Hamamelis Virginiana has an interesting range of doses. It also excels as a simple. This research I conducted as part of the HRB 600 coursework at MUIH is an attempt to recognize and articulate complex and multidisciplinary questions and ideas around how to utilize herbal medicine in health and wellness practices. One of the questions central to the practice of herbal medicine is the question of dosing. Witch hazel is an interesting plant to discuss because it’s common usage in modern culture is as a distillate which does not contain many of the constituents that made it a popular remedy in the 19th centrury.
Thompson sums up one extreme end of the spectrum by stating, “A tea made of the leaves, is an excellent medicine in many complaints, and may be freely used to advantage” (Thompson, 1825).
Felter advises a dosage of specific medicine Hamamelis should contain 5 to 60 minims or drops (Felter, 1922) which in modern terms is ~0.3ml. – 3.7ml. Notably he does not specify which solvent to use to make the specific medicine. Michael Moore’s introduction to the SWBS release of Felter’s opus points out that “You cannot translate a Specific Medicine into “tincture” or “fluidextract”. The latter are generic or standard strengths applied across the board to ALL botanicals. A Specific Medicine represented the greatest strength, without degradation, for a particular plant, using anywhere from several to all of the solvents to achieve this” (Moore, 2001).
Moore in his own materia medica, gives the following dosage recommendations, “Twigs and Leaves: Tincture [Fresh Herb, 1:2] 10-60 drops as needed, and diluted for topical use. BARK. Serviceable as Standard Decoction topically. (Moore, n.d.)
Margaret Grieve (1931) gives the following dosage recommendations for witch hazel:
- “Liquor Hamamelidis, 1/2 to 3 drachms (a distillate of the fresh leaves). Used also with equal parts of glycerine as injection for piles.
- Liquid extract, 5 to 15 minims (preparation of the dried leaves made with alcohol) externally for varicose veins. Injection for piles, 2 to 5 minims.
- Hamamelin, 1/2 to 2 grains, in pill (powdered extractive from the bark). 1 to 3 grains with cacao butter is useful for piles.
- Tincture (from the bark), 30 to 60 minims. 1 drachm in 3 OZ. cold water given as enema for piles. Lotion of 1 or 2 drachms with water to an ounce useful for bruises.
- Ointment: employed externally for piles.”
Finally one example of witch hazel in formula is an Eclectic Institute Compound called “Vein Support FDC-V45.” Among other herbs in the formula it includes a concentrate of witch hazel bark. Each capsule is equivalent to 250 mg. of dry bark and the suggested use is 2-6 capsules a day. (Vein Support FDC-45, n.d.)
When discussing the differing dosage advice on witch hazel it is important to remember that the LD-50 for the raw herb is still not known exactly, but it’s assumed it is greater than 2000G/KG (Qinna, 2003).
When closely comparing the dosages it is best to standardize on ml and grams with the following conversions, 1drop = 1 minim, 1dracham = 30minims = 1.8ml and 1 grain = 65mg. With the conversions calculated the above dosages are listed:
Bark Simple Decoction Freely
Bark Simple ?:? Tincture 1.8ml – 3.7ml
Bark In Formula Whole, Powdered 250mg
Bark Simple Whole, Powdered 34mg – 130mg
Twigs/Leaves Simple 1:2 Tincture 0.6ml -3.7ml
Aerial Parts Simple Infusion Freely
Specific Medicine Simple ?:? Tincture 0.4ml – 3.7ml
Leaves Simple Distillate 1.8ml – 11ml
Leaves Simple Liquid extract, 0.125ml – 0.925ml
So, in summation:
- The infusion can be drunk freely; the decoction can be used topically freely.
- The tincture dosages range from 0.4ml to 3.7ml a dose.
- Whole powdered bark is taken in ranges from 34 to 250mg a dose.
- Leaves in a liquid extract are taken in a range from 0.125 to ~1ml.
Hamamelis virginiana’s primary secondary metabolites are the tannins. As far as I am concerned, energetically it is THE herbal remedy to turn to if you need an astringent. It’s like a drill sergeant for lazy proteins: they don’t stand a chance.
Based on what I have read so far I suspect that the upper limits of the dosage ranges listed are, in actuality, the range where the Thomsonian and Eclectic practitioners discovered higher occurrences of adverse digestive effects from the tannins on the digestive system. I also suspect that the lower limits of dosages on the chart are the minimum dosages where they started to notice therapeutic effects. As I wrote for an earlier discussion, we stand on the shoulders of giants….
I further suspect that witch hazel can be used in any formula that needs its astringent effects; it’s just that from an internal standpoint the need for astringents is rare so it follows that commercial formularies with true witch hazel (not the USP witch-hazel water which is essentially devoid of tannins), are also rare. All of this is entirely conjecture, but I think there is valuable insight to be gleaned from comparing the dosage recommendations of Lloyd, Thompson, Felter, Moore, Grieves and others.
I am excited to explore the topic of dosing further. I suspect that in most cases it involves a high degree of art, and to a lesser extent, nuance.
Felter, H. (1922). The eclectic materia medica, pharmacology and therapeutics,. Cincinnati, O.: J.K. Scudder. (Bound Facsimilie)
Grieve, Margaret. (1931). A Modern Herbal. Retrieved November 18, 2015, from http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/mgmh.html
Moore, M. (n.d.). HERBAL MATERIA MEDICA fifth edition. Retrieved November 18, 2015, from http://www.swsbm.com/ManualsMM/MatMed5.pdf
Moore, M. (2001, October). Introduction to Felter’s Materia Medica. Retrieved November 18, 2015, from http://www.swsbm.com/FelterMM/Felters_Materia_Medica.pdf
Qinna, N. (2013). Safety profile of suppository Hamamelis virginiana leaf extract. Journal of Medicinal Plant Research, September(2013). doi:10.5897/JMPR2013.5166
Thomson, S. (1825). New guide to health, or, Botanic family physician containing a complete system of practice upon a plan entirely new, with a description of the vegetables made use of, and directions for preparing and administering them to cure disease : To which is prefix (2nd ed.). Boston: Printed for the author, by E.G. House. (Page 57)
“Vein Support FDC-45” Eclectic Institute Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2015, from http://server5204.storeserver-1.com/catalogue/eclectic/cache/item-7435public.html?cache=no