Witch hazel. Doesn’t it sound like some magical plant that grows in a far-off land and makes anyone who eats it immortal? Or better yet, it sounds like something you’re sure to find in Snape’s potions dungeons in Hogwarts. But alas, it is but a plant that belongs in our mortal world. However, the many benefits that witch hazel provides are nothing short of amazing.
After all, it is known as nature’s best astringent. If you’re someone who likes to go the all-natural way when treating any skin conditions, you need to stock up on witch hazel pronto! Keep reading to know why…
Table Of Contents
- What Is Witch Hazel Exactly?
- The History Of Witch Hazel
- Is Witch Hazel Safe For Skin Care?
- What Are The Benefits Of Witch Hazel?
- How To Make Your Own DIY Witch Hazel For Skin Care
- Where And What Witch Hazel Brands To Buy?
- Are There Any Side Effects of Witch Hazel?
What Is Witch Hazel Exactly?
Witch hazel is a flowering plant (Hamamelis) that is found in North America, Japan, and China. Also known as winterbloom, it is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 25 feet high. The extract of witch hazel plant is used as a natural astringent and skin care remedy for a range of problems because it contains chemicals such as calcium oxalate, safrole, gallotannins, carvacrol, and eugenol.
You must now be wondering who first discovered the miraculous benefits of this plant. Let’s take a look…
The History Of Witch Hazel
As is the case with most wonderful natural remedies, the medicinal properties of witch hazel were first discovered by the Native Americans who boiled the stems to make a decoction that was then used to treat swelling, inflammation, and tumors.
And, of course, someone had to swoop in and commercialize something that was freely available to the masses. In this case, it was a missionary called Dr. Charles Hawes who discovered that distilling witch hazel twigs rendered a concentrated extract that was far more effective than the boiled decoction. Thus, “Hawes Extract” was first produced and sold in 1846 in Connecticut, followed by Thomas Newton Dickinson, Sr., further refining the process and selling his own brand of witch hazel extract 1866 onwards.
Since witch hazel has been around and used for so long, it is but obvious that it has worked marvelously as a skin care agent. But there are still a few things you need to keep in mind before you use it on your face. Let’s see what they are.
Is Witch Hazel Safe For Skin Care?
Yes, witch hazel is absolutely safe to use as a skin care remedy. However, you need to keep a couple of things in mind before you purchase your first bottle.
Firstly, since witch hazel essentially acts as a toner, using it in excess could dry out your skin. So, make sure you buy one that is oil-based and does not contain any alcohol to prevent that from happening.
Secondly, as with any product that you’re planning to use on your face, you need to do a patch test with witch hazel on your forearm to make sure you’re not allergic to it.
Now that you know what you need to look out for when picking the perfect bottle of witch hazel, let’s look at the many benefits that this miracle ingredient possesses.
Benefits Of Witch Hazel
Most of witch hazel’s benefits stem from its astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. These include reducing acne, fighting premature signs of aging, healing hemorrhoids, and treating the symptoms of serious skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Let’s take a more in-depth look at these benefits.
1. Acts As An Astringent
An astringent is any compound that helps contract the skin cells and other tissues. Witch hazel is one of nature’s best astringents that helps in treating a wide variety of skin ailments like acne, blood blisters, and minor cuts and bruises (1). We will look at each of these in detail further down this list.
2. Reduces Acne/Pimples
Besides being an amazing astringent, witch hazel also has some great antioxidant properties. This double whammy makes it perfect for reducing acne (2). You can use liquid witch hazel directly on your face with a cotton pad.
But if you want to pamper your skin and give the acne-fighting properties of witch hazel an extra boost, here’s a quick home remedy you can try out.
You Will Need
- ½ teaspoon vitamin C powder
- 6 drops of lavender essential oil
- ¼ cup witch hazel
What To Do
- Simply combine all the ingredients and store it in a brown glass bottle.
- Apply this wonderfully fragrant toner to your face after you wash it.
While the vitamin C boosts the healing and astringent properties of witch hazel, the lavender essential oil soothes your skin and makes it smell great. Use this toner every time you wash your face to reduce pimples. But make sure you use this concoction up within a week as the vitamin C will oxidize over time and render it useless.
