The Benefits of Using Witch Hazel

“Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is an extract from the North American shrub of the same name. Traditionally, the bark, leaves and twigs have been used to extract active plant constituents such as flavonoids, polyphenols, tannins and volatile oil. These compounds make witch hazel a potent, natural astringent that boasts anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.”

Witch hazel is known for its broad range of medicinal applications. While there are undoubtedly others, below are four of the top health benefits of witch hazel as noted by LIVESTRONG:3

Anti-inflammatory: When applied to bug bites, diaper rash, razor burn and other skin conditions, witch hazel exhibits powerful anti-inflammatory effects by acting on free radicals in your skin cells.

As published in J-Stage Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin,4 Japanese researchers testing 65 plant extracts for their potential anti-inflammatory applications with respect to skincare found that witch hazel was one of just two extracts that exhibited “strong active-oxygen scavenging activity and protective activity against cell damage induced by active oxygen.”

Antimicrobial: Another traditional use for witch hazel is to destroy or inhibit the growth of the microorganisms associated with conditions like chicken pox, cuts and poison ivy. A 2002 German study5 that evaluated the antimicrobial activity of a hamamelis distillate on bacteria and fungi such as Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans, demonstrated the “significant antimicrobial activity” of witch hazel.

Furthermore, the study authors validated witch hazel’s value in preventing the bacterial colonization responsible for the development of atopic dermatitis and intertrigo dermatitis, as well as other microbial skin conditions.

Astringent: Witch hazel is considered to be a potent natural astringent due to the high concentration of tannins found in its leaves.6 It removes excess dirt and oil from your skin, helps shrink your pores and tightens and tones your skin. Given witch hazel’s ability to promote skin healing and stop bleeding, it is useful in the treatment of acne, eczema, hemorrhoids and varicose veins.

Moisturizer: A 2007 study published in the European Journal of Pediatrics7 suggests witch hazel ointment was found to be as effective as dexpanthenol — a prescription drug used as a moisturizer to improve elasticity, hydration and softness in the outer layer of skin with respect to conditions such as diaper rash and skin burns from radiation therapy — in children up to age 11.

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