While perhaps used less today, this medicinal liquid traces its roots (excuse the pun) back to early Puritan settlers who learned of its healing powers from Native Americans.
The shrub, which can grow to a height of 15 feet, can be found growing at Greenbelt's Bald Hill Conservation Area in Boxford.
While most other plants are fading by mid-September, witch hazel is in full stride. It is most common in southern New England.
Its leaves, bark and twigs are all used to make an extract that obtained widespread use in the United States after Thomas Newton Dickinson began commercial production in Connecticut in 1866. The Dickinson product is still sold today.
Most commonly witch hazel is applied directly to the skin for itching, pain, swelling and even the treatment of hemorrhoids.
How does it work?
Witch hazel contains chemicals called tannins, according to WebMD. When applied directly to the skin, it may reduce swelling, help repair broken skin, and fight bacteria.
Less commonly, it is also swallowed to treat diarrhea, fevers, and colds, but with less scientific evidence as to its efficacy.
Look for its oval-shaped leaves with a saw-toothed pattern around the outside edge or the yellow fronds pictured above. As the leaves eventually fade, the brown seed pods open.
Greenbelt is grateful to several professional and staff photographers whose work is featured prominently within our website.
Thank you Jerry Monkman / ecophotography.com, Lynne Holton, Kindra Clineff, Adrian Scholes and John Raleigh.