The leaves, bark and twigs of Hamamelis virginiana, Linné (Nat. Ord. Hamamelidaceae), collected in the autumn. Common in the United States. Dose, 5 to 60 grains.
Common Names.—Witch-Hazel, Snapping Hazelnut, Winterbloom.
Principal Constituents.—A bitter body, tannin, and a volatile oil.
Preparations.—1. Aqua Hamamelidis, Hamamelis Water, (Distillate of Hamamelis, Distilled Witch-Hazel, Distilled Extract of Witch-Hazel). Dose, 5 drops to 2 fluidrachms.
2. Specific Medicine Hamamelis. Dose, 5 to 60 drops.
Specific Indications.—Venous debility, with relaxed and full tissues; pallid mucosa or occasionally deep red from venous engorgement, or deep blue from venous stasis; excessive mucous flow, with venous relaxation; passive hemorrhages; prehemorrhagic states, with venous fullness; varicoses; hemorrhoids with weight and fullness; rectal prolapse; dull aching pain in pelvis, genitalia, or rectum, with perineal relaxation and fullness; relaxed or engorged and painful sore throat; gastro-intestinal irritability, with venous weakness and mucous or muco-bloody passages. Locally to inflamed, ulcerated or wounded skin or mucosa, especially where venous circulation is debilitated; contusions, bruises, and muscular soreness from exertion or exposure.
Action and Therapy.—External. Witch-hazel bark and its fluid preparations are astringent. The distillate and the specific medicine are sedative and slightly astringent. The latter two form agreeably grateful and soothing applications to the skin and mucous surface in irritated and inflamed conditions and where venous relaxation is present. The specific medicine is an elegant and heavy distillate, carrying a large proportion of the oil, as compared to the ordinary distillate, and is much to be preferred where a bland and soothing yet astringent effect is required. Where more alcoholic stimulation is permitted or desired the ordinary distillate may be used. As a rule, the specific medicine is best for use upon mucous, and the distillate upon the cutaneous surfaces.
Witch-hazel distillates are splendid applications for sprains, contusions, wounds and inflamed swellings, and for sunburn, tan, freckles, and dilatation of the capillaries of the skin. They are cooling and relieve smarting and pain. Used alone or combined with an equal quantity of bay rum they form an elegant face wash to remove excess of soap and heal abrasions after shaving. Witch-hazel is one of the most comforting applications for painful hemorrhoids. It may be used ice cold or hot, as preferred. Applied to the tender parts after the parturient toilet, it removes soreness of the tissues from childbirth. Rubbed upon the skin, or applied by means of compresses, it is an efficient lotion for muscular soreness and aching after severe exertion; from cold, exposure, or when due to bruises and strains. Its use should be accompanied with gentle massage. Compresses wetted with witch-hazel give marked relief in acute cutaneous inflammations, chafing, and especially in mammitis.
Incised wounds, ragged cuts from glass or tin, barbed wire injuries, and crushed fingers are quickly relieved of pain and heal rapidly when the following is applied: Rx Echafolta, 1/2 fluidounce; Asepsin, 15 grains; Specific Medicine Hamamelis and Water, enough to make 4 fluidounces. Mix. Apply upon gauze. A similar preparation, with but two drachms of the echafolta, or the distillate with menthol, makes a good dressing for burns and scalds. Glycerin and hamamelis, equal parts, or equal parts of Specific Medicine Hamamelis and Lloyd's Colorless Hydrastis give excellent results in irritation and inflammation of the aural canal due to inspissated cerumen, or to efforts to remove the latter.
Sprayed upon the throat the specific medicine or the distillate, suitably diluted, is a useful and sedative astringent for angry and deep red sore throats, with relaxation of membranes; or in pharyngitis, faucitis, and tonsillitis, with hyperaemia or congestion. The specific medicine is especially soothing and astringent in congestive nasal catarrh. Few local washes give greater relief in the angina of scarlet fever than those of which witchhazel forms a part. They relieve pain, cleanse the parts, and constringe the relaxed tissues and dilated vessels. It may also be added to local washes for use in diphtheria.
Together with colorless hydrastis, or other non-alcoholic hydrastis preparations, with or without a grain of alum or of zinc sulphate, it is a most effective collyrium for acute conjunctivitis, with dilated conjunctival vessels. Especially is it effective in vernal conjunctivitis. The same combinations are exceedingly useful as an injection in gonorrhea, after the acute symptoms have subsided and a catarrhal state has supervened.
Internal. Hamamelis has an important tonic effect upon venous debility, acting upon the coats of the veins throughout the body. Unlike some vascular remedies its action is not merely local, but extends throughout the whole venous system. It is therefore a remedy of much value in varicoses, hemorrhoids, and passive hemorrhages. When indicated, the tissues are pallid and relaxed, and in some instances deep red, due to venous engorgement. There is a sense of fullness or thickening and weight and congestion. These are especially prominent in the type of hemorrhoids benefited by hamamelis. It is of some value in oozing of blood from the mucosa, in passive bleeding from the nose, lungs, and stomach, but is a better remedy for the venous relaxation that precedes these hemorrhages and which renders their occurrence easy. It is of less value in hemoptysis than lycopus, and is adapted to such cases as are benefited by geranium and erigeron.
Hamamelis is a decidedly useful remedy in congestive conditions with marked tissue debility. It should be given a fair trial in congestion of the ovaries, with dull aching pain and sense of weight and fullness; in chronic congestive conditions of the uterus, with soft and flabby cervix and patulous os; in uterine subinvolution; and in leucorrhea, with sponginess of the vagina and tendency to prolapsus of the womb; and in prolapse of the rectum, with venous fullness. It frequently relieves in varicocele, with sense of weight and dragging.
Hamamelis should also be given in nasal catarrh and ozaena, with congestion and tendency to recurring epistaxis, and thickened and relaxed mucosa, with abundant mucous or muco-purulent discharge; and in chronic inflammation of the fauces, pharynx, and larynx with sluggish venous circulation, and greatly relaxed tissues. For chronic diarrhea, and sometimes acute bowel disorders, as cholera infantum and dysentery, it is promptly curative when much mucus is passed, and especially if the passages are tinged with blood. In all cases in which it is indicated there is debility of the venous circulation and relaxation of the mucosa; and where possible it should be used concurrently internally and locally.
The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1922, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D.