Reconciling standards in witch hazel manufacturing–witch hazel USP, BC, WHO–No, witch hazel is not a uniform natural medicine



Witch Hazel has been an interesting study as we compared  manufacturing practices to legal formulas  around the globe .  One can make medicine from the leaves, twigs and bark (not pulp wood, but bark) and the part used to make the medicines depends on where a company does business or where you live.  Medicines can be made from fresh or dried material and the jurisdiction .

All production standards agree (at least that I have read) require the botanical identity be Hamamelis Virgininia albeit, the World Health Organization had listed Hazel Nut as a common synonym .

The World Health Organization’s monograph for witch hazel is very different from witch hazel UPS. The WHO monograph:


Folium et Cortex Hamamelidis consists of the dried or fresh leaves and/or the dried bark of Hamamelis virginiana L. (Hamamelidaceae).

Folium Hamamelidis consists of the dried (1, 2) or fresh leaves (3), and Cortex Hamamelidis consists of the dried bark of the trunk and twigs of Hamamelis virginiana L. (2, 4).

The monographs were drafted by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, United States of America. The content was obtained by a systematic review of scientific literature from 1975 until the end of 1995: review articles; bibliographies in review articles; many pharmacopoeias-the International, African, British, Chinese, Dutch, European, French, German, Hungarian, Indian, and Japanese; as well as many other reference books. The WHO monographs are  not intended to replace official compendia such as pharmacopoeias, formularies, or legislative documents.

Each medicinal plant and the specific plant part used (the drug) contain active or major chemical constituents with a characteristic profile that can be used for chemical quality control and quality assurance.

Interestingly, most other countries (where hamamelis is not an  indigenous species  formulate with the FRESH twigs, and new leaves of spring.  This makes a great deal of botanical business sense.  IF the United States were to manufacturer with the most active ingredient dormant (twigs) the leaf and bark from the stems and branches would be a profitable by-product allowing for harvest production through out the year. 

At this point, what I find confusing is the lack of raw material botanical producers supplying bark and leaf.  Also, it becomes really confusing that the “witch hazel brush cutters” chip the entire tree rather than strip the bark.  Certainly, debarking Hamamelis does not require great skill.  It is certainly a puzzle, as the  more plant parts with econonic value, the valuable the plant is.  We have found in our wild crops work, that grading, sizing and certification of identify or standards to be the least expensive of all value added processes for wild  plant collection.

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