What is Witch Hazel?
Witch hazel is a flowering shrub or small tree that is found in damp woods throughout most of North America. It has broad, oval leaves and golden yellow flowers that usually bloom in late fall and expand through winter.
Despite its wicked name, witch hazel has been used for centuries as a treatment for tumors, eye inflammations and other skin irritations. The dried leaves, bark and twigs have been pressed, boiled and steamed to provide a range of medical uses. Witch hazel can be used in a variety of forms such as fluid extracts and witch hazel water, the most common form of witch hazel found in the home and used as a topical cooling agent or astringent.
A lot of plants, including witch hazel, are high in tannins. These give the plant astringent properties which can dry, tighten and harden tissues. The astringent tannins found in witch hazel can temporarily tighten and soothe aching varicose veins and reduce inflammation. Witch hazel also contains procyanadins, resin, and flavonoids, all of which add to its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties.
Today, witch hazel is FDA approved as a non-prescription drug ingredient and is most commonly used to treat skin irritations. Commercial products usually use witch hazel extract or water as astringents to tighten the skin or in medications to slow or stop bleeding. Though internal use of witch hazel has been used, it is not recommended.
Here are ten home uses for witch hazel.
1. Treats acne and acts as a facial Cleanser
Witch Hazel is a great natural remedy for skin conditions like acne. The tannins not only tighten and close your pores, but can help remove excess oil from the skin to prevent a buildup leading to blackheads and other blemishes. Witch hazel is also beneficial to those exposed to a lot of environmental pollutants in order to reduce the amount of contaminants that enter the pores.
2. Spot and blemish control
Witch hazel can also reduce inflammation in pimples and inflamed skin spots. Other blemish spots may include dark bags under the eyes or varicose veins. Witch hazel is extremely effective at shrinking blood vessels in order to tighten the skin which will help remove discoloration and puffiness around the eyes and reduce the appearance of varicose veins. Just be sure not to get any in your eyes.
3. Promotes faster wound healing
Witch hazel can be used to treat cuts, scrapes and bruises. When applied to a small wound, witch hazel can tighten the skin and reduce irritation and inflammation. Some store-bought witch hazel also contains isopropoly alcohol which serves as a disinfectant. It can also help fade discoloration of bruises to speed up the healing process.
4. Soothes diaper rash
Immediately sooth a diaper rash by mixing petroleum jelly and witch hazel. Apply it to the irritated area using a cotton ball. This should not only provide immediate relief but also help promote healing in the area.
5. Soothes itching
Witch hazel is an anti-inflammatory that can help soothe itching associated with insect bites, poison ivy, and rashes. One study even found that shampoos containing North American Virginian Witch Hazel helped patients suffering from a sensitive scalp, red scalp and other scalp irritations.
6. Soothes and reduces external hemorrhoids
Witch hazel serves as an anti-itch remedy and can help soothe the symptoms of hemorrhoids. Mix and apply witch hazel and petroleum jelly to external hemorrhoids to reduce itching, swelling, pain and bleeding.
7. Soothes post hair-removal
Both men and woman can soothe any nick, cut, or inflammation caused by razor burn or other air removal. Prevent razor burn and/or bleeding by dabbing witch hazel on the irritated skin.
8. Alleviate pain from a sore throat
Gargle with a little witch hazel water or drink some witch hazel tea to decrease inflammation, ease soreness and dry up mucus in the throat. Be sure not to use witch hazel containing isopropyl for internal use. Witch hazel can also be used as a mouth rinse to reduce pain and swelling or irritated or infected gums. Mix witch hazel tea with a drop of clove and myrrh oil to soothe teething pain for infants or emerging wisdom teeth for adults.
9. Dry up swimmers ear
Ear infections are the number one reason for pediatric visits. Use an eye dropper to drop witch hazel into the ear to dry it up, remove excess oils and break up wax that may be clogging the ear canal. Mix witch hazel with goldenseal and calendula to fight any infection that may be in the ear.
10. Treating sunburn
When you are sunburnt, your skin is irritated and inflamed. Witch hazel can not only reduce inflammation but can also take out the sting of a burn. Mix witch hazel with aloe to cool the burn, reduce healing time and prevent peeling.
Sources: Natural News, HowStuffWorks, Natural Living Ideas