When it comes to taking care of your skin naturally there are few better natural treatments than witch hazel. Whether you are suffering from acne, allergies or sun damage or you just want to tone and moisturize your skin, you can get the help you need from this wonderful natural product.
What is Witch Hazel?
The topically used witch hazel is derived from the leaves and the bark of the witch hazel shrub scientifically known as Hamamelis virginiana. This plant is commonly found dotted around North America and some areas in Asia.
This natural astringent has been used for centuries by the Native Americans to treat various skin conditions and these days it is widely used as an extremely effective remedy for skin complaints ranging from acne to inflammation and blisters.
Witch hazel has excellent astringent properties but is also a powerful natural antioxidant making it an ideal treatment for various skin conditions as well as preventing cellular damage and reversing some of the signs of aging.
Commercial manufacturers have long recognized the benefits of witch hazel and it is a common ingredient in many skin care and hair care products such as shaving foams, shampoos, skin lotions and hemorrhoid creams.
Witch Hazel Properties
The witch hazel extract that is used for medicinal and beauty purposes is so effective because its active constituents include tannins and polyphenols which are natural antioxidants with numerous beneficial qualities especially for the skin.
These compounds are mixed with water or alcohol to produce a concentrated final product which can be applied topically and sometimes taken internally to treat certain symptoms such as coughing, sore throat or vomiting.
The tannins found in witch hazel are responsible for its astringent properties because they help remove excess oils from the skin. Because of this, witch hazel is among the most popular natural treatments for acne and other inflammatory skin conditions.
Its antioxidant nature also makes it an effective weapon against oxidative stress which can lead to numerous damaging results from cellular damage to diseases like cancer. Witch hazel is often used in anti-aging products because of its antioxidant polyphenol content which helps protect cells and slow down the development of disease.
Witch Hazel Benefits
While witch hazel is generally used for its wide ranging skin benefits, that is not all it can do for you. It can also be used for toothaches, sore throats, infections and allergies.
1. For Acne
I will start by talking about acne since witch hazel is among the best natural treatments for this very common condition. Witch hazel combats acne by cleansing the pores, reducing inflammation and bacterial growth and healing infection.
It helps prevent excessive oil production and the clogging of pores that leads to whiteheads and blackheads. If you notice that a pimple is forming or that acne is about to break out, apply some witch hazel directly to the affected areas with a cotton ball.
You can use it alone or combine it with another antibacterial product such as apple cider vinegar, coconut oil or tea tree essential oil. Witch hazel has the added advantage of being totally natural and free of potentially harmful chemicals found in many acne products.
As we get older, our skin starts to show inevitable marks and signs. There is not a great deal that we can do to prevent the aging process but we can certainly takes steps to reduce the symptoms.
Wrinkles, puffiness about the eyes, redness and discoloration can all be effectively treated with witch hazel. Its antioxidant content helps protect against cellular damage that may be caused by environmental toxins and sun damage and may even help inhibit the growth of melanoma cells.
Witch hazel can also help increase the production of collagen and preserve skin elasticity even as we age. In order to reduce puffiness around the eyes, inflammation or any other skin blemishes that you have, apply witch hazel diluted with coconut oil or combined with essential oils for best results. You can apply witch hazel every evening but be very careful not to allow any witch hazel to contact your eyes.
3. For Insect Bites
If you or your children are prone to being bitten or stung by insects like mosquitos, witch hazel is an effective remedy to ease the associated itchiness, swelling and pain. Numerous commercial bug repellants contain witch hazel and studies have demonstrated that it can be just as effective in treating skin irritation as some well-known skin creams used for irritation like dexpanthenol. (1)
Witch hazel can also help expedite healing from minor scrapes and cuts and to protect against infection.
4. For the Hair and Scalp
As well as being so useful to treat the skin, witch hazel is great for your scalp and hair. It helps reduce the build-up of excess oils and will leave your hair looking healthier, shinier and full of life. It also helps deal with scalp irritation as was demonstrated in a recent Swiss study published in 2014.
The study discovered that shampoo which contained witch hazel soothed scalp irritation and reduced itching, redness and inflammation. (2)
You can make your own home made witch hazel shampoo by simply adding a few drops to your regular shampoo or combining it with hair friendly essential oils and coconut oil.
5. For Shaving Rashes
Whether you are a man or a woman, shaving unwanted hair from your body can result in skin irritation and bleeding when you nick the skin. Witch hazel can stop the bleeding and also prevent inflammation and soothe itchiness after you have removed the hair. Men can apply it to their face and neck after shaving and women who wax or shave may also find it useful to prevent damage to hair follicles and soothe the skin.
6. For Diaper Rash
Anybody with children will be familiar with the diaper rash that infants experience and will know how distressing it can be. Witch hazel’s natural and soothing anti-inflammatory properties can help ease your baby’s discomfort and help the damaged skin to heal more quickly.
7. For Hemorrhoids
Witch hazel is also a very popular and effective home remedy for hemorrhoids. Simply dilute your witch hazel with water and apply it directly to the affected area. It will help ease the inflammation, pain and itching caused and can even help stem any bleeding that you may experience. Experts recommend that you apply it to the affected area after each bowel movement.
8. For the Mouth and Gums
You can use witch hazel to make a mouth rinse to help reduce pain and swelling caused by infected gums. It can also help stem bleeding caused by irritation in the mouth or the gums. You might also find witch hazel useful to treat any lingering pain following tooth surgery and to ease the pain caused by wisdom teeth breaking through. You can use witch hazel alone or combine it with a tooth friendly essential oil such as clove oil for even more beneficial impact.
9. For Sore Throats
While witch hazel’s most popular uses involve treating the skin, it can also be used for other internal complaints such as sore throats and sinus issues. Many people enjoy drinking witch hazel tea to soothe their throat and combat other symptoms related to the respiratory system. As well as pre prepared witch hazel tea, you can add a few drops of pure extract to your normal tea and sip that down with a touch of honey.
10. For Ear Infections
Witch hazel has excellent natural antibacterial qualities and is used to treat ear infections and irritations within the ears. You can make your own natural remedy by adding some of your witch hazel to a dropper and inserting a few drops into your ears whenever you have an infection. Even if you don’t have an infection, witch hazel can be used to clean the ears of sweat, oil and excess wax.
11. For Sunburn
If you are suffering from sunburn you can do a lot worse than using witch hazel to ease your pain. It can be applied on its own or combined with some skin friendly Ale Vera to help cool down the skin. Treating your skin in this manner can also help prevent the burned skin from peeling following a nasty sunburn.
12. For Skin Allergies
Because of its anti-inflammatory and soothing nature, witch hazel is also an effective remedy against allergies or contact dermatitis that may be caused by an allergic reaction to common irritants like poison ivy.
Is Witch-Hazel Safe?
Most people including children tolerate witch hazel well and it is generally considered safe for topical use but those with sensitive skin should exercise special care and make sure they do a patch test when using it for the first time.
As regards internal use, it is also regarded as safe but pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid consuming it just in case.