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Witch Hazel – A Natural Remedy for a Variety of Conditions

Posted Dec 05 2009 5:27pm
The herbal plant Hamamelis virginiana also know as witch hazel has long been used for a variety of health treatments because of its exceptional anti-inflammatory properties. You may remember seeing a bottle of witch hazel on your grandmother’s dresser but not known what it was. While the last 100 years or so have seen this herb being used primarily for beauty applications, there are a variety of ways it can be used.

Witch hazel

Historical Use

Witch hazel has been used throughout history as a treatment for inflamed, swollen eyes, wounds, and irritated, bleeding or dry skin. It was also used to treat internal issues such as sore throats and gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and colitis. Native Americans introduced witch hazel to the new settlers and eventually its properties proved useful in toiletries, particularly aftershave, styptic pencils and skin treatments.

Current Applications

This herb contains a high amount of tannin, a natural astringent, along with some other beneficial chemicals. When scientists found some compounds in witch hazel that could prove toxic when ingested in large amounts, internal applications fell out of favor. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects however, there are still many external practical applications of witch hazel for a variety of conditions.

  1. Controlling blemishes – The astringent properties of witch hazel can reduce the redness and inflammation of pimples. It also reduces the oil on the skin which contributes to blemishes.
  2. Hemorrhoid relief – When the blood vessels around the rectum and anus become swollen and inflamed, hemorrhoids may develop both internally and externally. You can mix witch hazel with aloe vera gel or even petroleum jelly and apply the mixture to external hemorrhoids to provide itching relief as well as shrink the blood vessels contributing to the problem. Mixed with glycerin, you can create a homemade enema for treating internal hemorrhoids.
  3. Shrink under eye bags – Dabbing a witch hazel soaked cotton ball on your puffy under eye area will help shrink the swollen tissue and reduce bagginess while tightening your skin.
  4. Reduce the appearance of varicose veins – Soak a washcloth or compress in witch hazel and apply directly onto the affected area. Varicose veins cause pain and tend to swell when you are on your feet too long. By propping your legs up and applying the witch hazel, you can shrink the swelling of the veins, thereby reducing their appearance and even alleviate some discomfort.
  5. Speed up healing time for bruises – Dabbing witch hazel onto your bruises at least three to four times a day can hasten the healing time, sometimes cutting recovery time in half.
  6. Soothe itchy skin conditions – Poison oak and poison ivy can cause extreme itching and even some swelling. Applying witch hazel onto the affected areas can relieve the itching and reduce swelling. The same treatment helps with heat rash, razor burn and even a baby’s diaper rash.
  7. Other skin treatments – If you experience sunburn, witch hazel is a natural remedy that soothes the burning, itching feeling. It can also help heal the sunburned skin area in half the time and even reduce the likelihood that you will peel. Minor cuts and bug bites also benefit from this astringent herb. It can cleanse a small break in the skin, protect against infection and even reduce swelling around the site.
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