Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Witch Hazel: Medical Uses

Witch hazel may be used for hemorrhoids, varicose veins, sprains, bruises, muscle aches, scrapes, and sunburn.

Historical Uses

In folklore, witch hazel was used externally for inflammation and hemorrhoids. It is still available over the counter in pharmacies and is present in most home medicine chests.

Growth

Witch hazel is an ornamental tree with yellow flowers that have narrow petals. It grows wild in forests from Canada to Florida.

Parts Used

• Leaves

• Bark

Major Chemical Compounds

• Tannins (found more in leaves than in bark)

• Gallic acid

• Bitters

Witch Hazel: Clinical Uses

Witch hazel may be used for hemorrhoids, varicose veins, sprains, bruises, muscle aches, scrapes, and sunburn. It is approved by the German Commission E for “minor skin injuries, local inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes, hemorrhoids and varicose veins”.

Mechanism of Action

Astringent properties result from tannins in the leaves and bark. They control bleeding and reduce inflammation.

Witch Hazel: Dosage

Undistilled or unrefined witch hazel: Use this form of witch hazel externally three to four times daily. It also may be used as a gel, an ointment, a lotion, or a salve.

Decoction of bark: For external use, place 2 to 3 grams of powdered bark in 150 mL cold water and boil for 10 to 15 minutes, cool.

Compress: Dip a clean cloth or gauze into the warm decoction and apply to affected area three or four times daily.

Poultice: Place the warm herb in clean gauze and apply externally to the inflamed area.

Side Effects

Some patients who take witch hazel internally develop irritation of the stomach. Witch hazel tannins may cause liver damage.

Contraindications

• None are known.

Herb-Drug Interactions

None are known.

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

External use of witch hazel is safe during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Witch Hazel: Summary of Studies

Recent clinical studies in humans are limited.

Warnings

• Some people who take witch hazel internally develop irritation of the stomach.

• Witch hazel tannins may cause liver damage.

• External use of witch hazel is safe during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Witch Hazel: Recipes

Witch Hazel Ointment

Simmer 2 tablespoons of witch hazel leaves in about 7 ounces of petroleum or nonpetroleum jelly for about 10 minutes. Strain the herb out and place the ointment in jars. Label and date the jars.

Cleansing Witch Hazel Lotion

Mix 1 ½  tablespoons of witch hazel with 1 tablespoon of glycerine, apply it to your face, and then rinse.