The American Witch Hazel plant, otherwise known as Hamamelis virginiana, has been used in folk medicine in the United States for many years. Its bark and leaves are often used to make teas and ointments, and the plant is known widely for its ability to soothe sensitive skin and ease inflammation.
The key to Witch Hazel’s healing properties lies in its polyphenol and tannin content, which can be extracted from the bark, twigs, and leaves, then added to either alcohol or water to make a concentrate.
Tannins have been shown in studies to be anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic, and antimicrobial, and their antioxidative properties are capable of protecting cells against oxidative damage. The antimicrobial properties of tannins, which inhibit the growth of many fungi, yeasts, bacteria, and viruses, are why Witch Hazel is one of the most common ingredients in all-natural skincare products .
10 Uses for Witch Hazel
1. Reduce Skin Irritation
If you have sensitive skin, using a toner that contains Witch Hazel can provide relief for sensitive or irritated facial skin . One study of forty participants found that using this extract was effective at reducing skin inflammation and treating erythema, a reddening of the skin caused by injury or inflammation .
2. Treatment for Acne
Witch Hazel is an effective acne treatment again, because of its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant content. Applying Witch Hazel to acne-prone skin can help slow down the growth of bacteria, and decrease inflammation, redness, oiliness, and bleeding .
Witch Hazel also acts as an astringent which helps to shrink your pores and soothe your skin. This may prevent acne-causing bacteria from infecting your skin .
The next time you get a little too much sun, try applying a lotion that contains Witch Hazel to the affected skin. One study found that participants who applied a lotion of ten percent Witch Hazel to their sunburn saw a 27 percent reduction in redness, compared to a control group who used a lotion without it and only saw an eleven percent reduction .
4. Scalp Sensitivity
Applying some Witch Hazel to your scalp before washing your hair may provide relief from symptoms such as itching or tenderness. One study of over thirteen hundred people found that using a shampoo containing Witch Hazel extract effectively reduced scalp irritation .
It may also help reduce scalp sensitivity caused by conditions like psoriasis and eczema, as well as relieve symptoms of other scalp problems like dandruff and dryness.
5. Hemorrhoid Treatment
The research is limited, but witch hazel is believed to relieve the itchiness, redness, pain, and swelling associated hemorrhoids. This is likely because of witch hazel’s anti-inflammatory properties since hemorrhoids are caused by swelling and inflammation of the veins in your rectum and anus .
Witch hazel has also been shown to have hemostatic properties (to stop bleeding), possibly allowing it to stop the bleeding caused by hemorrhoids. More research is needed to examine the efficacy of witch hazel in this area .
6. Fight Signs of Ageing
Witch hazel may help slow down signs of aging like scars, redness, discoloration, dryness, and puffiness around the eyes. It may also help to tighten skin, and test-tube studies have shown that it helps neutralize harmful free radicals and prevent the spread of skin cancer cells . However, test-tube studies are limited since they conducted in such a controlled environment.
It may also help protect collagen and skin elasticity, which can help keep your skin looking youthful as you age.
7. Insect Bites
When applied topically as a cream, witch hazel has been shown in some studies to curb symptoms like itching, redness, and swelling associated with stings, cuts, and bites just as effectively as synthetic chemical creams.
It may also help speed up recovery from minor scabs or cuts because witch hazel extract contains isopropyl alcohol, another natural disinfectant that kills bacteria and prevents infections .
8. Prevent Infection
There have been some studies that point to witch hazel as a possible treatment for certain types of viral infections, such as influenza A and human papillomavirus (HPV) .
9. Prevent Ingrown Hair and Rashes
Applying witch hazel to any part of the body after shaving can slow down bleeding from any nicks or cuts, prevent bacteria or infections from growing in hair follicles, soothe razor burn, and prevent ingrown hairs from forming. It can also be used after waxing to reduce pain, swelling, and bleeding .
How to Use Witch Hazel as a Toner
Witch hazel is an astringent and therefore can be drying to your skin, so you should avoid using it every day. When you’re looking for a toner that contains witch hazel, try to find one that includes other soothing and moisturizing ingredients like rose, aloe vera, and tea tree oil, and use the toner no more than four times per week .
Most people can use witch hazel without any negative side effects, however, whenever you are trying a new product on your skin, it is always a good idea to test it out on a small patch first to see how you react .
If you choose to use witch hazel internally, three to four teaspoons per day is considered safe. Large amounts may cause stomach irritation and vomiting .
It is important to keep in mind that many of the beneficial uses of witch hazel have not been thoroughly studied, and you should always consult your doctor before beginning any kind of treatment for a medical issue, whether it be internal or external. Generally, witch hazel is safe when applied topically.