3. Fights Signs Of Aging And Damage From Sun Exposure
Witch hazel is chock-full of antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties that make it perfect for fighting the signs of premature aging like wrinkles, discoloration, and loss of skin elasticity. It does this by tightening pores and getting rid of free radicals. The polyphenols and tannins in witch hazel also act as excellent protectors against the damage caused by UV radiation like melanoma and other cancers (3).
4. Stops Bleeding Fast
Since witch hazel acts as an astringent that contracts skin cells, it is great for stopping minor cuts and scrapes from bleeding. The tannins present in witch hazel also help reduce pain and swelling and form a protective coating on wounds to prevent the development of infection (4).
5. Heals Bruises
Witch hazel has some fantastic anti-inflammatory properties that help constrict blood vessels and reduce swelling. This makes it perfect for reducing bruises (5). Just apply it on your bruise and massage it into your skin to see the results.
6. Relieves Discomfort From Sunburn
The tannins and catechins present in witch hazel are great at reducing the inflammation caused by sunburns. They also soothe the sunburnt skin, reduce swelling, and prevent the skin from flaking and peeling (6).
If your skin is painfully sunburnt and you need something that will soothe and heal it, you can add half a cup of aloe vera gel to one cup of witch hazel and spray it onto the affected area for some instant relief.
7. Treats Eczema And Psoriasis
Anyone who suffers from eczema or psoriasis knows how intensely painful the itching they cause is. The itching, redness, scaling, and burning caused by these two inflammatory skin diseases can be reduced with the help of witch hazel. This relief can only be attributed to the local astringent and anti-inflammatory properties that it possesses (7). You can add French green clay or neem oil to witch hazel to get faster relief.
8. Soothes A Sore Throat
Tried every home remedy in the book to relieve your sore throat but to no avail? Then, it’s time you gave witch hazel a try. Not only does it reduce the swelling and pain, but it also dries out the excess mucus produced in your throat due to the infection.
All you need to do is gargle with a decoction made of witch hazel bark or leaves 2-3 times a day (8). This home remedy works wonders in reducing the sore throat symptoms caused by a variety of throat diseases like laryngitis, tonsillitis, and sinusitis.
9. Treats Cold Sores
Cold sores are red blisters that erupt around the mouth as a result of the herpes simplex virus and are often accompanied by an itching and burning sensation. The antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties of witch hazel can help reduce these symptoms quite effectively (9). Just dab it directly on the cold sore with a cotton pad 2-3 times a day.
10. Prevents Diaper Rashes
There’s nothing more distressing for parents than to see their little one’s bottom covered in bright red and itchy rashes. Fortunately, witch hazel has been found to reduce the irritation and redness caused by diaper rash quite significantly due to its anti-inflammatory properties (10).
11. Prevents Razor Burns
Whether you shave your facial, underarm or pubic hair, razor burn is a phenomenon experienced by pretty much everyone. Witch hazel is the perfect ingredient that can come to your rescue here. The astringent and anti-inflammatory properties of witch hazel are great for reducing the itchiness and bumps that occur around the irritated hair follicles (11).
12. Helps Reduce Puffy Eyes
When exam season rolls around, or the stress of meeting targets at work gets a hold of you, your eyes are bound to get tired and puffed up. This is because the skin under your eyes is especially thin and delicate. Applying witch hazel around your eyes works like a charm in reducing the soreness and puffiness because of – you guessed it – its anti-inflammatory property (12).
13. Soothes Chicken Pox
Ahh! The dreaded chicken pox! It may happen to you just once in your lifetime, but that’s enough to give you a traumatic memory for the rest of your life. Those pesky pus-filled poxes are itchy, to say the least. The anti-inflammatory and soothing properties of witch hazel can help relieve some of this itching and irritation (13).
14. Protects Your Mouth, Lips, And Gums
Bleeding or swollen gums, cold sores, canker sores, and blisters – these are only some of the painful things that our poor mouth, lips, and gums are subjected to. Rinsing your mouth with a witch hazel mouthwash can help reduce the swelling and pain and also fight these infections quite effectively (14). You could also combine it with coconut oil or myrrh and apply it topically to the blisters, sores, or swollen gums for effective results.
