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How To Make Witch Hazel Astringent

>4 April 2012
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It occurred to me last night that witch hazel is one of those things that is really useful to have in the medicine cabinet, and I wondered to myself if it’s something that one could make at home.

So I went digging.

Online. Not outside.

And I was very excited to find out that it IS something that we can make ourselves, provided we have a witch hazel shrub.

“Witch hazel is an astringent produced from the leaves and bark of the North American Witch-hazel shrub (Hamamelis virginiana)…”

“Native Americans produced witch hazel extract by boiling the stems of the shrub and condensing the steam to produce a distillate. They used the distillate to treat sore muscles, cuts, insect bites, and other inflammations and tumors. Early Puritan settlers in New England adopted this remedy from the natives, and its use became widely established in the United States.

Wikipedia

I love that!! So, I went looking for exactly how to make my own extract. Here are two recipes I came across for witch hazel astringent:

  • Prune one pound of fresh twigs from shrubs as soon as they have flowered. This practice produces the strongest tonic.
  • Strip off the leaves and flowers (save these for sachets) and chop the twigs into a coarse mulch using either a mechanical mulcher or pruning clippers.
  • Place the chopped twigs into a two-gallon stainless steel pot.
  • Cover the twigs with distilled water (available at the supermarket) and bring the contents to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to simmer, then cover and cook for at least eight hours; add water as needed to cover the mulch.
  • Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  • Pour the witch hazel tonic through a funnel containing a cheesecloth filter and into clean plastic squeeze bottles or other suitable, tightly-capped containers.
  • Use the tonic within a week unless it is kept refrigerated. You can preserve your tonic for long-term room temperature storage by adding nine ounces of vodka or grain alcohol to 23 ounces of tonic. Yield: one gallon.

Warning: Do NOT use internally! Keep out of the reach of children.

Thanks, Handmaiden’s Kitchen!

 

As a topical astringent, witch hazel can be applied directly to burns, bruises, insect bites, and aching muscles. It can also be used to clean oily skin, remove make-up, or mixed with water for a relaxing footbath. This must be stored in the refrigerator, where it will keep for three weeks Usually a tea will only last a day or two, but this one will remain stable longer, possible because of the astringency.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon witch hazel bark
1 cup distilled water

Equipment
1 quart saucepan
Strainer
Glass storage jar

Procedure
Soak witch hazel bark in water for ½ hour, and then bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, covered, for 10-minutes. Remove from heat, let steep for another 10-minutes. Strain when cool and bottle. Apply with a cotton ball.

Bellaonline.com

I’m dying to scour our woods in hopes of finding this brilliant plant. Supposedly it grows wild throughout northeast and southeast North America, and particularly well in the Appalachian Mountains.

A great way to spot a witch hazel plant in your area is to search shaded forests in late October or early November for the only plant that is blossoming instead of dropping its leaves for the winter. Witch hazel can be found as either a large shrub, or a tree, and displays beautiful yellow flowers throughout the cold winter months.

But even if I can’t find any wild, I’m excited to now know that I can plant my own Witch Hazel bushes here around the home! I have the perfect spot too, a shady place on the north side of the house.

If you’re interested in putting some of these plants in as well, you can order them online for around $14 each. They’re hardy in zones 5-8, and do well in part sun, to full shade.

Witch Hazel is used for so many things: bug bites, sunburns, cuts, after shave, facial astringent, a soothing compress for perinatal tears.

It makes a beautiful, multi-purpose ornamental shrub, and has many medicinal and cosmetic uses. I’m so glad I looked this up! Definitely another plant to put on my “to get” list.

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19 Comments »

  • Sarah said:

    Great article! I have TONS of these lovely trees growing all over the place here where I live! I may just have to go out and harvest some twigs and make my own astringent!

    The tiny yellow flowers also have a SUPER sweet smell. They smell heavenly!

    Thanks so much for posting this!

    Sarah (Wylde Chylde Chicken Chasers)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    You are so lucky, Sarah! I think I might have to buy some, lol.

  • Lauren-Mae Cook said:

    Thank you for posting this! I really would like one (or a few heehee) of these. I have “to-get” lists as well! Mine keep growing… I think we are zone 6 for growing things so I think and we have very shaded property, this would be a good addition.

