Witch hazel is a plant that has been used medicinally for centuries. It is commonly made into a liquid extract that has a variety of topical uses—such as treating burns, itching, wounds, swelling, rashes, insect bites, acne and other skin conditions. In this article, we will discuss witch hazel and witch hazel benefits in detail.
What Is Witch Hazel?
Witch hazels are a genus of flowering plants in the family Hamamelidacea. The North American species of witch hazel tree, sometimes called winterbloom, are the most commonly used as medicine—in particular American Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L.).
The leaf, bark, and young twigs of the witch hazel plant are used to make medicine. The most common form of witch hazel medicine is a product called “witch hazel water” or “distilled witch hazel extract.” This is a liquid extract that is distilled from the dried leaves, bark, and twigs of the witch hazel plant.
What Is Witch Hazel Used For?
The witch hazel plant has been used for centuries and there are many different witch hazel uses. Witch hazel has very strong astringent properties that tighten and tone the skin. Because of this, it is most commonly used for acne, wound healing, burns, and other forms of skin care.
It is worth mentioning that the primary uses of witch hazel are for topical applications, and it is not typically used internally. There may be safety risks with internal consumption of witch hazel, so it is best to use it for external use only.
What Are the Benefits of Witch Hazel?
There are many great witch hazel benefits. Some of the top witch hazel benefits include:
1. Witch Hazel Is Used for Skin Care
Witch hazel is well known for its astringent properties, meaning it causes skin cells and other tissues to tighten and contract. This gives witch hazel a variety of benefits for skin care and is why so many people use witch hazel for skin issues.
Witch hazel is beneficial for supporting wound healing and for helping wounds heal faster. It is also beneficial for acne, and many people commonly use witch hazel for face breakouts and to tone the skin.
In addition to being a great astringent, witch hazel also has strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are compounds that fight free radicals. Free radicals are unstable electrons that can cause oxidative damage to cells and can speed up skin aging. So, by applying antioxidant-rich substances like witch hazel to the skin, you can prevent free radical damage and can protect your skin health.
Astringent compounds are also drying to the skin, however, so it is important not to overuse them—or to balance out their use with a good skin moisturizer.
2. Witch Hazel Has Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Witch hazel has great anti-inflammatory benefits as well. Inflammation is a normal immune response that the body uses to protect itself from injury or infection. However, when inflammation persists over time it is known as chronic inflammation and can begin to impair regular body functions. In fact, chronic inflammation is considered to be one of the major root causes of a majority of diseases.
Witch hazel contains numerous anti-inflammatory compounds, such as tannins and gallic acid that can help relieve inflammation of the skin and may be useful in the treatment of inflammatory skin issues like eczema, psoriasis and acne.
3. Witch Hazel Can Reduce Skin Irritation
Witch hazel may also help to reduce skin irritation in people that have sensitive skin. People that suffer from erythema—a condition that causes redness of the skin—often use witch hazel to reduce skin irritation and redness. Simply apply witch hazel to the affected area for relief.
4. Witch Hazel Fights off Infections
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, witch hazel also appears to have antibacterial and antiviral properties and may be useful for fighting off infections. Witch hazel has a long traditional use for wound healing, and since it is both antimicrobial and astringent, it makes for a great topical remedy to speed up the healing of wounds and to prevent infections.
Some people also use witch hazel to fight off cold sores or to relieve cold sore symptoms. Since witch hazel is not recommended for internal consumption, most of its antimicrobial benefits are limited to applications on the skin and body. Still, witch hazel can be a great thing to have in your medicine cabinet for cleaning and helping to speed the recovery of wounds.
5. Witch Hazel is Used for Treating Hemorrhoids
Witch hazel is a common go-to remedy for hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids, also called piles, are swollen veins in the anus or rectum that can cause pain and discomfort. They are usually caused by straining the muscles around the rectum and can result in swelling, itching and even bleeding.
Witch hazel is one of the best natural remedies for soothing and providing relief from the uncomfortable symptoms caused by hemorrhoids. Typically, it is added to a cotton ball or cloth and is applied directly to the affected area.
It is believed that witch hazel helps to relieve hemorrhoid symptoms because of its anti-inflammatory effects. As an astringent, witch hazel also has hemostatic properties—meaning it helps stop bleeding. This can also be useful for hemorrhoids, especially in cases of frequent bleeding.
6. Witch Hazel Is Used for Treating Burns
Witch hazel has also been used traditionally for treating various types of burns—including sunburns, chemical burns, burns from heat, and even razor burns. To use witch hazel for burns, simply add witch hazel to a cloth or paper towel and press it onto the burn. For burns, it is typically recommended to simply add pressure, as rubbing it in may irritate the already sensitive skin.
7. Witch Hazel Can Help Scalp Sensitivity
Another common use for witch hazel is to apply it on the scalp to help with scalp sensitivity. Scalp sensitivity, or scalp tenderness, is defined as “pain, inflammation, tingling, numbness, irritation, itching, throbbing, or sensitivity of the scalp.” It can be caused by a number of different factors, including psoriasis, dermatitis, or from cosmetic hair treatments that use harsh chemicals.
If you suffer from scalp sensitivity, applying a small amount of witch hazel to your scalp before washing your hair may help provide relief from symptoms. Because witch hazel is anti-inflammatory, it might also help with skin conditions that can affect the scalp like eczema or psoriasis.
Can You Eat Witch Hazel?
Witch hazel is typically not taken internally. In small amounts taken by mouth, witch hazel is considered to be “possibly safe.” But in large amounts it may cause liver problems or other health issues. As a safety precaution, it is best to avoid taking witch hazel internally and to stick to topical use of this remedy.
Are There Any Side Effects to Using Witch Hazel?
Witch hazel is well-tolerated by most people when used topically on the skin. However, in rare cases people have reported skin irritation or allergic reactions after applying witch hazel. It is often recommended to do a skin patch test before using witch hazel if you have never used it before. To do this, simply apply a small amount of witch hazel to your skin and see how your skin reacts to it over the next few hours. If there are no issues, then it is likely not going to cause any skin irritation for you.
It is also always best to get organic and well-sourced witch hazel whenever possible, as the quality of products that you use can make a big difference. Plus, some witch hazel products may have harmful chemicals added into them that you don’t want to put on your skin. Check the label to read the ingredients and avoid any witch hazel products that contain a lot of added ingredients—unless they are natural herbal or organic ingredients.
Witch hazel is a flowering plant that can be found around the world. The bark, leaves and twigs of this plant have been used medicinally for centuries. The North American varieties of witch hazel are most commonly used today to make witch hazel products, particularly the American witch hazel variety.
Witch hazel has been used for many years as a natural remedy for a variety of topical issues, from acne and skin irritations to burns and wounds. It is not typically consumed internally, though some people do use witch hazel products as a mouth wash.
There are many great uses for witch hazel, but we recommend avoiding internal consumption of it. It is also best to find organic witch hazel products whenever possible, and to avoid any products that contain any added chemicals that could be potentially toxic.