Witch Hazel: Herbal Remedies - Benefits of Witch Hazel
Jennifer Brett, N.D.
Despite its name, there is nothing to fear from this low-growing shrub,
although its healing properties may seem a little like witchcraft.
Actually, witch hazel may have gotten its name from its association with
dowsing, which was once thought to be a form of witchcraft.
branches were once the wood of choice for dowsing rods, whose purpose was
to locate water, or "witch" a well. Although witch hazel was once used to
find hydration, it is now used as an herbal remedy to dry and cleanse skin.
Uses for Witch Hazel
The bark, leaves, and twigs of witch hazel are all high in tannins, giving
this plant astringent properties. Astringents are substances that can dry,
tighten, and harden tissues. You may use an astringent on your skin to
tighten pores and remove excess oil.
A styptic pencil is a type of astringent, too, for astringents also stop
discharges. The astringent tannins in witch hazel temporarily tighten and
soothe aching varicose veins or reduce inflammation in cases of phlebitis
(an inflammation of a vein). Witch hazel also contains procyanadins, resin,
and flavonoids, all of which add to its soothing, anti-inflammatory
properties. A cloth soaked in strong witch hazel tea reduces swelling and
can relieve the pain of hemorrhoids and bruises.
Almost all pharmacies carry some type of witch hazel preparation in the
form of lotions, hemorrhoidal pads, and suppositories. Besides their use
topically for hemorrhoids and veins, witch hazel lotions are useful on
rough, swollen, gardener's or carpenter's hands. You can also use witch
hazel internally to treat varicose veins, hemorrhoids, or a prolapsed
uterus, although not the witch hazel/isopropyl alcohol preparation
frequently found in drug stores.
Its ability to shrink swollen tissue makes witch hazel appropriate to treat
laryngitis as well. And a throat gargle of witch hazel,
, and cloves reduces the pain of an uncomfortable sore throat. Again, use
fresh tea or tincture, not the drugstore witch hazel, which contains
isopropyl alcohol. You can rinse your mouth with witch hazel and myrrh for
cases of swollen and infected gums. Place a dropper full of tincture of
each herb in 1/4 cup of water and use as a mouth rinse. A teaspoon of
strong witch hazel tea combined with one drop each of myrrh and clove oil
makes a pain- and inflammation-relieving gum rub for use in teething
A cotton swab dipped in witch hazel, goldenseal, and calendula tea and
applied to the outer ear is useful in treating swimmer's ear. Swimmer's ear
is associated typically with pus and moisture in the outer ear canal. Witch
hazel helps dry up the secretions, while goldenseal and calendula fight
Witch hazel combined with arnica makes an excellent topical remedy for the
treatment of traumatic bruises, bumps, and sprains to relieve pain and
promote speedy healing. Witch hazel is sometimes combined with isopropyl
(rubbing) alcohol for use on external skin lesions; this form of witch
hazel should not be used internally.
If you have watery stools or blood or mucus in your stools on a regular
basis, your physician may suspect colitis or irritable bowel syndrome and
recommend witch hazel to reduce intestinal secretions associated with these
conditions. A tea made from witch hazel, chamomile, mint, and a bit of
thyme can be very effective for diarrhea that accompanies an intestinal
illness, or what we often call stomach flu.
For best results, an herbalist can select the right tea formula for you. If
you wish to make a remedy at home, combine 1 tablespoon each of dried
chamomile and mint and 1.5 teaspoons of dried witch hazel and thyme. Steep
in 3 cups of hot water.
Witch hazel is an important botanical for controlling bleeding: It can
reduce bleeding when applied topically to a wound or used internally for
bleeding ulcers or bleeding gums. Of course, serious wounds require medical
treatment, but witch hazel can control bleeding en route to a physician.
Witch Hazel Preparations and Dosage
Witch hazel can be used externally or internally to help dry and calm.
Although it is a generally safe herb, there are some things to keep in mind
when using herbal remedies containing witch hazel.
Witch hazel is most often used topically in the form of lotions, poultices,
and creams, but it is also added to tinctures and teas for internal use.
Witch hazel is not recommended as a general daily beverage, but it may be
consumed for cases of hemorrhoids, diarrhea, or weak, lax uterus, veins,
and intestines. Some recipes are below.
c2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Witch hazel contains procyanadins,
resin, and flavonoids, which help it work
as a soothing, anti-inflammatory agent
that can help relieve hemorrhoid pain.
Use 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon, two to six times a day.
Drink several cups each day, when needed. Limit use to several weeks
Witch Hazel Precautions and Warnings
None for the herb itself; do not use commercial witch hazel preparations
internally if they contain isopropyl alcohol, which is a poison.
Side Effects of Witch Hazel
The tannins in witch hazel can produce nausea if you take it too frequently
or take too large a dose at once.
When taken in the proper amounts, witch hazel can help dry out oily skin,
shrink swollen tissue and relieve a number of ailments. Just be sure to use
it with caution and be aware of what other things it is mixed within
lotions and other compounds.
To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the
· For an overview of all of our herbal remedies, go to the main
· To learn more about treating medical conditions at home, visit our main
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