- Alternative & Natural Medicine
Uses For Witch Hazel
Witch Hazel: An All-Natural Astringent
Witch Hazel is nature's astringnet. Native Americans used witch hazel, which comes from the bark and leaves of the indigenous witch hazel shrub, to treat a wide variety of skin ailments and abrasions. With hazel has been used for centuries to treat everything from acne to muscle soreness, hemorrhoids to insect bites.
The first European settlers in North America quickly adopted witch hazel as a useful and effective natural medicine. Witch hazel continues to be used today. Witch hazel is used as an all-natural beauty treatment and to treat myriad skin conditions. Witch hazel is readily available at most drug stores, and witch hazel is an active ingredient in many over the counter remedies.
Uses For Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is an all-natural astringent, which means it contracts and tightens blood vessels and the pores of your skin. While witch hazel can be made into a tincture that you can drink, it generally is applied topically, usually with a cotton ball or cotton pad. Witch hazel can treat almost any kind of skin condition. Here are some of the most common uses for witch hazel:
- Acne treatment (to clean and dry out pimples, and also to reduce redness by contracting blood vessels)
- Insect bite treatment
- Poison ivy and poison oak
- Hemorrhoid treatment (witch hazel is present in many over the counter hemorrhoid creams because it is so good at shrinking blood vessels and reducing inflammation)
- Soothes sunburn
- Treats minor cuts and scrapes; cleans and helps heal
- Soothe sore muscles
- Vericose veins
- Post-natal tearing of the perinium
What Is Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is the name commonly given to a deciduous flowering plant that is native to North America, and which also has strains native to China and Japan. The horticultural name for witch hazel is "hamamelis," and means "together with fruit."
A witch hazel plant flowers in winter or fall, and the fruit, flower and buds for next year's leaves all appear on the same branch at the same time. The flowers tend to be yellow, orange or red, and have four petals. The fruit is a two-part capsule about 1 cm. long and which explodes open once it is mature, ejecting two seeds. These seeds can travel up to 30 feet from the original witch hazel shrub.
Witch hazel is not actually related to a hazel tree. Rather, it was commonly dubbed "hazel" because its twigs were sometimes used as a divining rod to find water, much as hazel branches were used in Europe. The etymology of the "witch" is less clear. Some say it comes from the middle English word "wiche," which means bendable or pliable. Others say it harkens back to the use of witch hazel twigs as divining rods, which some associated with witchcraft. That witch hazel has so many natural medical applications, it might also have seemed a magic potion to its early users.
Witch hazel is also related to the Persian Ironwood tree.
Witch hazel is derived from the astringent bark and leaves of the witch hazel plant, often by boiling them and then collecting and condensing the steam.
Commercial Use of Witch Hazel
Witch hazel was first packaged and sold commercially in the 1870s by a Connecticut man named Thomas Newton Dickinson. The product he started, and which was continued by his sons (who also were competitors) is still active as Dickinsons Brands. They remain a major producer of witch hazel.
Other brands also use witch hazel as an active ingredient in various products from hemorrhoid creams to all-natural hand sanitizers such as one sold by Burt's Bees.
Witch hazel plants do produce an essential oil, but in quantities too small to sell commercially.