I cherish being able to provide for myself in such simple ways, to have the mindset of “why can’t I?“. Society tells us to go to the store and buy what we need or seek someone else to provide it, yet I can’t live that way.
Taking on the mindset of “why can’t I?” has taught me to research, to learn the old ways and teach others how to also. Thinking along those lines, where does Witch Hazel come from? Is it the name of the rather odd woman up the street who harvests herbs at 10:00 at night? Is it some drug or pharmaceutical product that is unobtainable to us? That thought is what the stores would lead you to believe. If that was the case, then where did our grandmothers or ancestors get it from?
Early Americans learned of the medicinal properties of witch hazel from the Native Americans and quickly adopted it use, simply as boiling the stems and leaves for a decoction used to treat topical wounds and bruising. The earliest refined production of witch hazel was by a druggist in Connecticut in 1846, starting with the trend of store bought medicines.
In my life, I think back to what my ancestors had available to them (or didn’t have) and had to make do. Recently I needed witch hazel for an herbal ingredient late one night. Grabbing the bottle only to find out IT WAS EMPTY! Nooooo!!!!
“Why can’t I?” Why can’t I go outside (at 10:00 at night…), harvest some limbs of my witch hazel bushes and run it through my copper still? I CAN!!!!
First, bruise and chop the limbs and leaves from a witch hazel bush. (I bought my bushes specifically for harvesting, although they look great in the yard.)
Next, place the chopped leaves and branches inside of your still (approximately half full). Fill the boiler pot about 3/4 full with water.
Assemble your still and place it on the stove. Filling the condenser pot with cold water, turn the stove on medium heat. It will take about a half hour to an hour to come to a gentle boil and start condensing.
From about a gallon of water & plant material, I expect to get at least 2 quarts of Distilled Witch Hazel from this batch. Don’t forget to change out your condenser water a few times when it gets warm. This much liquid will probably take a few hours to run. Be patient.
So what is next? Lavender hydrosol & essential oil?
NOTE: I will post soon about how to distill WITHOUT a copper still, only using pots from your kitchen! Stay tuned…