Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Benefits of Witch Hazel for the skin and general health

I wanted to talk a little bit about Witch Hazel. As some of you know, I use Witch Hazel in all my skin cleansing mixes and aftershaves, together with the floral waters, about which I wrote earlier.

Native Americans introduced witch hazel to early European settlers. They applied a strained decoction of the leaves and twigs to small wounds, insect bites, sore muscles and joints. They also sipped witch hazel tea to treat bleeding, inflammation, and hemorrhoids.

Witch Hazel is a valuable cooling topical astrigent for various ailments, including varicose veins, hemorrhoids, abrasions, bruises and other skin irritations. It is also good for clearing out the redness produced by eczema and smoothing wrinkles. Witch hazel is used in pads to help smooth discomfort from rectal and vaginal surgery and stitches. The bark decoction also is useful as a gargle in releiving sore throat.

Benefits of witch hazel for specific conditions include the following:

Burns, cold sores, cuts and scrapes, insect bites and stings - witch hazel helps to releive the itching of insects and poison ivy and helps to dry out cold sores. A prominent tannin found in witch hazel, hamamelitannin, has been shown to constrict blood vessels and stem bleeding from abrasions due to shaving nicks. Other tannins in witch hazel help to keep wounds clean, prevent swelling and combat infection. Witch Hazel can cool sunburns and other minor burns.

Eczema - a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical test found that witch hazel cream offered a mild, anti inflammatory effect effect for eczema without the side effects of prednisone.

Diarrhea - both witch hazel bark and witch hazel leaf teas are effective against diarrhea, but the gentler witch hazel bark tea is better for use in treating diarrhea (and stomach upset) in children.

Periodontal disease - witch hazel leaf gargles and mouthwashes form a protective lining over the mucous membranes of the gums and the mouth. These products are particularly useful for sore gums that are accompanied by sore throat.

Now that we had a little intro into witch hazel, let me say this:

Witch hazel bark teas are intended for treatment of acute rather than chronic diarrhea. If diarrhea persists, contact a doctor.

Do not use the commonly available witch hazel water. While it has been approved by the FDA, its healing benefits derive from the alcohol rather than the witch hazel itself. Do NOT use commercially prepared witch hazel water internally!!!

Distilled Witch Hazel sold in drug stores and pharmacies typically contains no tannin (which is useful). Essential oil of witch hazel is not sold separately as a consumer product. The plant does not produce enough essential oil to make production viable. However, there are various distillates of witch hazel (called hydrosols or hydrolats) that are gentler than the "drug store" witch hazel, which contains alcohol.

You can find my products with witch hazel here:

Etsy witch hazel section

Artfire witch hazel section


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organic candles said...

Not only are they really natural - they sure are going to make me feel real good. Thanks.

KarenSloan-WallFlowerStudio said...

Witch Hazel is great. I used to use it alot, years ago. Remember it being very gentle on my skin.
Interesting post, thanks!

OLLIE MCKAY'S ~ A Chic Boutique said...

Wow ~ I had no idea of all the uses for witch hazel ~ thanks for sharing!

Mea Culpa Bath and Body said...

Very gentle indeed :-) Thank you all for confirming my beliefs that witch hazel is one of natures best :-)