Witch Hazel

How many of you have ‘Witch Hazel’ liquid in your medicine cabinet? I do.

What is WITCH HAZEL?  It is a tree with pliant branches, slender-petaled yellow flowers. Depending on where you live it will bloom either in the early spring or late fall. The dictionary describes the liquid as “an alcoholic solution of a distillate of the bark of a witch hazel” tree.  This liquid is used as a soothing and mildly astringent lotion.

Further research into this amazing plant showed that Witch Hazel is good for relieving swelling, bleeding, itching, minor pain and discomfort caused by minor skin irritations; also the itching, discomfort, and burning caused by hemorrhoids. It is known to contain antioxidant compounds that may protect against sunburn and aging from the sun. The species native to North America, ‘Hamamelis virginiana’ was originally used as folk medicine. The leaves and bark were made into teas and ointments. The gallic acid and tannins it contains may – when taken internally, cause irritation and vomiting. Therefore, taking it internally on a regular basis would not, in my opinion we a wise thing to do. The tannins, however, do make it a potent anti-inflammatory. Other uses include:

  • Treating acne – after cleaning and steaming the face, you can apply witch hazel directly on the face and skin. It will cause the tissue to constrict, thereby shrinking the pores. This helps prevent acne causing bacteria from infecting your skin. It can also alleviate other dermatological conditions such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Scalp conditions – try rubbing it on the scalp before shampooing your hair. It will relieve itching and tenderness of the scalp, dandruff and dryness.
  • Sore throat – try boiling a teaspoon of witch hazel in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes; then gargle with the mixture. It may provide minor relief of a sore throat. Spit it out and do not swallow. I tried putting the witch hazel in a spray bottle; then sprayed enough of it into the back of my throat so I could gargle it, held it there for a few seconds and then spit it out. I found it does relieve the sore -throat pain, but concluded that because of the strength it would work better putting the mixture in the spray bottle and using it that way.
  • Infection – I found this interesting (in my research). Per Healthline, “One test tube study…found that the tannins in witch hazel exhibited antiviral effects against both influenza A and human papilloma virus (HPV).” Another test showed it to “inhibit the activity of herpes simplex virus, which is often the culprit behind cold sores.”
  • Deodorant – I read years ago that witch hazel could be used as a deodorant by spraying under the arms. I tried it and it worked. I put the full strength liquid in a spray bottle – spray it under the arms and all over my body. It does keep body odor at bay. I usually use it when I run out of other deodorant products, which contain no aluminum. There is no aluminum in witch hazel.

In conclusion: Ointments and extracts can be applied directly to the skin several times a day safely. I would suggest doing an initial skin patch test somewhere on your body to test for allergic reactions and/or unwanted side effects and skin reactions. Research is constantly being done to unearth other benefits of this powerful plant.




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