Common witch hazel, also called winterbloom, is a flowering shrub native to the forest margins, woodlands and stream banks of eastern North America. It is characterized by its fragrant, gold-colored flowers, which tend to grow in late fall and continue to expand throughout winter.
Despite its somewhat sinister name, witch hazel is a plant of considerable medicinal value and has been pressed, boiled, and steamed for human usage for centuries. The American Indians were particularly fond of witch hazel and used it to treat swelling and inflammation. Even the Food and Drug Administration, which is not known for being kind to natural remedies, approved the plant as a non-prescription drug ingredient.
Though witch hazel can treat internal conditions such as sore throats, it is best known for treating external skin conditions due to its proven astringent properties.