Witch Hazel: Unnerving Name, Fantastic Health Benefits to You ... and an Interesting Background
The witch hazel that we're most familiar with in the U.S. usually comes
in liquid form and, for many, conjures up images of a magic potion used
to cure ailments or cast a spell. Others may simply know it as that stuff
that's been sitting in grandma's medicine cabinet for years.
Witch hazel's many medicinal uses are quite real, however, and it is
actually from a small shrub or tree found in Asia and several regions
in the United States.
The flowers of the witch hazel tree can roll up their petals so
they aren't harmed during a frost.
According to Harvard University, the early American colonists believed
the branches of this tree could be used as divining rods, which are basically
sticks used to search for underground water or minerals. A forked stick
was usually used, and when it was held over ground that contained water
or a desired mineral, the stem supposedly pulled downward. The old English
word for pliable branches is "wych," which may be the real (though
slightly less fun) reason why this member of the hazel family of plants
is called "witch hazel" today.
The Medicinal Benefits of Witch Hazel
Witch hazel has long been used to treat eye inflammations, hemorrhoids,
bites, stings and skin sores, diarrhea and dysentery, and a number of
other conditions, according to Steven Foster, an author, photographer
and consultant specializing in medicinal and aromatic plants.
Native Americans used it in poultices for swellings and tumors, and herbalists
consider it to be one of the best plants to slow bleeding, both internally
Witch hazel can be used in a number of different ways:
Taken as a tea, it can help to slow internal bleeding.
As a liquid, it can be dabbed onto bruises, insect bites, sunburn,
minor burns, poison ivy, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, stiff muscles,
blemishes and more to relieve pain.
It can be applied as an aftershave.
It can even help to reduce bags and puffiness around the eyes
by letting a cotton pad soaked in the fluid rest on your closed eyelids
for 10 minutes.
Would you be able to spot a witch hazel tree in your neighborhood?
The most common form of witch hazel used in the United States today is
witch hazel water, a mixture of the plant extract with alcohol added.
An extract of pure witch hazel is also used as an astringent ingredient
in many toiletry products. Natural witch hazel is a key ingredient in
these five products that are highly recommended by and offered through
Max Arthritis Pain Gel: The witch hazel, sulfur and cetylated
fatty acids in this gel provide you with a natural, proven topical
that will relieve your pain in minutes.
Essence Blemish Touch Stick: A special formulation of 11 natural
essential oils formulated to promote clear, healthy-looking skin,
this convenient stick can be used daily on acne-prone skin.
Essence Natural Cleansing Pads: These pads do an EXCEPTIONAL job
of improving the texture, radiance and clarity of your skin.
Hamamelis Day Cream: This cream hydrates your skin with a balancing
combination of delicate botanical oils and soothing, energizing extracts
including witch hazel, mallow and chamomile.
Hamamelis Night Cream: This light, balancing formula is made with
mild botanical oils, witch hazel and mallow to naturally balance both
your skin's oil and moisture needs. It's an overnight treatment made
especially for your combination skin.
How does this plant work? Witch hazel contains
active compounds such as flavonoids, tannins, small amounts of volatile
oil and other components that likely are responsible for its astringent
and anti-bleeding effects.
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Even More Reason to Give Witch Hazel a Try
Several studies have found that witch hazel may be useful for much more
than blemishes and burns. A particular form of extract may be useful in
fighting the herpes virus, due to its potent anti-viral effects, and was
found to be a powerful inflammation reducer.
Further, witch hazel has antioxidant properties
and has been confirmed to be protective against radiation damage.
Japanese researchers even suggested that witch hazel be studied for its
potential uses in anti-aging and anti-wrinkle products.
So don't let the name scare you. Take advantage of this natural plant
extract that's been around for hundreds of years, and discover your favorite
uses for this "magic potion."
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Foster Group: Witch Hazel
Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University