Fall foraging: How to find and use witch hazel

witch hazel

It’s officially autumn and there’s no denying the change in weather this year. The fresh chill in the air is definitely a little more upsetting than a warm summer breeze, but not necessarily off-putting. Admittedly, I love the smell of damp leaves, dying blossoms and the last fruits of the growing season carried on the wind from the forests.

As a year-round hiker, fall may be my favorite season. There is so much fruit and nuts to collect, native seeds to gather and wildlife to see well into November. It’s also a great time to look for medicinal plants in the Midwest.

I was reminded of one such plant with a number of medicinal qualities when I read Penn State Extension’s Spectacular flora and mushrooms. Witch hazel is an astringent plant used to reduce inflammation, soothe the skin, and tighten and tighten tissues. It also has unique flowers with ribbon-like petals that last into late fall.

Identify witch hazel

Witch Hazel is a native deciduous shrub that grows in wooded areas along woodland edges and stream banks.

trunk. Witch hazel generally has a branched stem with a smooth, gray bark. It can grow up to 30 feet tall and have a similar spread.

Leaves. Its leaves are green and oblong to obovate with wavy edges.

Flower. The witch hazel is the last flower to bloom in the forest. Small, fragrant yellow flowers with four ribbon-shaped petals form in clusters from October to December.

Fruit. Its fruits begin as greenish seed pods that become woody and brown as they mature.

How to search for witch hazel

Witch hazel should be harvested in late fall, October to December, when it is in bloom. Its flowers, leaves, and branch tips can be collected to use fresh or dried and used later.

Medicinal use

Witch hazel has astringent properties, which is what it means causes skin cells and other body tissues to contract to reduce inflammation, soothe skin, and tighten and tighten tissues. It can be used as a wound cleanser, topical treatment, or as a tea.

Witch Hazel Tonic

Treatment: When applied topically, may help tighten and tighten skin tissues.


  1. Place equal parts chopped witch hazel flowers, leaves, and sprigs in a large saucepan and cover with distilled water.
  2. Cover the pot and bring the contents to a boil and simmer for several hours.
  3. Add water to the pot regularly to keep the planting material covered.
  4. After 6-8 hours of simmering, remove the pot and allow the liquid to cool and strain into a bottle.
  5. Store it in the fridge.
  6. Apply the tonic to your skin to tone and tighten the facial towel or to a cool, damp towel to soothe hemorrhoids.

Witch hazel tea

Treatment: Tightens and tightens the tissue.


  1. Steep ½ teaspoon of flowers, leaves, and twigs in a cup of boiling water.
  2. Can be taken orally or applied topically as a skin wash.

Vinegar infused with witch hazel

Treatment: Tightens and tightens the tissue. Can be used as a wound rinse to soothe skin and reduce inflammation.

  1. Soak one part fresh, chopped flowers, leaves, and twigs in two parts raw apple cider vinegar.
  2. Allow the witch hazel to soak in the vinegar for 1 month to 6 weeks before using.



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