The uses of witch hazel : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread

Editorial from Raleigh News & Observer today:

Editorial: The divine(r's) witch hazel

Ever walk through the woods on a cool fall day and been stung by a flying bean? Look around for an autumn-flowering shrub bearing lopsided leaves; it can forcibly spit seeds across 10 feet. That's witch hazel, with an irritating way of getting your attention. The culprit, common to the Carolinas, has other values besides a bruising sense of humor. Early Americans discovered that liquid infused from its leaves and bark offers relief from mosquito bites and, being high in tannin, possesses healing and astringent properties. Its merits as an effective antiseptic make it still popular today. Even discounting its notoriety for spitting seeds and its recognized medicinal worth, witch hazel retains an unusual claim to fame. Early in the 18th century a then-obscure Swedish botanist, Carl von Linne, started the scientific world on its present course of classification with his efforts to establish order out of chaos. Today we recognize Linnaeus, as he's known, as the father of modern taxonomy. Having heard folk tales of water- and mineral-locating specialists, Linne began calling upon those professing divining skills to prove their proficiency. He buried a bag of gold beside a bush, and then challenged the diviners to prove themselves. A mad rush ensued, with scores of diviners scouring the area, tearing up the landscape without success. But the bush he had used for locating the bag of coin was also gone! As the story goes, while Linne was philosophizing on the failures and mourning the loss of coin, an old man approached, insisting that he could, using a fork of Hamamelis virginiana -- witch hazel -- find the treasure easily. To the doubting scientist's surprise, the old man circled the field, homing in on the buried gold. Linne remained skeptical -- but he was forced to admit that there might be something worth knowing about witch hazel.

-- Old Git (, October 10, 1999

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