15. Removes Blackheads
Blackheads are formed when open pores in your skin get clogged up with dead skin cells or oils. Gross, I know. The toning property of witch hazel works to loosen these blackheads and tighten the skin pores to prevent them from coming back (15).
16. Acts As A Deodorant
Owing to its natural healing properties, witch hazel works quite wonderfully as an organic deodorant when mixed with a few other fragrant essential oils. Here’s what you need:
- 4 tablespoons of witch hazel
- 1 teaspoon of vodka
- 10 drops of geranium essential oil
- 10 drops of cypress essential oil
- 3 drops of black pepper
- 4 drops of lavender essential oil
- 5 drops of neroli essential oil
- 8 drops of bergamot essential oil
- 2 tablespoons of orange flower water
- 2 tablespoons of cornflower water
- Spray bottle
Pour all the ingredients into the spray bottle and shake it vigorously to mix them thoroughly. Spray this all-natural deodorant on your underarms and smell fresh throughout the day!
17. Cures Ear Infections
If you’ve ever experienced an ear infection, you know it hurts in a way that makes it hard for you to function like a normal human being. Ear infections are obviously caused by bacteria. And you know what has great antibacterial properties? Yep, it’s witch hazel (16). Putting a few drops of witch hazel into your ear with a dropper can help alleviate some of the irritation, dissolve the built-up wax, and dry up any pus that may have collected in it.
18. Reduces Stretch Marks
Since witch hazel possesses astringent properties that help the skin cells to contract and tighten, it can be conjectured that it can help fade out stretch marks. This is also the reason pregnant women use it to prevent stretch marks from developing. However, there’s no conclusive evidence to prove that witch hazel can effectively reduce stretch marks.
19. Heals Hemorrhoids
First things first, hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the anus and rectum that can cause bleeding. Yes, they are as painful as they sound. You may know them by their laymen term ‘piles.’ Applying witch hazel to the affected area (yes, your bum) can help reduce the bleeding and relieve some of the swelling, itching, and burning sensation due to its anti-inflammatory, astringent, and healing properties (17).
20. Reduces The Appearance Of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are gnarly and enlarged veins that appear on the legs and feet and can prove to be painful. The tannin content of witch hazel can help constrict the blood vessels and reduce the swelling caused by the varicose veins (18). Additionally, the gallic acid and essential oils present in it can help soothe the pain. Using cloth compresses of witch hazel is recommended in this case.
21. Moisturizes And Nourishes Dry Skin
You would think that any ingredient that works as an astringent would dry your skin out. But you couldn’t be more wrong! In fact, applying witch hazel to your skin right after stepping out of the shower can help dry out excess oils and lock in the moisture in your skin. However, if you’re using store-bought witch hazel, make sure you are using one without any alcohol in it as it will be counterproductive and make your skin dry.
22. Cleanses Hair And Protects The Scalp
When it comes to hair and scalp care, there’s nothing that witch hazel cannot do. It can tame down frizzy hair and add volume to it. We already know that witch hazel helps dry out excess oils and grease, which makes it great to be used on oily hair. The vasoconstrictive properties of witch hazel also mean that massaging it into your scalp helps increase the blood circulation in it, thus reducing hair fall.
Any scalp-related issue that you can think of can be combatted by the mighty witchy hazel. The essential oils present in it nourish the scalp and get rid of dandruff. And that’s not all! Being a natural astringent, it also helps relieve any itchiness you may be experiencing on your scalp.
23. Protects Your Pets From Odor And Bug Bites
Yes, you may love your pets more than anything else in the world, but sometimes, they can smell so bad that you have to push them away, even if it breaks your heart. Dogs and cats start smelling bad when bacteria start developing on their skin or in any wounds. Rubbing some witch hazel on their skin can help get rid of this bacteria and odor effectively. Moreover, it acts as an excellent mosquito repellent for your furry friend (19).
24. Treats Insect Bites
If you live closer to the countryside and are always covered in mosquito and other insects’ bites, it’s time you start using witch hazel. The anti-inflammatory and astringent properties of witch hazel help reduce the swelling and itching of insect bites (20).
