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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chinese Witch Hazel,Hamamelis mollis

The soothing, mildly antiseptic properties of the distillatie from witch hazel bark have been known for generations and it’s still used in medicine that you can buy in the chemist shop, including a well-known brand of eye lotion that soothes tired and sore eyes. Hamamelis mollis comes from Central and Eastern China but the selected forms of the plant that you buy in the local garden centre are usually grafted onto the vigorous North American H. virginiana (see illustration below), rather than grown on their own roots. H.virginiana is the usual medicinal source of witch hazel distillate. The fragrant flowers of Chinese witch hazel, produced in late winter, are attractive and so are its leaves when they turn golden-yellow in autumn. There are faster-growing hybrid forms with orange-red flowers, but their autumn foliage is comparatively dull. The common name is sometimes spelled wych hazel, which is apparently the original spelling, which has since been corrupted to witch hazel.

Illustration of H.virginiana from Franz Eugen Köhler, in Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen published in 1887, via Wikipedia Commons (