Skin problems like acne or eczema, or even having hemorrhoids or cold sores, can make life both difficult and uncomfortable for those afflicted. And taking strong medication, some of which might not even give you the results you’d hoped for, may be off the cards for many. This could be due to personal reasons or due to the possible interactions with other medication you are on. So where does that leave you? Cue witch hazel. The bark, twigs, and leaves of this plant are used in various medicines that can heal skin, soothe inflammation, and even prevent certain viruses and pathogens from spreading.
Here’s a closer look at how you can use the herbal remedy for a range of health issues.
1. Skin Inflammation, Acne, Eczema Treatment
Witch hazel is used as a topical treatment for pain, swelling, or itching. The bark and leaves, which contain as much as 10 percent tannins, have good astringent properties. The herb is also rich in polyphenols that fight oxidative stress on skin. Its antibacterial properties also make it a good remedy for eczema and acne, inflammatory skin conditions that can be hard to control.1 A decoction made using between 5 and 10 gm of the bark infused in a cup of water can be applied twice or thrice a day to relieve acne, due to its astringent properties.2
Witch Hazel has been approved by the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy and France for use not just as a topical remedy, but also an internal one, for treating hemorrhoids. Its astringent properties make it useful for anyone who has hemorrhoids that bleed. The vasoconstrictive and anti-inflammatory action of the extract have been revealed in various studies. However, since it is not recommended as an internal treatment in the United States, it is better to stick to topical use for pain relief and in rectal ointments, until further studies are done.3
3. Sunburn And Photoaging
Witch hazel also offers your skin protection from damage from the harsh rays of the sun.The polyphenolic compounds in the plant extracts have been found to exert a protective effect that slows photoaging and sunburn related damage responsible for flaking and peeling skin. More immediately, it can soothe skin that’s sensitive or sore due to sunlight exposure thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. To use, simply dab on the extract using clean cotton balls.4
4. Eye Inflammation
Witch hazel has long been used as a remedy for inflammation of the eyes. So if your lower eyes are puffy or a little swollen, you could benefit from using this anti-inflammatory treatment.5 Be careful not to get any into the eye and dab gently with a cotton ball dipped in a diluted extract.
5. Minor Burns And Wounds
The herb has been used in Native American folk medicine for generations, to treat minor burns as well as to help wound healing. Its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to prevent pathogenic germs from entering and flourishing on wounds are important.6
6. Cold Sores
The Herpes Simplex Virus or HSV-1 can cause cold sores which are painful blisters on the skin.7 Research has found that witch hazel extract could help exert antiviral action against HSV-1 and its topical use could help ease associated inflammation.8
7. Insect Bites
Witch hazel helps soothe itching and also tightens up skin due to its astringent qualities, making it a useful remedy for insect bites. Since it is anti-inflammatory it also brings down the swelling. Traditional Native American medicine used a poultice made from the bark and leaves of witch hazel, but you could make one just using cotton soaked in the diluted extract.9 You could go a step further and combine it with diluted lavender oil to ward off mosquitoes and bugs as well.
How To Take It Safely
Avoid ingesting witch hazel remedies without first consulting a doctor, as it has been known to cause gastrointestinal problems like stomach upsets and even liver problems if the dosage is too high. It can, however, be used safely by adults as a topical remedy to treat various inflammatory and other skin conditions from the outside.10
|↑1||Thring, Tamsyn SA, Pauline Hili, and Declan P. Naughton. “Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cells.” Journal of Inflammation 8, no. 1 (2011): 1.|
|↑2||Bedi, Monica K., and Philip D. Shenefelt. “Herbal therapy in dermatology.” Archives of dermatology 138, no. 2 (2002): 232-242.|
|↑3||Abascal, Kathy, and Eric Yarnell. “Botanical treatments for hemorrhoids.” Alternative & Complementary Therapies 11, no. 6 (2005): 285-289.|
|↑4||Reuter, Juliane, Ute Wölfle, Hans Christian Korting, and Christoph Schempp. “Which plant for which skin disease? Part 2: Dermatophytes, chronic venous insufficiency, photoprotection, actinic keratoses, vitiligo, hair loss, cosmetic indications.” JDDG: Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft 8, no. 11 (2010): 866-873.|
|↑5||Darshan, Sharma, and R. Doreswamy. “Patented antiinﬂammatory plant drug development from traditional medicine.” Phytotherapy research 18, no. 5 (2004): 343-357.|
|↑6||Duckstein, Sarina M., Peter Lorenz, and Florian C. Stintzing. “Conversion of phenolic constituents in aqueous Hamamelis virginiana leaf extracts during fermentation.” Phytochemical Analysis 23, no. 6 (2012): 588-597.|
|↑7||Herpes simplex virus. WHO.|
|↑8||Erdelmeier, C. A. J., J. Cinatl, H. Rabenau, H. W. Doerr, A. Biber, and E. Koch. “Antiviral and antiphlogistic activities of Hamamelis virginiana bark.” Planta medica 62, no. 03 (1996): 241-245.|
|↑9||Hughes-Formella, B. J., A. Filbry, J. Gassmueller, and F. Rippke. “Anti-inflammatory efficacy of topical preparations with 10% hamamelis distillate in a UV erythema test.” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 15, no. 2 (2002): 125-132.|
|↑10||Graf, J. “Herbal anti-inflammatory agents for skin disease.” Skin Therapy Lett 5, no. 4 (2000): 3-5.|