Benefits of Witch Hazel
What is witch hazel? | A Brief History
In nature, witch hazel is a stunning shrub that bears yellow, sunny flowers. In medicine cabinets, apothecaries, and the health section of many stores however, witch hazel is an incredible over the counter herbal home remedy…and very widely used!
Originally mastered by Native American tribes, the shrub’s curing effects were introduced to colonists in America by an Oneida medicine man, after which it became very popular in the 19th Century. Before that, however, witch hazel had been used for a variety of topical purposes for hundreds if not thousands of years.
How can witch hazel help your skin?
Of all the benefits of witch hazel that brought it to fame— such as treating fevers, coughs, and sore throats— its effects on the skin as a topical ointment, liniment, poultice, or wash were what made it so attractive to Western colonists, and which launched it to being one of the most enduring and simple herbal remedies in modern mainstream medicine today.
Witch hazel has three properties: it is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and astringent. In respective order, this means witch hazel products can soothe inflammation, keep skin clean and clear of infection, and also help dry and tighten skin for a healthy and rejuvenated appearance.
What kind of skin problems can witch hazel help?
With so many properties that are so beneficial to skin, it’s more accurate to ask: what kind of skin problems can’t witch hazel help?
According to both studies and centuries of folk knowledge, witch hazel may help:
- Acne and blemishes
- Mild skin infections
- Minor cuts
- Weepy skin
- Bug bites and stings
- Eczema, rosacea, and dermatitis (mild symptoms – not curative)
- Sunburns and mild burns (1st degree)
- Routine daily skin care
- Rejuvenating and reducing effects of aging
- Cleansing and pampering skin
How does witch hazel work?
For its astringent qualities— which help cleanse, tighten, and dry out skin in a balancing way against infections, blemishes, or weepiness— compounds found in witch hazel called “tannins” are responsible. These are also shown to help shrink and reduce acne, making witch hazel a common part of skin care routines.
These plant compounds are also mildly antiseptic, as they acidify the pH of surfaces which disallow harmful things to grow on skin— like bacteria, fungi, and yeast.
When should you not use witch hazel?
Though most people shouldn’t have any cause for concern, some are allergic to witch hazel. You should test your skin with a very small amount to see if there are any reactions first, and before you decide to use it regularly.
Witch hazel, since it is slightly on the drying side, is not an ideal remedy for skin conditions that deal with a lot of dryness or itchiness, such as some forms of atopic eczema. If you generally struggle with dry skin, too, you might not benefit from it— especially if it is a product that also contains some topical rubbing alcohol.
Other than these concerns, you’re more than likely bound to enjoy witch hazel— just like millions of people have for centuries!