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Hamamelis virginiana

Witch Hazel bears striking resemblance to regular Hazel, although the two species are completely unrelated. The leaves almost look the same and even the nuts are very similar. However, unlike regular Hazel, Witch Hazel flowers produces the strangest looking scraggily blooms in the midst of winter. The name 'Witch Hazel' is derived from the old English word 'wytch', which means 'dowsing' and refers to the Old World use of regular Hazel as dowsing rods to divine hidden water veins or lost treasures. The pilgrims learnt about the use of Witch Hazel from Native American healers. Witch Hazel became popularised through the collaborative efforts of a native Oneida healer and a certain Mr. Pond, a local friend of the tribe. Together they prepared the first commercial Witch Hazel preparation, which they called 'Golden Treasure' and which later became known as 'Pond's Extract'. It is still sold under this name today and is a common toiletry article in most North American bathroom cabinets.

Witch Hazel is an excellent astringent herb. It can be used for all sorts of swellings, whether they are due to inflammation, e.g. as a gargle for tonsillitis and inflamed gums, or bruises, insect bites or poison ivy rash. One of the best known applications for Witch Hazel is as a remedy for haemorrhoids, which is said to be very effective. It is also used for afflictions of the veins, giving support and strength in cases of varicose veins. It makes a great ingredient for various skin care preparations, not just because it soothes and draws together 'spider veins', but also because it contains powerfully active antioxidant agents, which can fight the effects of ageing. Witch Hazel has also traditionally been used to treat all manner of eye infections and inflammations and even temporary blindness caused by blows to the head. Internally it can be used to astringe inflamed or irritated tissues, especially of the digestive system. It will curb inner bleeding, diarrhoea or leucorrhoea and it has also been used to reduce excessive menstruation or to reduce the loss of blood during child birth.

As with common hazel, Witch Hazel twigs are cut and used as dowsing rods Native Americans also used the seeds in certain medicine ceremonies and for divination practice to determine whether a patient would recover. Witch Hazel has an affinity with water and may be used in weather magic.