Witch Hazel Uses and Benefits

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Hamamelis virginiana L. Family: Hamamelidaceae

COMMON NAME(S): Witch hazel, hamamelis, snapping hazel, winter bloom,spotted alder, tobacco wood, hamamelis water

Witch hazel is an astringent herb that can be used internally, however it is mainly used externally. It is an effective external refrigerant and antiseptic lotion. It is appropriate for using on sores, bruises and swelling areas. It is soothing to extra sensitive areas that have become inflamed and good for hemorrhoids due to its astringent action.

The main constituents in witch hazel that provide this herb with its strong astringent effects are tanins and volatile oils. Preliminary studies suggest that witch hazel strengthens veins and offers anti-inflammatory effects and is useful in relieving such skin conditions as eczema. However, some studies indicate that witch hazel cream is no more effective at treating eczema than hyrdocortisone.


Witch hazel is a widely known plant with a long history of use in the Americas. One source lists more than 30 traditional uses for witch hazel including the treatment of hemorrhoids, burns, cancers, tuberculosis,colds, and fever. Preparations have been used topically for symptomatic treatment of itching and other skin inflammations and in ophthalmic preparations for ocular irritations.

The plant is used in a variety of forms including the crude leaf and bark,fluid extracts,a poultice, and most commonly as witch hazel water.The latter, also known as hamamelis water or distilled witch hazel extract, is obtained from the recently cut and partially dormant twigs of the plant. This plant material is soaked in warm water followed by distillation and the addition of alcohol to the distillate. Witch hazel water is the most commonly found commercial preparation, usually kept in most homes as a topical cooling agent or astringent.

Traditionally, witch hazel was known to native North American people as a treatment for tumors and eye inflammations.Its internal use was for hemorrhaging. Eighteenth century European settlers came to value the plant for its astringency, and it is still used today for this and other purposes

Botany :-

Witch hazel grows as a deciduous bush, often reaching about 6 m in height. The plant is found throughout most of North America . Its broad, toothed leaves are ovate, and the golden yellow flowers bloom in the fall. Brown fruit capsules appear after the flowers, then when ripe, eject their 2 seeds away from the tree. The dried leaves, bark, and twigs are used medicinally

Uses of Witch Hazel

Witch,hazel has astringent and hemostatic properties, making it useful as a skin astringent to promote healing in hemorrhoid treatment, diarrhea, dysentery, and colitis, as well as other skin inflammations such as eczema. It also can be gargled to treat mucous membrane inflammations of the mouth, throat, and gums. Witch hazel has been used to treat damaged veins, bruises, and sprains; it rapidly stops ,bleeding, making it useful as an enema.

Side Effects of Witch Hazel

Internal use is not recommended. Doses of 1 g of witch hazel will cause nausea, vomiting, or constipation, possibly leading to impactions. Hepatic damage may occur if the tannins are absorbed to an appreciable extent .


A tea of witch hazel can be made by steeping 2-3 grams of the leaves or bark in 150 ml of boiled water for 10 to 15 minutes. 6 The tea can be drunk two to three times daily between meals. A tincture, 2-4 ml three times per day, is also occasionally used.

In combination with warm, moist compresses, witch hazel extracts can be applied liberally at least twice each day (in the morning and at bedtime) on hemorrhoids . For other skin problems, ointment or cream can be applied three or four times a day, or as needed.


Although the volatile oil contains the carcinogen safrole, this is found in much smaller quantities than in plants such as sassafras. Although extracts of witch hazel are available commercially, it is not recommended that these extracts be taken internally because the toxicity of the tannins has not been well defined. Although tannins are not usually absorbed following oral administration, doses of 1 g of witch hazel will cause nausea, vomiting, or constipation, possibly leading to impactions; hepatic damage may occur if the tannins are absorbed to an appreciable extent. Witch hazel water is not intended for internal use. Teas can be brewed from leaves and twigs available commercially in some health-food stores, but their safety is undefined.

At least one report is available discussing contact allergy to witch hazel.

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