When walking along a country lane a long, long time ago, my father pointed out a curious looking shrub to me. He told me that it used to have beautiful, large daisy like flowers, but that a witch had touched it with her wand and made the flowers all gnarled and twisted, and that because of this it's now called a Witch Hazel. Looking at the flowers, it's an easy story to believe as a child, and whenever I saw one, I would be on the lookout for a witch hiding in the undergrowth somewhere.
Of course, the Witch Hazel has never had anything remotely to do with witches. The title 'Witch' coming from the old English 'wych', meaning bendy and pliable, as it's wood was used for water divining. In my younger days of long survival hiking in the wild moors and mountains, I would liberally apply a gel of Witch Hazel to my damaged and sore feet on returning home. The recovery was quite extraordinary, and we always have a preparation of some sort in the house even now.
It's used as a remedy for all manner of ailments and conditions, and there is even research into it's use to cure MRSA now, as it has certain cell damage inhibiting qualities. We have several in our garden, and so for now I am spending the afternoon making a tea from it's bark, and when cool shall apply it to some areas of eczema that have appeared on my back. I'll let you know how it goes.
As a gardener for the last forty years, I have grown to enjoy this shrub more and more, and never cease to marvel at it's beauty at such a dull time of year. I really can't understand why there isn't one in every garden. It grows in virtually any well drained soil, as long as it's not too alkaline. North, south, west or east facing, it cares not, and once established pretty much looks after itself. How can anyone resist them?