Witch hazel is a popular herbal remedy made from the bark and leaves of a Hamamelis plant. Witch hazel leaves contain tannin, which is a natural compound with astringent effects that constricts skin tissue. This helps soothe the pain and associated with multiple skin problems.
Witch hazel is available in most drug stores and online. However, it is possible to make witch hazel extract at home. The main ingredient is witch hazel bark. Simply soak a tablespoon of witch hazel bark in a cup of water for thirty minutes. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer for ten minutes. After removing it from the heat, let the water steep for ten minutes. Then strain it and store it in a bottle for later use.
Types of Witch Hazel
There is more than one type of witch hazel plant. There are different versions of the herb that come from different parts of the world. Some are grown in various parts of North America, but others are grown in China and Japan.
Hamamelis Mollis is referred to as Chinese witch hazel and has bright yellow flowers with red centers. It is the most fragrant type of witch hazel and will reach up to twenty-five feet.
Hamamelis Japonica is known as Japanese witch hazel and is found on the mountainsides of Japan. This flower grows in summer and its can be red, yellow, or purple.
Hamamelis Vernalis, also known as Ozark witch hazel or vernal witch hazel, is native to Missouri and Arkansas. The leaves on this shrub will bloom in early spring. It is tolerant of more pH soils than the other versions of witch hazel.
Hamamelis Virginiana, which is also called common witch hazel or American witch hazel, is grown in North America and will only bloom in the fall. Each leaf has a sweet, citrusy scent.
Benefits of Using Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is an herbal medicine that treats multiple skin problems. It is available in liquid, ointments, and medicated pads. Alcohol-free versions are more gentle on sensitive skin, but any version is generally safe to use. Here are some herbal remedies involving witch hazel, one of the most versatile herbs in the world:
It reduces skin inflammation.
Witch hazel contains tannin and gallic acid, which have anti-inflammatory properties to soothe inflamed skin. Witch hazel can also help sensitive skin that is red, broken, or irritated. It suppresses erythema, which is what causes facial skin to redden. Studies have shown that using witch hazel is even more effective than using hydrocortisone cream, a popular steroid medicine meant to treat skin problems.
It prevents acne and shrinks pores.
Witch hazel is an astringent herb, so it can clear up oily skin by shrinking pores. It can also prevent bacteria, which causes acne, from entering the skin. Although some people will apply it directly to the face with a cotton ball, there are many over-the-counter acne-fighting products that list witch hazel as one of the main ingredients. Witch hazel toner, for instance, is a popular way to soothe and cleanse the skin while shrinking pores. However, witch hazel distillate can also be added to gels, serums, shaving creams, and cleansers in addition to hazel toner.
It treats hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are caused by inflammation around the anus and rectum. It causes extreme itchiness and even bleeding. However, a cotton ball can be dipped in witch hazel and applied to the area to relieve discomfort and pain. Its anti-inflammatory properties will ease redness and swelling. It could even stop the hemorrhoids from bleeding because witch hazel also has hemostatic properties.
It prevents dandruff and dryness.
There are shampoos and conditioners containing witch hazel that are meant to ease irritated skin. These products reduce sensitivity for anyone suffering from psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, or eczema. It will make the skin much less sensitive and prevent pain, itching, and .
It prevents varicose veins.
Witch hazel can strengthen blood vessels, which will prevent varicose veins from appearing on the skin. It can also soothe swelling caused by varicose veins. Simply soak a washcloth in witch hazel and then place it on the affected area. Repeat this process two or three times per day for the best results.
It helps insect bites.
Bug bites can severely irritate the skin. However, applying witch hazel to the bite will soothe burning and irritation. It will also increase the speed of healing. Sometimes, witch hazel is also applied to minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises in order to advance the healing process.
It soothes sunburn.
Witch hazel can be applied directly to sunburn in order to soothe pain and irritation. However, the product can be even more effective when mixed with aloe vera, which is another plant that contains anti-inflammatory properties. Together, they will help ease the burning associated with sunburn.
It works as a disinfectant.
While witch hazel cannot work as a disinfectant on its own, it is a great ingredient to place in a homemade hand sanitizer. In order to create this hand sanitizer, three tablespoons of witch hazel water should be mixed with five drops of lemon essential oil, five drops of orange essential oil, five drops of tea tree essential oil, and some distilled water.
Side Effects of Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is generally safe to use. However, if it is used too often, it can potentially dry out the skin and cause skin irritation. Different types of skin will react differently, which is why it’s important to do test patches before using it on sensitive areas.
Although witch hazel is safe to use externally, it should never be used internally. There are myths that witch hazel can cure a sore throat by boiling a teaspoon of it and mixing it with a cup of water. However, if Hamamelis distillate is ingested, it can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, or liver damage. It should only be used on the outside of the skin or with a doctor’s permission.