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Witch Hazel LinksAmerican Distilling
Ginseng is an herb that has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes, especially in Asia. Its use in the US, as well as other parts of the world, has increased dramatically with heightened interest in alternative medicine. Native ginseng has been decimated in China where high prices have led to the collection of plants even before they are large enough to produce seed.
Ginseng is native to the eastern U.S., growing in fertile, moist woodland soils as an understory plant. Ginseng can also be grown by cultivation in fields or under forest conditions. Forest-grown ginseng is also referred to as "wild simulated" ginseng because the forest environment, with partial shade and a minimum of site disturbance, approximates natural conditions. Growing "wild simulated" ginseng involves raking back the forest litter and broadcasting seed. This type of production is only appropriate on the most ideal soil conditions. Although ginseng grown by this method takes longer to reach maturity (8 to 10 years), it is more valuable, thus selling for high prices comparable to those attained for wild ginseng.
Witch hazel is one of the key components in many present-day topical ointments. The twigs and bark from witch hazel, a plant native to Rhode Island woodlands, are used to produce distillate. Witch hazel plant is a small tree, rarely over twenty feet tall. It is a slow growing tree which tolerates shade and is usually found growing in the understory of hardwood forests on fertile, moist soils.
American Distilling in East Hampton, Connecticut produces virtually the entire world supply of witch hazel extract. Traditionally, witch hazel has been harvested from forestland in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and southeastern Massachusetts. Because of forest fragmentation, the company has been forced to expand its search for raw material into western Massachusetts and southern Vermont.
Witch hazel plants are harvested in late fall and early winter, and are then chipped and boiled. The steam produced from this boiling process goes through a separator to a condenser, where it becomes astringent. There are several contractors who purchase and harvest raw witch hazel from local forests. It is chipped and then transported to Connecticut for processing.