  • Julie said:

    Hi there! I absolutely love your blog! The one thing that is frustrating is I do live in So Cal where the weather is between 30 degrees in the winter and 110 degrees in the summer! It’s so tough to plan for!!!!!!!!!!! We’re on our way to being as self sufficient as possible and I love gleaning ideas from you. Thanks for sharing! And witch hazel is no where to be found!!!!!!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Julie,

    Yeah, unfortunately witch hazel is one of those things that doesn’t grow well in your area. But so many other things DO grow in So Cal… I actually envy your climate!! I’d give anything to be able to grow artichokes, avocados and citrus trees ;) Have you heard of the Dervaes family there in Cali? If not, you may be able to glean a lot from them as well!

  • James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. said:

    Great article. With Hazel has so many medicinal uses. Thanks.

  • James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. said:

    Sorry for the spelling. Witch Hazel.

  • Rachel @ Rediscovering the Kitchen said:

    Wonderful information, thank you! I have been looking for some alcohol free witch hazel which is amazingly hard to find in stores, this will be perfect! Now I have to go out and buy a with hazel tree, what a shame. ;)

  • NL in Alabama said:

    Great blog. I just received witch hazel seeds in the mail for the low cost of $2.15! I ordered them from Edens Organic Nursery. The directions say that the seeds are best when planted outdoors in the fall. I am looking forward to my upcoming project and will keep you posted on its progress.

  • mike said:

    hello my name is Mike and i buy and sell witch hazel in bulk,if you are interested i can mail it cheap. it is easy to find here in south east Missouri i am so happy to see people getting into safe remedies,true medicine. keep out the dangerous chemicals,nature provides everything we need,thanks for this blog,if you need the seeds a bush or leaves prepared,i can get you them for almost nothing,possibly just shipping,all of my organics are the way nature intended,get the truth out about herb and roots, thanks mike

  • Gran. said:

    I am grateful for the recipes! I will harvest some bark & twigs from my witch hazel shrub for splash/tonic after shave.

  • Annie McLeod said:

    Great Morning…I was doing research on my Loropetalum chinense, to find out if I could use it in the same way as witch hazel. They are from the same family. My loropetulum is actually Chinese Witch Hazel. I want to post this to Julie in California: I live in Southern Mississippi, and I think the loropetalum would do just fine in your climate. It is also a very showy plant, as it has pink flowers instead of yellow. We treat it like a shrub. Hopefully this helps. -Annie

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thanks for that helpful advice, Annie!

  • Penny Frazier said:

    Hi and thank you for the good work.
    I have a post about the legal problems with witch hazel on the US market you might find of interest.

    http://pinenut.com/blog/blog1.php?title=witch-hazelandash-legal-issues-and-a-rubric-cube-of-word&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

    It is good to see the air cleared about what witch hazel. We have a great deal of it here in Shannon, Dent and Crawford County.
    Penny Frazier
    A Wild Crops Farm Producer of witch hazel

  • Edward said:

    Your website specifies that you could provide witch hazel .. cheap.
    I saw nowhere to submit an order. Just HOW cheap ?? I see places online selling by the gallon for $15.00 plus s/h.

    Can you reply with your offer? I have used witch hazel as a toilet wipes soak in the bathroom for many years .. but, Dickensen bottles in the grocery is all we find. Toooooo expensive.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Edward,

    I’m sorry. I’m not sure what you’re referring to. The article is about how to grow your own witch hazel. I don’t sell it.

  • mpbusyb said:

    I just made a batch of witch hazel extract/toner. To 8oz extract that I made according to your directions above I added aloe vera juice to almost fill my 12oz bottle and about a tablespoon homemade apple cider vinegar and a half teaspoon Vitamin E oil (just for added shelf life). It smells fabulous and feels wonderful. My skin is so soft. Thank you!
    ~ Melisa

  • chrystie said:

    Just wanted to let your readers know that if they plan on harvesting wild witch hazel, they should do it in an area with several plants and not take too much from a single plant. I have a witch hazel bush I have had for about 20 years and its only shoulder hight and about arms-width wide (so very slow growing). You wouldn’t want to accidentally decimate a plant without knowing better as they are difficult to propagate. I’m going to try the second recipe posted now. Good luck to anyone fortunate enough to be able to harvest wild plants locally!!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Great advice, Chrystie. Thanks for that reminder!

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