10 Uses of Witch Hazel for Great Health

10 Uses of Witch Hazel for Great Health

You will almost certainly have heard about Witch Hazel and may even have seen witch hazel products on sale in the health store, but do you know what is it used for?

What is Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is a bark and leaf extract of the Hamamelis Virginiana plant which is native to North America. It was known to traditional healers and was widely used by American Indians who used it in different ways in applications as diverse as treating hemorrhoids and fever. Nowadays witch hazel is a component of a variety of commercial skincare products. It contains tannins which are organic compounds which serve as an astringent.

Let’s explore how to use witch hazel as a natural remedy for many ailments:

1. Witch Hazel has Anti-Inflammatory Properties for Skin Irritations

Inflammation can be a symptom of some painful conditions such as razor burn, bug bites or diaper rash.

While these are typically localized to one part of the body they can be very painful and, if left unattended, can result in infections. This inflammation is caused by the action of free radicals on skin cells.

Japanese study on extract of Witch hazel have proven that is has extremely powerful anti-inflammatory powers due to its ability to ‘scavenge’ oxygen and therefore protect against free radical damage1.

2. Witch Hazel has Antimicrobial and Antiviral Properties

Witch hazel has traditionally been used to treat the pain of poison ivy or sooth a chicken pox itch. It also helps bruises, cuts, and boils to heal more quickly. What these conditions all have in common is that they are either caused or made worse by viruses or bacteria.

Witch hazel appears to be particularly effective at treating bacterial and fungal infections such as those caused by Staphylococcus Aureus and Candida Albicans and is therefore a useful treatment tool in the battle against microbial skin infections.

A recent study published in Plos One has shown that the tannins in witch hazel might be a particularly effective antiviral agent having been proved to have an effect against both influenza A (the Flu) and Human Papilloma Virus with hope that it might be proved to be effective against other viruses in the future2.

3. Witch Hazel is an Effective Astringent

The same tannins that make witch hazel an effective antiviral and antimicrobial agent make it an effective astringent which can help stop bleeding and support the skin’s natural healing process. This makes it a useful topical treatment for various conditions which will be discussed below.

4. Witch Hazel for Eczema, Cold Sores and Canker Sores

These skin conditions can be a real pain to treat, particularly if you suffer from recurring infections and prefer to use natural remedies rather than repeating courses of medication. The antimicrobial and antiviral properties of witch hazel mean that it is a viable alternative treatment for these conditions.

Witch hazel cream has been shown to be as efficient at treating the symptoms of eczema as a 1% hydrocortisone cream and applying a witch hazel extract to a cold sore up to 6 times a day for 8 days was shown to be more effective at reducing the infection than a placebo cream. You can find more treatments for cold sores in my article the best home remedies for cold sores, and if you suffer from eczema, you can try these natural treatment or essential oils for eczema.

Witch Hazel can also be used as a mouth wash and when done so can help to reduce the pain and inflammation of canker sores and promote healing.

5. Witch Hazel for Varicose Veins and Hemorrhoids

Witch hazel has also long been known to play a role in treating varicose veins in the legs and anal hemorrhoids by helping to promote improved circulation, tone and helping to improve the strength of connective tissues3.

Where the condition of hemorrhoids has deteriorated to such a stage that surgery is the only viable option, the topical application of a witch hazel based cream for 12 days post-surgery has been shown to improve patient outcomes4.

If you suffer from hemorrhoids, you can find more information in my articles about the best natural remedies to relieve hemorrhoids and the best essential oils for hemorrhoids.

If you have varicose veins, you can find 14 tips to improve varicose veins naturally, as well as using these essential oils. If you have spider veins, which are similar to varicose veins, but smaller you can try these home remedies for spider veins.

6. Treat Your Sensitive Scalp with Witch Hazel

People suffering from sensitive scalp have noticed their symptoms, particularly scalp irritation, improve when they were given a witch hazel based shampoo and scalp treatment to try. In a trial of over 1, 300 people suffering from sensitive scalp, the subjects of the study reported an improvement in their condition with no significant side effects5.

If you suffer from sensitive scalp, you can also try this ACV hair rinse that helps balance the skin pH, treat dandruff, itchy and dry scalp.

7. Witch Hazel for Acne

Because witch hazel is such an effective astringent, many people who suffer from acne have used it as a skin toner and treatment to help soothe outbreaks, although it is likely to be too mild an astringent to be able to prevent or reduce their recurrence.

Although there have been no specific studies carried out on to the specific effect that witch hazel has on acne, there is enough research on its properties to show that it is good for acne and I’ve already mentioned it in my ultimate guide on using witch hazel for acne.

