Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

The bush known by that curiously magickal name - witch hazel - is quite literally a weed in some climates. During elementary school, when my family lived in the Seattle, Washington area, there was a stand of rambling witch hazel just beyond the fence at the back of the school. I wasn't the most popular kid and I would go and sit near the fence to read a book during recess, weather permitting. The pungent smell of witch hazel will always remind me of sunny spring or fall days when I was left blissfully alone by the less than civil members of my class.

Witch hazel, as is obvious from its name, was thought to be particularly popular with witches. The bush probably acquired its modern moniker in 15th or 16th century England where the branches were used for divining rods to find lost items and - of course - hidden treasure. There is mention of use of a witch hazel wand or broom staff by the notorious Old Demdike of Pendle Witch fame. Needless to say, witch hazel growing near one's home was a sure sign, at some points in history, that trouble was afoot in the household.

Conversely, or so it seems, sprigs of witch hazel were also used to protect against evil and - you guessed it - witches. Old wives would hang sprigs of the plant at windows and above doors to turn away malice. Pieces of the bark were also carried for the same purpose.

Scott Cunningham mentions witch hazel for the healing of a broken heart as well. He recommends carrying a bit of witch hazel to recover from the loss of love. He also notes that doing the same can curb lust.

Distilled witch hazel, easily obtained at most drug stores, remains a capable astringent and can help with a myriad of household health issues if used correctly. This post by Jillee over at One Good Thing gives an exhaustive rundown of the many wonderful things a simple, inexpensive bottle of witch hazel can do for you and yours. How can anyone argue with that?

Header: Harvest Moon by George F. Wetherbee via American Gallery


Timmy! said...

Who knew there were so many uses for witch hazel, Pauline?

Not me, obviously.

Pauline said...

I agree. I knew about of some witch hazel's uses and have mentioned it many times here but Jillee really covered all the bases there.