Alternate Forest Products: Witch Hazel

Land owners are often looking for additional revenue sources. Witch hazel is one of those options to harvest a marketable product from a forest without harming the resource. The leaves and bark of the North American Witch-hazel may be used to produce an astringent, which is used medicinally. This plant extract was widely used for medicinal purposes by American Indians and is a component in many commercial healthcare products.

It's mainly used externally on sores, bruises, and swelling. Witch hazel hydrosol is used in skin care. It is a strong anti-oxidant and astringent. It is often used as a natural remedy for psoriasis, eczema, aftershave applications, ingrown nails, to prevent sweating of the face, cracked or blistered skin, for treating insect bites, poison ivy, and as a treatment for varicose veins and hemorrhoids. It is found in numerous over-the-counter hemorrhoid preparations.

The witch-hazels are deciduous shrubs or small trees growing to 3–8 metres (9.8–26.2 ft) tall, rarely to 12 metres (39 ft) tall. The leaves are alternately arranged, oval, 4–16 centimetres (1.6–6.3 in) long and 3–11 centimetres (1.2–4.3 in) broad, with a smooth or wavy margin.

The following is from http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/hamamelis_virginiana.shtml:

American witchhazel posses some interesting lore and uses. The most interesting use as been the use of forked limbs as dowsing or divining rods. Early European settles observed Native Americans using American witchhazel to find underground sources of water. This activity is probably where the common name witchhazel came from. “Wicke” is the Middle English for “lively’ and “wych” is from the Anglo-Saxon word for “bend.” American witchhazel was probably called a Wicke Hazel by early white settlers because the dowsing end of the forked branch would bend when underground water when detected by the dowser. This practice had a widespread use by American settlers and then exported back to Europe. Dowsing became an established feature of well-digging into the 20th century.