Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. Today we focus on wonderful Witch Hazel!
Indigenous to North America, hamamelis or witch hazel has been prized for thousands of years for it’s astringent, anti-inflammatory and healing benefits. Native Americans boiled the bark and leaves to create an extract that was valued for its cooling and healing properties in treating swellings and inflammations. Early New England Puritans copied the idea and it’s use in America has been widespread after Dr. Charles Hawes found that steam distillation of the plant’s twigs was more effective. “Hawes Extract” came on the market in Essex, Connecticut in 1846. The process was further refined by Thomas Newton Dickinson, Sr. who began the commercial production of the product. Dickinson’s Witch Hazel is still on the market today.
Because it’s naturally rich in tannins, which have a drying effect, witch hazel’s astringent powers have been found to be helpful in treating hemorrhoids, minor bleeding and skin irritation from insect bites and poison ivy. Some folks have also had success in using it to treat psoriasis and eczema. Because of it’s skin tightening properties, it’s also effective at slowing down and stopping bleeding from small cuts and scrapes.
Witch Hazel is also prized by “Water Diviners” who practice an ancient technique called dowsing wherein a limb or branch of a tree is used to “divine” where water is located underground. They are also a great choice for landscaping as they are hardy, low maintenance and ignored by most pests. Whether you consider them a small tree or a large shrub, they are manageably sized, topping out at 10 to 20 feet. Some varieties will spread nearly as wide, making them a great addition when wanting to cover a lot of space in the yard. Best of all is the beautiful yellow glow you’ll see in your yard when its leaves turn in early autumn. Then in late fall, its spicy smelling, spidery shaped yellow flowers appear and will remain on the branches long after the leaves have fallen.
We can enjoy witch hazel’s beauty and also incorporate it into our own beauty routine! It’s commonly used as a toner and some folks claim that it helps to reduce puffiness and dark circles under the eyes. To test it out for yourself, mix equal parts witch hazel and aloe vera gel and pat under the eyes. We’ve included links to some other Do-It-Yourself beauty products that include witch hazel below. Enjoy!