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Witch hazel manufacturing–witch hazel USP, BC, WHO–No, witch hazel is not a uniform natural medicine–A Tribute to its active ingredients


Witch hazel manufacturing–witch hazel USP, BC, WHO–No, witch hazel is not a uniform natural medicine–A Tribute to its active ingredients



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) according to the world. Yet, in the United States, it can only be manufactured from dormant twigs. The part of the plant  used to make the medicines depends on where a company does business or where you live as various countries have differing medical formulas for preparing witch hazel.

In other countries, witch hazel   can be made from fresh or dried material and the jurisdiction where the medicines are consumed  or manufactured relegate the formula for making the medicine. 

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.  (That was my first adventure with witch hazel - finding Hazel Nut leaf was being sold as certified organic witch hazel, circa 2007).

The World Health Organization's monograph for witch hazel is very different from witch hazel UPS as are the various Monographs around the globe .

 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. http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_HMPC_assessment_report/2010/04/WC500089242.pdf 

 This makes a  interesting botanical business   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 secondary harvest for export 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.   I have some bark samples coming, and we will do our own bark harvest to compare what the world sees, and what we know is the real deal.  Witch hazel bark runs about $5.00 per pound and leaf about$4.00 dried. 

 It is certainly a puzzle, as the  more plant parts with economic 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.  As a harvester and producer, I cannot imagine low grading my work, my product.  It makes no sense to me, not to sort the cream from the whey. None.

A little footnote, the concept of "standard of identity" generally applies foods.  Say, you are a a company which manufactures a dish called" China Lamb Chop Chow Mein".  The final product has to have a certain percentage Ovis aries under the age at slaughter of  9 months, lamb chop to qualify as "Lamb Chop Chow Mein."  That is its "standard of  identity ."  The concept is very different from the Pharmacopia, which is  the legal forumula for manufacturing  drugs.  Since 1993, the words"witch hazel" on a lable became Witch Hazel USP, at least in the United States. 

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