Witch Hazel Benefits

Witch Hazel
Latin Name

Hamamelis virginiana

Also Known As

Cortex Hamamelis, Hamamelis Water, Magician's Rod, Snapping Hazel, Spotted Alder, Tobacco Wood, White Hazel, Winter Bloom

Origin

North America

Parts Used

Leaves and Bark

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Contrary to popular belief, the word “witch” in Witch Hazel was not named for a practitioner of magic; rather it is thought to be derived from the Old English word wice – meaning “pliant” or “bendable”. It may also related to the Middle English word wicke, meaning “lively”, after English settlers in the America were shown by the native Mohegan tribe how to dowse for water using Y-shaped Witch Hazel sticks.

Indigenous to North America, the Native Americans extensively used this plant for a wide variety of ailments. The Potawatomi steamed twigs over hot rocks in their sweat lodges to soothe sore muscles, the Iroquoi brewed a tea to treat dysentery, colds, and coughs and the Osage used Witch Hazel bark to treat skin ulcers and sores.

Witch Hazel Benefits

Skin Health

Witch Hazel is extremely high in tannins and polyphenols, powerful plant compounds with many benefits to the skin. The tannins are responsible for the natural astringent properties of Witch Hazel, making it an extremely popular treatment for acne and acne prone skin. Pores are also contracted which soothes inflammation and may prevent acne causing bacteria from entering the skin. Witch Hazel can be applied directly to spots, immediately halting their progression and helping them to heal more rapidly.

It is also high in skin boosting antioxidants which help to protect against UV damage, discolouration, puffiness and redness. Because it is a natural product, Witch Hazel doesn’t alter oil production or make the skin dry (as long as it isn’t diluted in alcohol). It removes excess oil and impurities, whilst nourishing the skin with healthy moisturising properties that prevent the skin from drying out. It helps to preserve the skin’s elasticity and has been proven to protect collagen, saving the complexion and preventing age spots.

Hamamelitannin, a compound extracted from Witch Hazel bark, is a potent superoxide free radical scavenger. Compared to ascorbic acid (vitamin C), a far lower concentration of hamamelitannin is required for 50 percent inhibition of superoxide. It may also protect hyaluronic acid (a gel-like water-holding molecule and a moisture-binding ingredient that helps keep skin plump and hydrated), from oxidative damage, which further supports a role for Witch Hazel in skin health.

Sunburn

Witch Hazel can provide considerable relief from sunburn, its soothing and cooling properties help to heal sun damaged skin and speed up healing time. Witch Hazel Hydrolat can be sprayed directly onto the affected area, instantly soothing inflamed skin. Continuing to apply Witch Hazel for several days after a sunburn will also help to prevent dryness and peeling.

Bruises

The astringent properties of Witch Hazel contract body tissues and reduce the bleeding that causes bruising. This makes the healing process much faster, reducing any swelling and fading the bruise within a few days.

Hair and Scalp

Especially effective for an oily scalp and greasy hair, Witch Hazel can reduce oil build up whilst helping to soothe an irritated scalp. This allows for shinier, healthier hair that has more volume and bounce. 

A study published in the “International Journal of Trichology” was conducted with 1,373 participants who used a Witch Hazel based shampoo to treat irritable scalp conditions. They found that it did indeed help to soothe patients’ irritable scalps, redness, itching and inflammation. A significant percentage of patients reported an improvement in symptoms and better tolerance of other hair care products.

Haemorrhoids

A more unusual use for this plant is as a natural treatment for haemorrhoids. This uncomfortable condition is caused by swelling and inflammation of veins in the rectum, with symptoms showing as itchiness, bleeding and constipation.

Its anti-inflammatory effects help to treat the itching, swelling and pain associated with haemorrhoids. Witch Hazel also has haemostatic properties, which causes bleeding to stop by keeping the blood within the damaged vessel and is the first stage of wound healing.

Witch Hazel Hydrolat

Witch Hazel Hydrolat is extremely high in tannins and polyphenols, powerful plant compounds with many benefits to the skin. The tannins are responsible for the natural astringent properties of Witch Hazel, making it an extremely popular treatment for acne and acne prone skin.

Typical Use

Witch Hazel Hydrolat

Perfect for use as a toner for oily/blemish prone skin - simply apply with a cotton pad. It can also be used as a refreshing facial spritzer and applied to the scalp and skin to heal and soothe irritation. 

Folklore and History

When Native Americans saw Witch Hazel blooming between October and November, they recognised a uniqueness, that this was unlike any other plant. This created a curiosity among the tribes, leading to the discovery of its medicinal use for the treatment of many ailments.

Although Witch Hazel had many medicinal uses, this plant panacea was also used for spiritual purposes by the Native American Indians. The seeds were used by the Menominee to make sacred beads and as a divination tool to predict if the sick would recover. 
     
During the Civil War, Confederate doctor Francis Porcher was ordered to come up with alternative medicines and goods no longer available due to Union blockades. He noted the Native American Indians using Witch Hazel as a bark wash for tumors, inflammations, swellings, hemorrhoids and eye afflictions. In his journal, "Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests" he documented Witch Hazel along with many other medicinal plants that were "extensively employed" in South Carolina slave quarters and described their uses "according to the negroes", who were also known to possess extensive plant knowledge.

Witch Hazel
Constituents

The active constituents of Witch Hazel include; gallotannins, gallic acid, myricetin, quercetin and kaempferol 

Precautions

It is recommended to perform a patch test to check for allergic reactions. Do not apply to badly broken skin.