What is the Herb, Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)?

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Hamamelis virginiana or witch hazel is a flowering plant. It belongs to the Hamamelidaceae family. The other common names include snapping hazel, spotted alder, winter bloom, hamamelis water and tobacco wood. Different species are found in North America, Japan and China. The North American species is also called winter bloom. The leaves, barks and twigs of the Hamamelis virginiana plant are high in tannins which gives this herb its astringentproperties. The bark and leaves are subject to steam distillation to obtain witch hazel water. Witch hazel wards off pollution. Witch hazel extract is widely used in personal care and beauty products including shampoos, hair conditioners, cleansing products, deodorants, aftershave lotions, eye makeup and skin care products. The leaves of Hamamelis virginiana contain 7 to 10% of tannins while the bark has about 7% of hamamelitannin and other condensed tannins. The other active compounds include Gallic acid, flavonoids, Saponins and volatile oils. Witch hazel water does not contain tannins as it is obtained through steam distillation.



What is the history of Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel)?

Witch Hazel is widely known in the Americas having a long history of usage. The leaf and bark of the plant is used as a poultice. Witch hazel was traditionally used in North America for treating eye inflammations and tumors. Later in the 18th century, European settlers discovered its astringent properties, which today is the most popular use of the witch hazel.



What does a Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) plant look like?

Hamamelis Virginiana is a large shrub that can grow up to 30 feet tall though its average height is about 15 feet. It grows to its full height in full sun and partial shade. The leaves are oval in shape with a width of 2-4 inches and a length of 4-8 inches. The leaves turn yellow or orange during autumn. The yellow flowers bloom quite late in autumn and appear like shredded coconut bearing a gentle fragrance. Witch hazel has forked branches that were used to detect the presence of water and gold. For instance the branches grew downward in the presence of underground deposits of water or gold.



What are the Health benefits of Hamamelis Virginiana(Witch Hazel)?

Though there is no proven research on the benefits of Witch Hazel, it is popularly known for its hemostatic and astringent properties.

  • Witch Hazel is popularly used as an astringent and can be used for treating acne without drying out the skin which normally is the side effects of acne medication containing benzoyl peroxide.
  • Due to the presence of antioxidants such as flavonoids and procyanidins, witch hazel is helpful in reducing swelling and itching of hemorrhoid. Make a tea of witch hazel and soak a cloth in it and apply at the hemorrhoids site to reduce swelling. To learn more on natural ways to reduce hemorrhoids, Click Here!
  • Varicose veins, another condition where Witch hazel is used.
  • Witch Hazel is potentially used for promoting healing in diarrhea, colitis, hemorrhoid treatment, eczema and other skin inflammations. Witch hazel is effectively used as an enema for inward bleeding piles. Witch hazel is also used as a gargle to treat inflammations of the throat, mouth and gums. 



Where to buy Witch Hazel Bark products?

Click on the links below, if you want to purchase Witch Hazel bark and other herbs and spices.

Mountain Rose Herbs




What are the different ways, Witch Hazel Preparation can be used?

Witch Hazel can be used as tinctures, creams and herbal teas. Though originally it was taken as a tea or bath to relieve various conditions, it was only in the 19th century that herbalists came up with a new way to get witch hazel extract. This was done by distilling the plants' latent branches with alcohol and the resultant extract is known as Hamamelis water or distilled witch hazel. This extract is used to this day, for treating skin conditions. For treating hemorrhoids, boil about 200 ml of water and add about a gram of dried witch hazel leaves. This can be taken internally up to 3 times a day after meals. An external preparation can be made similarly by making a concoction with hot water and Hazel leaves and making a bath to get external relief from hemorrhoids. Gargling witch hazel leaves steeped in boiling water can help with sore throat.



What are the contraindications of Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel)?

Witch Hazel is an alternative medicine, hence before starting any treatment, one should consult a state certified medical practitioner in herbs. In order to get the right dosage and maximum benefits, visiting a qualified and experienced practitioner is the best way to use Witch Hazel. This will help one in preventing and reducing side effects.

  • Witch hazel is not recommended for internal use.
  • It is contraindicated in pregnant and lactating women though the information is not well documented.
  • Extracts of witch hazel are commercially available but it is best to avoid taking them orally due to the presence of tannins which may prove to be toxic and may also lead to hepatic damage.
  • Witch hazel taken even in small doses of one gram may cause adverse reactions such as vomiting, constipation and nausea.
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