This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
COMMON NAMES. Winterbloom, Snapping-hazelnut, Spotted Alder.
MEDICINAL PARTS. The bark and leaves.
Description. -- This indigenous shrub consists of several crooked, branching stems, from the same root, from four to six inches in diameter and ten to twelve feet high, covered with a smooth gray bark. The leaves are on short petioles, alternate, oval or obovate; flowers yellow; calyx small, petals four, and the fruit a nut-like capsule or pod.
History. -- It grows in damp woods, in nearly all parts of the United States, flowering from September to November, when the leaves are falling, and maturing its seeds the next summer. The barks and leaves are the parts used in medicine. They possess a degree of fragrance, and when chewed are at first somewhat bitter, very sensibly astringent, and then leave a pungent sweetish taste, which remains for a considerable time. Water extracts their virtues. The shoots are used as divining rods to discover water and metals under ground by certain adepts in the occult arts.
Properties and Uses. -- It is tonic, astringent, and sedative. A decoction of the bark is very useful in hemoptysis, hematemesis, and other hemorrhages or bleedings, as well as in diarrhoea, dysentery, and excessive mucous discharges. It is employed with great advantage in incipient phthisis or consumption, in which it is supposed to unite anodyne influences with its others.
The Indians use it in the form of poultice, in external inflammations, swellings, and all tumors of a painful character.
The decoction may be advantageously used as a wash or injection for sore mouth, painful tumors, external inflammations, bowel complaints, prolapsus ani and uteri, leucorrhoea, gleet, and ophthalmia.
An Ointment made with lard, and a decoction of white-oak bark, apple-tree bark, and witch-hazel, is a very valuable remedy for hemorrhoids or piles.
The following forms a useful preparation: Take equal parts of witch-hazel bark, golden seal, and lobelia leaves, the two first made into a strong decoction, after which add the lobelia to the hot liquid, and cover; when cold, strain. This decoction, as a collyrium, will frequently and speedily cure the most obstinate and long-standing cases of ophthalmia.
Dose of the witch-hazel decoction alone, from a wineglassful to a teacupful, three or four times a day.