Witch Hazel

Also indexed as:Hamamelis virginiana
Witch Hazel: Main Image © Steven Foster
Botanical names:
Hamamelis virginiana

How It Works

Tannins and volatile oils are the main active constituents in witch hazel. These constituents contribute to the strong astringent effect of witch hazel. Pharmacological studies have suggested that witch hazel strengthens veins and is anti-inflammatory.2, 3 Topical creams are currently used in Europe to treat inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema. One double-blind trial found that a topical witch hazel ointment (applied four times per day) was as effective as the topical anti-inflammatory drug bufexamac for people with eczema.4 However, another trial found that witch hazel was no better than a placebo when compared to hydrocortisone for people with eczema.5 Witch hazel is approved in Germany for relief of local mouth inflammations such as canker sores.

How to Use It

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.7

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.