(BeWellBuzz) Hamamelis, Winter Bloom, Spotted Adler, Witch Hazel. These are all the names of a bright and fragrant shrub native to North America, praised over centuries for the medicine it produces. The shrub’s bark, leaves and twigs are steam distilled to extract a water-like substance commonly called hazel or witch hazel water. It’s available distilled as hazel water, in creams, tinctures and as a tea.
Hazel bark, leaves and twigs have been used for centuries by Native Americans to make healing and curative tonics. The shrub is harvested for the same purposes today. Witch hazel is commonly found as hazel water distillated in isopropyl alcohol, available in most supermarkets and drug stores. These are not intended for ingestion but for topical use only. Health food stores also carry witch hazel to be steeped as a tea.
NOTE: History notes an alcoholic beverage made with witch hazel, which people drank to treat varicose veins. This form seems to be unavailable in the USA.
Witch Hazel is antiseptic, hemostyptic (slows/stops bleeding), constricting/shrinking/squeezing, anti-inflammatory, cleansing, drying, and cooling. It’s also a powerfully antioxidant.
Tannins are found throughout the Hamamelis shrub to protect it from predation, when predators eat their prey with or without necessarily killing them (ick). Another example of such a plant defense is thorns in a rose bush, or skunk spray. In the case of the Winter Bloom, the tannins lend a bitter taste so that animals simply don’t like it and are less likely to munch it.
Apparently the bugs that harm our bodies also don’t care for tannic acid. It is antiviral, antibacterial and antiparasitic, lending hazel extract its purifying, cleansing powers that help to prevent infection. Tannic acid also lends its astringent properties to the hazel extracts, most potently hazel water.
Astringents cause body tissues to contract. The tannins in witch hazel are vasoconstrictive, causing blood vessels to narrow, and are thus used to reduce the appearance of varicose veins where blood vessels have collected and caused veins to enlarge.
The astringent power of witch hazel can halt oozing secretions from wounds or skin irritations such as eczema, and also stop the bleeding from open cuts, abrasions, or even nose bleeds.
The tannins in witch hazel are powerfully antioxidant. Antioxidants are ideal for skincare as they help to protect skin cells from damage, while promoting regeneration of healthy skin cells.
1. To treat varicose veins
Soak a cloth in hazel water and place over varicose veins. The hazel water causes vasoconstriction, so that blood vessels become narrow reducing swelling and also helping to relieve some of the discomfort. You can do this daily to reduce the appearance of varicose veins. If your skin becomes over dry, apply aloe vera, or a blend of aloe vera, lavender essential oil and carrier oil of your choice, such as almond, coconut or jojoba oil.
2. To reduce or stop bleeding
Apply the hazel water topically to the affected area using a doused cloth or gauze. I prefer gauze to cotton only because it doesn’t cause “threads” to stick to the wound. You can also apply to bleeding gums using a q-tip or doused gauze.
3. To heal a bruise
Hasten healing by soaking a thin cloth in witch hazel and place over the bruise. You can do this a few times a day until the bruise is gone.
4. To refine pores
Apply to a cotton pad and swipe all over face and any desired areas. As it soaks into your skin the hazel water will tighten up your pores.
5. To treat acne
Use hazel water toner or spot treatment after cleansing. It will dry out blemishes, absorb excess oil, cleanse pores and help to externally protect the skin from acne-causing bacteria. To make a potent anti-blemish blend for oily skin, combine witch hazel with tea tree oil.
6. To refresh
Use witch hazel as a face splash. You apply to a cotton pad and swipe, or keep in a spritz bottle and spray to mist on your face. It will soak up excess oil, cleanse dirt from the skin and pores, and help to refresh and revive you.
7. For cooling
On a hot day when your skin has been sunkissed (or burned), spray a mist of witch hazel to cool off. Witch hazel combines wonderfully with other essential oils. Try combining with one of your favorites that are gentle and cooling on the skin such as lavender or German chamomile essential oil. You can also add fresh aloe vera gel or juice for your mist, swipe or bath.
8. To reduce itching
Apply to the skin for quick relief wherever there is poison ivy or poison oak, razor burn, bug bites, or an oozing eczema. Use a thin cloth, doused gauze or a spray mist.
9. To reduce puffiness and swelling of the eyes
Soak one cotton pad for each eye with witch hazel and place them gently over your eyes. Relax for 5-10 minutes.
10. To treat laryngitis, gingivitis, sore gums or sore throat
For this you’ll need the tea. Boil water and steep the witch hazel for 10 minutes. Either steep with cloves or add a drop of clove oil. Use as a gargle or mouth rinse.