Witch hazel isn’t the most common herb in your medicine cabinet, but it has a number of health benefits, including its role as an astringent and anti-inflammatory compound, capable of reducing infections, speeding healing, protecting the hair and skin, eliminating hemorrhoids, balancing hormones, soothing pain and settling the stomach, among many others!
What is Witch Hazel?
Derived from the witch hazel shrub, scientifically known as Hamamelis virginiana, witch hazel is a powerful compound that has been in use for thousands of years as a traditional medicine. Various plant parts, including the bark, stems, and leaves can be made into a decoction and applied to various parts of the body for relief. Due to its proven potency, witch hazel has become a part of many different commercial cosmetic and medical products. The unique organic composition of witch hazel makes it extremely valuable, particularly as an astringent substance. However, it also has high levels of tannins, flavonoids, eugenol, carvacrol and other powerful volatile components. Many of these can have strong effects on the body, despite the fact that many of the traditional claims have yet to be thoroughly researched.
Due to how strong the extract and oil of witch hazel is, most traditional practitioners suggest diluting the it with water or a less potent carrier oil, such as virgin olive oil. Witch hazel will still have an effect, but there is a lower risk of skin irritation or inflammation as a result. For many years, commercial uses of witch hazel were almost exclusively limited to skin conditions, such as healing broken skin or cleaning out the pores. More and more health benefits have been discovered through the use of this herb, making it an important resource for you to have in your personal health arsenal!
Health benefits of Witch Hazel
Health benefits of witch hazel include:
Of all the health benefits offered by witch hazel, few are as famous as its effect on the skin. In fact, for many years, this was one of the only uses of this herbal decoction. It is known to clear up acne, psoriasis, boils, and pimples, as well as cracked skin, inflammation and rashes. If you have been bitten by an insect, or are experiencing hives, you can also topically apply witch hazel to the skin. Again, you should mix this with an equal amount of water, or some other type of carrier oil. This can protect the wound or irritated area from infection, and also promote healing.
When it comes to cuts, bruises, abrasions and other wounds, many people have turned to witch hazel for thousands of years. The organic compounds within witch hazel make it a powerful astringent substance, meaning that it can help to tighten skin. This makes the healing process much faster and can slow down bleeding of an open wound. However, with badly ruptured skin, it is not suggested that you apply it, as the potency of the components could cause more inflammation in the wound.
Perhaps the second-most common use of witch hazel is for the treatment of hemorrhoids. Due to the astringent and anti-inflammatory properties of this particular decoction, it can be applied to the inflamed tissues that make up hemorrhoid and provide relief. Be careful in terms of application, however, due to the potency of the decoction. Also, if you are already on blood-clotting medicine, be sure to speak with your doctor before using it.
Heals Respiratory Tracts
There is some evidence that witch hazel can have a positive effect on the respiratory tracts in the case of sore throats, inflammation of the vocal chords, irritation from coughing, and other issues dealing with the throat. Witch hazel, when brewed in the form of a tea, rather than using the extract or concentrated oil, can be gargled for rapid relief. This can eliminate soreness and pain, while also drying up excess mucus, which is where infections often develop.
Soothes Aches and Pains
As a topical medicine, witch hazel is well known for its effects on inflammation associated with arthritis, as well as sore muscles and joints caused by physical exercise, injury, or advanced age. Mixing with equal parts water or virgin olive oil, simply apply it to the affected area and allow the tannins and antioxidants do their work.
The astringent properties of witch hazel can be seen in full effect when used to soothe headaches. You can topically apply its extract on the temples, which can ease the tension of the small capillaries that often cause headaches. Additionally, you can brew a cup of witch hazel tea to drink, which should ease blood pressure and relax the throbbing muscles or blood vessels that are causing your discomfort.
Witch hazel has been used as a stomach tonic for many years, and while only a small amount of witch hazel tea is required, it is particularly effective when mixed with chamomile or mint. This mixture has been known to clear up the symptoms of IBS, as well as diarrhea and dysentery, by stimulating the immune system and reducing inflammation caused by potential bacteria in the gut.
For women who suffer particularly heavy periods, witch hazel can be used on account of its astringent properties. This slows the bleeding that occurs during menstruation as well as reduces the pain and inflammation in the groin. This can also help with other symptoms of menstruation, such as bloating and cramps. Depending on your particular medical condition, it may be best to speak with your gynecologist before adding it to your health regimen.
Boosts Immune System
Research has shown that witch hazel is able to stimulate the immune system and actively eliminate pathogens and foreign agents in the body, due to its antibacterial and antiseptic qualities. This is evident in the herbal decoction’s effect on the skin, but when drunk in tea form, it can also be a natural booster to your overall health.
Word of Caution: Only small amounts of witch hazel are required for it to be effective, particularly in the case of oral consumption. Excess oral consumption can result in dizziness, rash or nausea. In terms of topical applications, use it in moderation, and mix it with an equal amount of water or another carrier oil, such as virgin olive oil, for best results.