Hamamelis virginiana

 

Botanical Name : Hamamelis virginiana
Family: Hamamelidaceae
Genus: Hamamelis
Species: H. virginiana
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Saxifragales

Synonyms : Hamamelis androgyna Walter. Hamamelis corylifolia Moench. Trilopus nigra Raf.

Common Names: Witch-hazel, American witchhazel, Common Witchhazel, Virginian Witchhazel, Witchhazel

Habitat : Hamamelis virginiana is native to eastern North America, from Nova Scotia west to Minnesota, and south to central Florida to eastern Texas. It grows in the edges of dry or moist woods, in rich soil and on the rocky banks of streams. The best specimens are found in deep rich soils

Description:
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 branchlets 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 involute, 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.

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leaf closeupThe 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 bractlets 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.

Cultivation:
Landscape Uses:Border, Pest tolerant, Specimen, Woodland garden. Prefers a moist sandy loam in a sunny position, though it tolerates some shade[14]. Prefers a rich well-drained soil. Dislikes dry limy soils but will succeed in a calcareous soil if it is moist. Prefers a position sheltered from cold drying winds in a neutral to slightly acid soil. A very hardy plant tolerating temperatures down to about -35°c. Plants seldom produce seeds in Britain. Witch hazel is a widely used medicinal herb. The bark is harvested commercially from the wild in N. America. The twigs have been used in the past as dowsing rods for water divining. A slow growing shrub, it takes about 6 years to flower from seed. The flowers have a soft sweet perfume. This species is notably susceptible to honey fungus. Special Features: North American native, Attracts butterflies, Fragrant flowers, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

Propagation :
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. It may still take 18 months to germinate 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. Scarification may also improve germination of stored seed. 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. Layering in early spring or autumn. Takes 12 months. Good percentage. Softwood cuttings, summer in a frame.

Edible Uses :
Edible Parts: Seed.
Edible Uses: Tea.

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Seed – raw or cooked. An oily texture. The seeds are about the size of a barley grain and have a thick bony coat. 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. A refreshing tea is made from the leaves and twigs

Medicinal Uses:
Witch hazel was highly valued in Native American medicine.  Many tribes rubbed a decoction on cuts, bruises, insect bites, aching joints, sore muscles, and sore backs.  They also drank witch hazel tea to stop internal bleeding, prevent miscarriage, and treat colds, fevers, sore throat and menstrual pain.  The colonists adopted these uses until the 1840s when an Oneida medicine man introduced the plant to Theron T. Pond of Utica, NY.  Pond learned of the plant’s astringent properties and ability to treat burns, boils, wounds and hemorrhoids.  In 1848, he began marketing witch hazel extract as Pond’s Golden Treasure.  Later, the name was changed to Pond’s Extract and witch hazel water has been with us ever since. The Eclectic text, King’s American Dispensatory, listed that the decoction was very useful the fluid extract had little to recommend it.  It as listed in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1862 through 1916 and in the National Formulary from 1916-1955.  It was finally dropped because the 24th edition of The Dispensatory of the United States stated witch hazel is “so nearly destitute of medicinal virtues, it scarcely deserves official recognition…[Its continued use serves only to fill] the need in American families for an embrocation [liniment] which appeals to the psychic influence of faith.” Contemporary herbalists recommend only the decoction of witch hazel bark.  Though the commercial witch hazel water may not contain tannins, it does contain other chemicals with reported antiseptic, anesthetic, astringent, and anti-inflammatory action.  Witch hazel water is an ingredient in Tucks, Preparation H Cleansing Pads and several German hemorrhoid preparations.  Witch hazel itself contains large quantities of tannins.  These have a drying, astringent effect, causing the tightening up of proteins in the skin and across the surface of abrasions.  This creates a protective covering that increases resistance to inflammation and promotes healing of broken skin.  Witch hazel also appears to help damaged blood vessels beneath the skin.  It is thought that this effect may be due to the flavonoids as well as to the tannins.  When witch hazel is distilled it retains its astringency, suggesting that astringent agents other than tannins are present.  Witch hazel is very useful for inflamed and tender skin conditions, such as eczema.  It is mainly used where the skin has not been significantly broken and helps to protect the affected area and prevent infection.  It is valuable for damaged facial veins, varicose veins and hemorrhoids, and is an effective remedy for bruises.  Due to its astringent properties, it helps to tighten distended veins and restore their normal structure. A lotion can be applied to the skin for underlying problems such as cysts or tumors.  Witch hazel also makes an effective eyewash for inflammation of the eyes.  Less commonly, it is taken internally to alleviate diarrhea, helping to tighten up the mucous membranes of the intestines, and for bleeding of any kind.  Japanese research showed witch hazel to have sufficient antioxidant activity to have potential against wrinkles.

Other different Uses:
*An extract of the plant is used in the astringent witch hazel.

*H. virginiana produces a specific kind of tannins called hamamelitannins. One of those substances displays a specific cytotoxic activity against colon cancer cells.

*The bark and leaves were used by native Americans in the treatment of external inflammations. Pond’s Extract was a popular distillation of the bark in dilute alcohol.

*The wood is light reddish brown, sapwood nearly white; heavy, hard, close-grained, with a density of 0.68.has several uses.

*The forked twigs of Witch Hazel are preferred as divining rods.

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

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamamelis_virginiana
http://www.wildflower.org/gallery/result.php?id_image=119
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_UZ.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Hamamelis+virginiana

 

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