1 to 2 times a day. 
  4. Strain thyme infusion with cheesecloth or a funnel with strainer insert, then pour liquid into an 8 oz. spray bottle.
  5. Add appropriate essential oils (see recipes above).
  6. Shake well before each use. Apply liberally to your yoga mat and enjoy the fresh aroma! 

*Note: There are links to products available at Mountain Rose Herbs. I am not an affiliate and have no financial ties to them. I am a customer and believe in the quality of their products. As they are on the West Coast, if you are ordering from the East Coast, give yourself PLENTY of time for shipping. They are not Amazon!

Witch Hazel in the snow
Harvesting

From Tree Limb to Bottle

Witch Hazel is best harvested in late fall from October to December when it’s in bloom. The bark and twigs are used, but you can use both fresh and dried leaves and twigs to make topical medicine.

To make a poultice, you can start with an infusion.

  • Use one tablespoon of dried leaves to every cup of water
  • Pour hot water (just off the boil) over the leaves and let it steep for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Strain off the leaves and soak gauze or a cloth with the remaining liquid, placing it on the afflicted area

To make an extract, we’ll use a decoction.

  • Use one tablespoon of witch hazel bark to a cup of water
    • Chop it up as fine as you can so more surface area can be exposed
  • Bring the water and bark to a simmer and cook for about 20-30 minutes.¬†
    • It should reduce by about half
  • Strain the plant material and use the extract as needed.¬†

Note: These methods do not preserve it with alcohol and will not keep long-term. Refrigerate what you don’t use, but use it within 24 hours. Otherwise, compost it.

Native Ecology

Witch hazel is a species with high wildlife value. It‚Äôs a food source for many species of moths and butterflies. For a long time it was a mystery how witch hazel was pollinated, until naturalist Bernd Heinrich realized there‚Äôs a type of Owlet moth active on cold nights. These moths hide under the insulation of the leaf-litter during the day, then at night have the ability to raise their body temperature by as much as 50 degrees by shivering ‚Äď allowing them to go find sources of nectar.

Witch hazel is a host plant to 69 species of Lepidoptera larvae, including large lace-border, definite tussock, funerary dagger, and yellow-necked caterpillar moths. Small mammals and a variety of birds, including ruffed grouses, northern bobwhites, and wild turkeys, eat the seeds. Deer occasionally browse the plant during winter.

The fruit of American witch hazel is eaten by ruffed grouse, northern bobwhite, ring-necked pheasant, and white-tailed deer. The fruit is also frequently eaten by beaver and cottontail rabbit, and is a minor fall food for black bear in western Massachusetts.

Witch Hazel plant parts

Herbal Actions & Medicinal Uses

Below is some basic herbal information based on Western Herbalism and Chinese Medicine (TCM). Witch Hazel is considered safe for topical use as an astringent and is often used in cosmetic products. Witch Hazel is an FDA approved Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) for Skin Protectant and Anorectal Drug Products for Over-the-Counter (OTC) human use.

With any herbs and supplements, always consult with a licensed health professional before use.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaf, stems, bark

Flavors: Pungent, Astringent, Cool, Dry

Herbal Actions

TCM Actions:

  • Stops bleeding
  • Nourishes and moves Blood

Primary Organs: Spleen, Lung, Large Intestines

Western Actions:

  • Astringent
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Hemostatic

Horticultural Information

Witch Hazel prefers full sun in most areas or filtered sun in the hottest areas. The plant needs well-draining, moist soil and prefers slightly acidic, loamy soil but tolerates other growing conditions. When planting more than one witch hazel, space them 12-15 feet apart.

Witch hazel can also be planted from seeds, but you’ll need to be patient, as the seeds can take up to two years to germinate. They need to stratify – first go through a warm season and a cold season (below 45¬įF). Sow the seeds in moist soil and cover them lightly in an area that will remain undisturbed until they germinate.

As per he most popular varieties of witch hazel plants include:

  • Common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana): This variety, our most prolific in the Eastern US, grows up to 20 feet tall, and its bark extract is frequently used in the personal care industry.
  • Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis): This variety, native to central and eastern China, produces fragrant flowers‚ÄĒyellow flowers in the late winter and a fainter flower in its late fall foliage.
  • Japanese witch hazel (Hamamelis japonica): This variety, native to Japan but widely cultivated in other temperate areas, produces bright yellow flowers and green leaves.¬†
  • Big-leaf witch hazel (Hamamelis ovalis): This variety, found in the Southeast, has red flowers.
  • Ozark witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis): This variety, found throughout Missouri and Arkansas, has winter blooms of yellow and red flowers.

Hamamelis virginiana¬†typically blooms from October through January. There is a hybrid ‚ÄstHamamelis √ó intermedia,¬†a hybrid witch hazel of garden origin between H. japonica (Japanese) and H. mollis (Chinese) that blooms February through March.

Because it blooms late in the season when most insects have sought winter shelter, flowers are mostly self-polinated, but also pollinated by noctuid moths.

Witch Hazel has leaves that resemble the distantly related hazelnut (Corylus americana) tree, but are asymmetrical at the base. Another plant in the family Hamamelidaceae is the witch-alder, Fothergilla major, and is probably the second most recognizable and utilized member of the witch hazel family among gardeners. It is also the genus most closely related to Hamamelis. 

USDA Hardiness Zone(s): 3-9
(New 2024 USDA Hardiness Zone Map is pictured below.)

USDA Hardiness Zones 2023 map

Materia Magicka

Witch Hazel is particularly handy in finding lost things or finding your way when embarking on a journey. It also represents balance. 

  • The “Y” shaped branches are used for dowsing.
  • If your heart is broken, carry the leaves with you to help you heal and to overcome great feelings of loss.
  • Need to end a relationship? Carry the bark with you to cool things down.
  • Like an evil eye, hang it in your windows and doorways to ward off negative energies.

Below is some of the symbolism associated with Witch Hazel.

Planets: Constellations:
¬† ‚ôĄ Saturn ¬† ‚ôéÔłŹ Libra
Element: Chakra:
¬† ūüúā Fire ¬† ‚óČ Solar Plexus Chakra
Witch Hazel Sacral Chakra image