Now, I personally don’t mind buying a witch hazel astringent from the store. But if you like to use only 100% organic products and don’t mind going the DIY way, here’s how you can make one right at home.
How To Make Your Own DIY Witch Hazel For Skin Care
What You Need
- ½ pound of witch hazel bark
- ½ liter of water
- 200 ml of vodka or pure grain alcohol
What To Do
- Put the witch hazel bark in a saucepan and pour the water over it.
- Boil the mixture on high heat.
- Once the water starts boiling, lower the heat to a simmer.
- Cover the saucepan with a lid and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove the mixture from the stove and let it cool down while the saucepan is still covered.
- Strain out the bark from the tea.
- Add the vodka to the tea to preserve it for longer. But keep in mind that this can dry out your skin. You can skip adding the alcohol entirely, but then, you can use this witch hazel only for a week.
Don’t want to go through the effort of doing it yourself? No problem! Here’s where you can buy witch hazel.
Where And What Witch Hazel Brands To Buy?
Witch hazel is quite easily available in drugstores and on popular online shopping websites like Amazon. If you don’t mind using one with alcohol, you can go for T.N. Dickinson’s Witch Hazel Astringent. Yes, this is the same T. N. Dickinson who started selling witch hazel way back in 1866! If you would like to use a witch hazel that is alcohol-free, I recommend Thayers Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Toner, which also happens to be scent free! Yay!
All of this is well and good. But there still a couple of things you need to keep in mind before you start using witch hazel…
Are There Any Side Effects Of Witch Hazel?
No, witch hazel does not have any major side effects when applied on the skin or consumed
orally. However, some people could experience irritation due to an allergic reaction, so it’s
always best to do a patch test before you start using it.
It has also been known to cause stomach upset in some people. It’s best to avoid consuming witch hazel orally in large amounts as it contains safrole (a cancer-causing chemical) and tannins (toxic compounds) and could possibly cause liver problems.
Pregnant and lactating women should also consult a physician before using or consuming witch hazel.
Who knew, huh? Who knew that a plant with such a peculiar name could provide so many benefits? I, for one, am on my way to stocking up my medicine cabinet with witch hazel in all its forms. Comment below to let us know which ailment you can’t wait to remedy with this miracle plant or if we missed out on listing any benefit.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
What is witch hazel (astringent) made of?
In its astringent form, witch hazel is an extract made from the leaves and bark of the witch hazel shrub. It mainly consists of calcium oxalate, safrole, gallotannins, carvacrol, and eugenol.
What are witch hazel pads?
Witch hazel pads are cotton pads that are soaked in witch hazel astringent.
Can you use witch hazel on babies?
Yes, you can externally use witch hazel on babies in very small quantities.
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- “Herbal Treatment of Children: Western and Ayurvedic Perspectives.” McIntyre, A. USA.
- “First Aid For The Gardener’s Skin.” University of Vermont Extension, USA.
- “Which plant for which skin disease? Part 2: Dermatophytes, chronic venous insufficiency, photoprotection, actinic keratoses, vitiligo, hair loss, cosmetic indications.” University of Freiburg, Germany.
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- “36 Healing Herbs: The World’s Best Medicinal Plants.” Johnson, R. USA.
- “Au Naturel: What’s the safest way to remove pubic hair?” Princeton University, USA.
- “Mystical, Medicinal Witch Hazel.” Harvard University, USA.
- “Secrets of Native American Herbal Remedies: A Comprehensive Guide to the Native American Tradition of Using Herbs and the Mind/Body/Spirit Connection for Improving Health and Well-being.” Cichoke, A. USA.
- “The Complete Book of Dental Remedies.” Stay, F. USA.
- “Bioré Deep Cleansing Pore Strips:A Yes for Your Nose?” Vanderbilt University, USA.
- “Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cells.” Kingston University, London, UK.
- “Enlarged hemorrhoids: How can you relieve the symptoms yourself?” Institute For Quality And Efficacy In Health Care, Cologne, Germany.
- “Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.” Shenefelt, P. USA.
- “Home Remedies For Your Dog’s Skin Inflammation.” Whole Dog Journal.
- “Witch Hazel.” University of Missouri, USA.
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