Hamamelis virginiana – Common Witch Hazel

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Common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is an abundant native plant in New England with many topical uses.
Witch hazel was first mass produced in the mid 1800’s in Essex, Connecticut. The leaves have an asymmetrical base and serrated edges. The plant uniquely blooms in autumn.
Astringents made from witch hazel have been used to treat acne, dandruff, varicose veins, and bug bites. The plant can be harvested year-round to make an astringent. Even if the plant is cut to ground level, it will be able to completely grow back within 7 years.
To make an astringent, cook the twigs on low heat, covered for 30 minutes. This liquid can be used topically for up to one week if kept in the fridge. To make the astringent shelf stable, add vodka so the final product is at least 25% alcohol.
Some people will make a tea with witch hazel, but it is toxic if consumed in large quantities.

Written by Amy Demers, founder of the Connecticut Foraging Club. To learn more about foraging in Connecticut, check out our upcoming classes.

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