Witch Hazel – (Hamamelis virginiana)
Witch hazel is a small shrub with twisted branches. Yellow, spidery flowers bloom in late winter or early spring. The branches were once used for dowsing, which was an old method to find water. The shrub is astringent and is high in tannins. Native to North America, it was introduced to the early settlers by Native Americans.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally – Witch hazel can be used as an herbal tea or gargle to treat many problems. A gargle can treat a sore throat, while the tea can help with diarrhea. The tea can also be used as a douche forvaginitis. Due to its ability to stop bleeding, the herb has been used to ease excessive menstruation as well as to stop bleeding in the lungs, stomach and uterus.
Externally – Witch hazel has long been used to tone skin and tighten pores. It is also useful when applied to varicose veins, phlebitis, hemorrhoids, bruises and it can soothe sore perineums after childbirth. Poultices can be used to relieve irritation or swelling. It can also relieve the pain of burns and blisters as well as stopping bleeding. Use this ability topically to treat bleeding gums, cuts and wounds as it can protect these ailments from infection. It can also soothe sunburn and windburn, insect bites, poison ivy rashes and sore muscles. A gel can be used for diaper rash, bedsores and cuts.
Other Uses – The herb is also used cosmetically to remove makeup.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
Combined with arnica, it can help with bruises, bumps and sprains.
When used with aloe vera, witch hazel makes a wonderful face cleanser.
Internal use may result in stomach upset and cramping. With large doses, liver damage can occur. When used externally, there have been no reported risks other than some minor skin irritation in a small percentage of people. If this happens, dilute before using again.
This herb may interact with drugs like acetaminophen, codeine, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine.
Preparation and Dosage
Witch hazel can be found at most shops in the form of lotions, suppositories, toner and hemorrhoid pads. Be sure you are not getting an herbal remedy adulterated by isopropyl alcohol.
The herb is also added to tinctures for cautious internal treatments.