With a name like witch hazel, you must be thinking this shrub has got to be connected to witchcraft somehow, and to the belief of many, it is. It’s been said that back when the English settled America they found the Native Americans using witch hazel for many medicinal purposes. The Native Americans would boil extracts from witch hazel leaves into water and would call the solution “magic water”. It was thought it would cure almost anything, from minor cuts to gigantic tumors (Raczka et al. 2012). As you have read on the interactions page, these healing powers could be true! Although many today do not
believe these healing powers to be magic, but rather science.

So if there are no magical healing powers associated with witch hazel then how did it get its name? It is now believed that the name witch hazel came from the Old English language where it was originally named “wych hazel”, where wych meant bendable. This was used to name witch hazel because of the bendiness of its branches. Because of witch hazel’s bendable branches it was often used by English settlers as a “divining fork” (Raczka et al. 2012) . A branch shaped as a “V” was held by a settler while he walked around the forest searching for underground water. It was said that when water was near the branches would bend towards the ground and the settler would now to dig there.

Doswing wand
The picture to the left shows a witch hazel twig being used as a divining fork.


You can believe what you want about the naming of the witch hazel, but both theories seem a little spooky to me! To go back to the homepage click here!