15 Wonderful Benefits of Witch Hazel

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The powerful astringent properties of witch hazel help treat acne, remove bacteria from the skin, stop cellular damage, and reduce infections. It also has the ability to speed healing, protect the hair, eliminate hemorrhoids, balance hormones, and soothe rashes.

What is Witch Hazel?

Witch hazel is a distilled, liquid plant extract sold in most modern pharmacies for external use as a skincare product. It is used to clean and tone the skin, and to soothe minor skin irritations and rashes.

Witch hazel is extracted from the leaves and bark of the North American shrub Hamamelis virginiana. It contains powerful tannins, which have astringent and antioxidant properties. This is why the Native Americans used it thousands of years ago as a traditional medicine to treat all kinds of inflammation. Due to its extensive healing properties, witch hazel has become a part of many commercial cosmetics and medical products such as acne products, anti-aging creams, shaving creams, and shampoos. [1] [2]

Close up of fresh witch hazel flowers

Yellow, fragrant witch hazel flowers bloom from October through December.Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Health benefits

Let us look at the most popular health benefits and uses of witch hazel.

Treats Acne

Witch hazel is one of the most popular natural remedies for acne as it reduces oiliness, decreases redness, and eliminates bacteria from the pores of the skin. The tannins in witch hazel make it a powerful astringent, which helps to naturally tone acne-prone skin and maintain its pH balance. While most of the tannins are removed after commercial distillation, this herbal liquid retains its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This helps soothe scabs, clear blemishes and scars, and quicken the healing of damaged skin tissues. Oily skin has enlarged pores, which can get easily clogged. Witch hazel helps tighten these pores. [3]

To heal acne, use a cotton ball or pad dipped in witch hazel and wipe it across the face. This helps treat and prevent breakouts, removes excess oil, bacteria, makeup residue, and everyday dirt and grime from the skin.

Note: It is recommended to use an alcohol-free version to avoid drying out the skin.

Skin Care

If you are looking for a natural product to keep your skin youthful and taut, witch hazel is the answer. The herbal liquid contains proanthocyanidins, gallotannins, and gallates, which are highly active free radical scavengers.It also helps soothe inflammation, redness, and pain caused due to sunburns, rashes, atopic dermatitis, boils, and blisters. Anecdotal evidence shows that regular application of witch hazel can help prevent stretch marks and keep the skin moisturized. It has also been used to heal diaper rash but it is better to check with a health professional before using herbal treatments for babies. [4]

Speed Healing

When it comes to cuts, bruises, abrasions, scars, and other wounds, many people have turned to witch hazel for thousands of years. The organic compounds in it have powerful astringent properties that help tighten skin. This quickens the healing process and slows down the bleeding of an open wound. It is also used to heal mouth blisters and sores. [5]

Note: If the skin area is badly damaged, it is better to use caution and seek medical advice before using the herbal liquid as its potency could cause the wound to worsen.

Treats Bug Bites

If you have been bitten by an insect, or are experiencing hives, you can topically apply witch hazel to the skin. 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. [6]

Treats Hemorrhoids

Witch hazel helps reduce swelling, bleeding, and burning from hemorrhoids and provides relief. Due to its astringent and anti-inflammatory properties, the liquid can be applied to inflamed tissues caused due to hemorrhoids.

Note: 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. [7]

Hair Care

Regular application of witch hazel helps keep the scalp clean and prevents an oil build-up. It is recommended by doctors to treat and prevent psoriasis and itchiness of the scalp. [8]

You can add a few drops of witch hazel to your regular shampoo to keep bacterial infections at bay. When added to argan oil, it helps add volume to the hair, removes bad odors, and keeps it shiny.

Prevents Ingrowth Hair

Witch hazel can be applied to the skin after waxing or shaving to prevent ingrowth hair and soothe any redness or swelling. It is also an excellent remedy for razor cuts. The antibacterial properties help prevent bacterial infection and boils.

Heals Respiratory Tracts

Witch hazel, when brewed in the form of a tea, can have a positive effect on the respiratory tract. It helps treat a sore throat, inflammation of the vocal cords, irritation from coughing, sinus infections, and tonsillitis. Witch hazel tea can be gargled for rapid relief. This can eliminate soreness and pain, while also drying up excess mucus, which is where infections often develop. [9]

Soothes Aches and Pains

As a topical medicine, witch hazel is well known for its effects on inflammation associated with arthritis. It also works well as a treatment for sore muscles and joints caused by physical exercise, injury, or advanced age.

For a home-made solution, mix witch hazel with equal parts water or virgin olive oil. Simply apply it to the affected area and allow the tannins and antioxidants to do their work. [10]

Eliminates Headaches

The astringent properties of witch hazel help 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. [11]

Eases Digestion

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. [12]

Regulates Menstruation

For women who suffer particularly heavy periods, witch hazel can offer relief as it slows the bleeding that occurs during menstruation. It also reduces pain, 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. [13]

Boosts Immune System

Research has shown that witch hazel is able to stimulate the immune system and actively eliminate pathogens in the body, due to its antibacterial and antiseptic qualities. This is evident in the herbal decoction’s effect on the skin, but when consumed as tea, it can also be a natural booster to your overall health. [14]

Pet Care

Witch hazel is an essential petcare product as it helps prevent bacterial infections in wounds and scars on your pet’s skin. It also helps keep bad odors away. Always use an alcohol-free pet-friendly product to ensure that it does not cause burning or irritation.

Treats Ear Infections

Witch hazel has antibacterial properties and is often used to treat ear infections. Traditionally, 2-3 drops of witch hazel are added to the inside of the ear twice a day to inhibit bacterial infection and speed up healing.

Word of Caution: Witch hazel has high levels of tannins, flavonoids, eugenol, carvacrol, and other powerful volatile components. Many of these can have strong effects on the body. This is why only small amounts 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. [15]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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