Benefits of Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is a small flowering tree grown as ornamental house plant and in gardens. The witch hazel tree bears clusters of yellow to orange-red flowers. Native Americans have been using the bark, stems and leaves of the witch tree, or also called winterbloom, as an herbal and home remedy and for medicinal purposes for a long, long time.
Before witch hazel extract was commercialized by Thomas Newton Dickinson during the 1870s, the natives obtained the extract by boiling the stems and using the distillate to treat cuts, bruises, insect bites, inflammations and so on. You can now find various products ranging from deep cleansing pore strips to hemorrhoidal medicated pads with witch hazel or hamamelis virginiana extract as the basic ingredient.
Witch hazel extract is obtained from the barks and leaves of this flowering plant. The seeds produce oil but the amount is too small and not cost effective to be manufactured.
The barks, leaves and twigs of witch hazel tree are high in tannins. Tannins are astringents or chemical substances that dry, shrivel and constrict body tissues and blood vessels when applied topically. Tannins have hemostatic properties whereby they are able to stop bleeding. Studies made by Vennat B, Pourrat H, Pouget MP, Gross D and Pourrat A on tannins in witch hazel showed that the bark extract is 31 times richer in tannin than the leaf extract and 87 times richer than the stem extract.
This is one of the reasons why witch hazel is used for hemorrhoids. It soothes cools and provides temporary relief from itching, burning and irritation caused by hemorrhoids. It also protects the anorectal areas namely the anus and rectum.
When used on affected areas, witch hazel extract helps reduce bleeding to a wound and also speed up the healing process. This is because the astringent cause mild coagulation. It then dries and hardens the skin to its normal size or texture.
Other than tannin, witch hazel extract contains gallic acid, procyanidins and catechins and other natural chemical substances. Gallic acid acts as an antioxidant and has anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Catechins and procyanidins are powerful antioxidants. They also provide cooling, soothing and anti-inflammatory effects. The chemical compounds in witch hazel extracts bring about the effectiveness in treating sores, bruises, inflammations, swellings, psoriasis and eczema.
Other than the plant extract, witch hazel hydrosol or distillate is also often used in skin care products and to control or treat acne, spots and blemishes. The properties in witch hazel act as natural cleansers, toners and moisturizers. Cleansing pore strips or lotions with witch hazel may help in unclogging and removing stubborn pores, dirt, oil and blackheads.
Other uses and benefits of witch hazel include soothing sunburns, treatment of varicose veins, as an after shave lotion and remedy for diaper rash. Witch hazel is also used as a roll on deodorant and an alternative to using hair spray. It also helps to shrink bags under the eyes. Gargling witch hazel herbal tea may help sooth irritation due to laryngitis and swollen gums.
Since it has astringent, antioxidant, antifungal and antiviral properties and has many medicinal values, there are many more benefits of witch hazel. It is a good idea to plant the tree in your garden or keep one of the creams, lotions or ointments in your medicine cabinet to treat bruises, insect bites and swellings.