Hamamelis virginiana, “Witch-hazel” in English and “Hamamélis” in French, belongs to the Hamamelidaceae botanical family.
It is a shrub of 6 m height on average, native to Eastern North America where it grows on dry woodland slopes, moist woods, small cliffs and high stands of trees.
Its bark and leaves were well known as a medicine by Native Americans. Both parts can be used to treat diarrhea (and dysentery). As an astringent decoction, they are used as a topical agent to treat diaper rash or inflammation of mucous membranes, in skin cosmetics, shaving lotions, mouth washes, eye lotions, ointments and soaps.
The bark’s main constituents are up to 10% tannins (with hamamelitannin), free gallic acid, monogalloylhamamelose ; soft fats and waxes ; essential oil with mostly sesquiterpene.
The leaves do not contain hamamelitannin but have various flavone glycosides (spiraeoside). The “hamamelin” is a preparation obtained by precipitating a concentrated alcoholic extract of the powdered leaves with water.