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 95% of Industrial Witch Hazel is Pulp and Filler Wood rather than the legally required twigs.





Links Re:

 Witch Hazel Harvesting and Industry Practice:


INDUSTRIALLY witch hazel has been cut to the stump, then chipped whole and delivered to the factory. Historically witch hazel has been manufactured like this:



”The plants are cut off a few inches from the ground without disturbing the roots, which encourages rapid re-growth the next year.

 The witch hazel trunks and branches are then fed into chippers and delivered as mulch to the plant, which distills the essential oils of witch hazel into a clear fluid and adds a 14 percent mixture of natural alcohol as a preservative . .


This document reports 2,000,000 gallons of witch hazel needed per year. Manufacturing witch hazel USP would then require about 18,400,000 pounds of twigs per year.  Also notes the whole plant is chipped, not the required twigs for witch hazel USP.


When asked what exactly he does; “I cut the shrub stems at ground level in the winter, hand-pile the branches, use the tractor grapple to pull the piles roadside, then chip them into the dump truck. The cut stubs will resprout in the spring to grow another crop in about seven years. I get paid by the ton, and I pay the landowner by the ton.” Haines harvests the main stem and twigs only in the dormant season, as required by the distilling process.


Asked how he can identify witch hazel in winter when there are no leaves on the branches, he said he’s been doing it since he was a kid.

“I can just tell,” said Dzurnak, who adds that witch hazel bushes sprout in late April or May. “It comes up with the skunk cabbage and cowslip,” he said.

While his grandfather used draft horses to bring the brush out of the woods, today’s Dzurnak uses a tractor.

  Then he put the brush through a wood chipper and took the chips to American Distilling. Dzurnak has a permit from the Connecticut DEP, and he has harvested as many as 300 tons of witch hazel every year.

Key Themes

SFP Types: medicinal

SFP Values: supplemental income

Knowledge: economic; ecological; sharing; intergenerational transfer

Land Tenure & Management Context: ownership and terms of access; changing development

patterns and proximity

Social Context: changing technology

The Story of Industrial Witch Hazel Harvest:

Bill Cooper, Witch Hazel Gatherer — Connecticut

Country roads lead the way to an old farmhouse in eastern Connecticut where farmer Bill Cooper gathers witch hazel. Bill, a tall, white-haired man, was born in this house in 1935 and, like his parents, has made much of his living by working on the farm. As a young child, Bill was introduced to harvesting witch hazel by his parents.

This was a means of the farmers making a living over the years in the winter months when they had nothing else to do,” Bill explained. “I’ve done it all my life and my folks before me all of their lives for the past hundred years, anyway.” He has looked repeatedly to witch hazel when farming alone could not provide sufficient financial resources to support his family.

Witch hazel, a primary product in the cosmetics industry, thrives in the terrain of eastern Connecticut.

The proximity of a distillation plant combines with the large population of this shrub species to provide an opportunity for farmers in the area. About every farmer in the town or county here has cut witch hazel brush over the years,” Bill said. “It’s something to help pay the taxes and keep the farm in existence, you see. It’s a means of keeping the wheels turning.”

The tools and equipment required to harvest and process witch hazel also make it an especially suitable activity for farmers. Bill has invested in tools and machinery for his farm work and uses them to gather, process, and transport witch hazel.

I have all these things anyway,” he said. If I didn’t have these things I couldn’t subsist. I have the truck. You gotta have a truck. You gotta have a tractor to ship it with. You gotta have a chipper. ".. gotta have all this machinery. I got them on the farm anyway.” A investment in this expensive machinery (a chipper he purchased recently cost $6,500) only to gather witch hazel would not provide enough of a return to pay off the tools."

Bill is concerned about the feasibility of gathering in the future because of the changing landscape and advancements in technology. As farms are sold off and surrounding rural land is developed for homes, the access to and availability of witch hazel is threatened.It has changed very much because of the concentration of people that there was relative to 50 years ago,” Bill said. “There were large tracts of land 50 years ago. The farms, now they’ve been developedand consequently there’s much less, fewer places you can go.” Even in areas where the land has not been divided and developed, gatherers depend on the landowners who control the use of their property.

Some people don’t want you to set foot on their property. Others don’t care. But everybody is different,” Bill commented.

As the number of sites for gathering witch hazel decrease, those that remain are also more dispersed across the area and Bill has to travel greater distances to gather the material. This increases his time and fuel costs. To make the 50-mile trip from his home to the witch hazel distillation plant worthwhile, Bill feels that he must have at least 5

to 6 tons to deliver. As he drives greater distances to gather these amounts, the profitability of the activity decreases. A new distilling process requires less plant material to generate processed product. As a result, the distillation plant does not require the same volume of plant material it once did. Faced with a lower demand, the gatherer sells less of the raw product and gets a lower return.

A combination of a ready supply of witch hazel and the relative proximity of a distillation plant created an opportunity for farmers to supplement their income in eastern Connecticut. Bill’s family was able to take advantage of this to maintain their farm, pay property taxes, and get by on money gained through an activity for which theyhad all the necessary tools and machines. The changing landscape and technology now threaten the viability of witch hazel gathering as a source of supplemental income. The next generation of farmers may have to look for other ways to make ends meet


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