Witch Hazel Uses And Benefits

Flowering witch hazel (hamamelis) and wooden spoon with dried leaves for homemade skin care cosmetics and bath additive on a white background, closeup with selected focus, narrow depth of field
Witch hazel bark and leaf extracts have so many uses especially for treating skin ailments. Copyright: fermate / 123RF Stock Photo

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L.) is a valuable natural  skin care product for treating a wide range of conditions and ailments. The extracts are obtained from the bark and leaves of these small shrubs and trees.

Revered by the North American tribes it soon became wider known by the early settlers for the treatment of sores, acne, pox, sun burn and many other skin conditions and ailments. In more extreme cases it used as a traditional treatment for hemorrhoids or piles and cauterizable burns although clinical medical evidence has yet to confirm many of these benefits.  Tick removal from both humans and pets is also a common use. In all, some 30 treatments are listed on various web-sites for its skin benefits alone.

If witch hazel is taken by mouth, it is used for treating mucus colitis,  vomiting and coughing up of blood as in tuberculosis, diarrhea, colds and fevers, tumours and some cancers.

The ingredient is often incorporated into facial toners.

The basis for its medicinal properties comes from an extraordinary array of polyphenols, essential oil,  choline, flavonoids, tannins and saponins  which have antimicrobial properties. Many of these compounds are associated with potential anti-ageing activity via inhibition of collagenase and elastase (Thring et al., 2009). 

The key properties of witch hazel are:-

  • Anti-abortive
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-phlogistic – reduces inflammation
  • Anti-viral
  • Astringent
  • Hemostatic
  • Styptic – stops bleeding of wounds
  • Tonic
  • Sedative

Componentry

 – hamamelitannin, catechins and gallic acid (Wang et al., 2003).

Treatments

Anti-Inflammatory Action

Witch hazel extracts contain a number of soothing agents associated with reducing inflammation. Skin conditions such as razor burn, nappy or diaper rash and swelling caused by tick and bug bites are often treated using creams containing the extract.

Reducing The Rash From Razor Burn

Witch hazel is ideal for treating the effects of razor burn. It soothes skin irritated by shaving and closes the pores. By using witch hazel immediately after shaving, you can prevent those little red bumps you sometimes get after shaving. Apply witch hazel generously anywhere on the body where shaving irritation occurs.

Treat Blackheads

Just as witch hazel is effective against acne, use it to treat blackheads as well. Just use it as a toner immediately after you finish washing your face and you’ll notice a decrease in black- and whiteheads.

References

Thring, T.S.A., Hili, P., Naughton, D.P. (2009)  Anti-collagenase, anti-elastase and anti-oxidant activities of extracts from 21 plants. BMC Complement Altern Med. 9: 27-10.1186/1472-6882-9-27.
 
Wang, H., Provan, G. J., & Helliwell, K. (2003). Determination of hamamelitannin, catechins and gallic acid in witch hazel bark, twig and leaf by HPLC. Journal of Pharmaceutical And Biomedical Analysis, 33(4), pp. 539-544.
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