Witch hazel is a popular ingredient in skin care products available for sale. It can also be bought on its own for use in home-made skin care solutions where it can be combined with other products such as aloe vera or tea tree essential oil.

8. Witch Hazel as a Moisturizer for kids with skin disorders

Many parents of children who suffer from skin disorders want to ensure that they have an effective treatment for their child’s condition that is also safe to apply to delicate skin and is as natural as possible.

Witch hazel can prove a useful addition to the medicine cabinet as it is a completely natural and safe ingredient that has been proven to be as or even more effective than other available treatments.

Studies of more than 300 children showed that witch hazel was more efficient than the control substance, Dexpanthenol (a prescription cream used to lock moisture into the skin) and marginally better tolerated when used as a treatment for minor abrasions, diaper rash and other skin inflammations6.

9. Witch Hazel for Sunburn

I’ve already shared with you the video that reveals what the sun really does to your skin. Witch Hazel has traditionally been used to soothe and treat sunburn. Clinical trials on the effects of witch hazel on skin damage caused by both UVA and UVB radiation have proved this effectiveness.

In both instances the anti-inflammatory action of the tannins in the witch hazel helps to treat both the redness (burn) and the subsequent skin peeling and itchiness typically experienced by those who have been exposed to the sun too long7,8. Because it has been proved safe and even beneficial for children with skin problems (see above) it is particularly effective when used as an after sun treatment for such children.

You can also try these natural homemade treatments for burns including sunburns as well as trying aloe vera.

10. Witch Hazel for Crohn’s Disease

Studies show that taking extra tannins resulted in decreased diarrhea during acute flare-ups9. Witch Hazel is particularly rich in tannins but if you are a Crohn’s sufferer you should check with your doctor before taking any extra supplements and make sure to stop taking the Witch Hazel before the end of an attack so that you do not run the risk of further aggravating your symptoms.

How to Choose The Right Witch Hazel Product

There are many different Witch Hazel products out there, some where it is sold on its own and some where it is included in a cream or other formulation. Many products contain witch hazel extract and alcohol. If you prefer it is also possible to purchase Witch Hazel products that do not contain alcohol although they may have a shorter shelf life. Always read the product label for the ingredients to make sure that you are purchasing a product with as high a Witch Hazel percentage as possible.

Do not ingest any Witch Hazel product that has not been specifically produced for human consumption.

Read my other related articles:

1. Active-oxygen scavenging activity of plant extracts: Masaki H, Sakaki S, Atsumi T, Sakurai H Biol Pharm Bull. 1995 Jan; 18 (1):162-6 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7735233
2. Tannins from Hamamelis Virginiana Bark Extract: Characterization and Improvement of the Antiviral Efficacy against Influenza A Virus and Human Papillomavirus: Linda L Theisen, Clemens AJ Erdelmeier, Gilles A Spoden, Fatima Boukhallouk, Aurelie Sausy, Luise Florin, Claude P Muller PLoS One. 2014; 9(1): e88062 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3909258/)
3. Hemorrhoids and varicose veins: a review of treatment options. Macay D Altern Med Rev. 2001 Apr; 6(2):126-40 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11302778
4. Proctogical surgery: advantages derived from the use of an innovative detergent in the post-operative period. Gaj F, Crispino P Clin Ter. 2009; 160(3):211-3 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19756323
5. North American Virginian Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana): Based Scalp Care And Protection For Sensitive Scalp, Red Scalp and Scalp Burn Out. Trueb RM Int J Trichology 2014 Jul;6(3):100-3. Doi:10.4103/0974-7753.139079 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25210333
6. Hamamelis in children with skin disorders and skin injuries: results of an observational study. Wolff HH, Kieser M. Eur J Pediatr 2007 Sep;166(9):943-8.Epub 2006 Dec 20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17177071
7. Anti-inflammatory effect of hamamelis lotion in a UVB erythema test. Hughes-Formella BJ, Bohnsack K, Rippke F, Benner G, Rudolph M, Tausch I, Gassmueller J. Dermatology 1998; 196(3):316-22 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9621139
8. Anti-inflammatory efficacy of topical preparations with 10% hamamelis distillate in a UV erythema test. Hughes-Formella BJ, Filbry A, Gassmueller J, Rippke F. Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol. 2002 Mar-Apr; 15(2):125-32 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11867970
9. Treatment of chronic diarrhea in Crohn disease. A pilot study of the clinical effect of tannin albuminate and ethacridine lactate. Plein K, Burkard G, Hotz J Fortschr Med. 1993 Marc 10; 111 (7):114-8 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8462917

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