Witch hazel is indigenous to North America, where Native Americans depended upon its curative powers. A large deciduous shrub or small tree, witch hazel, sometimes called "winterbloom", does not open its yellow flowers until late fall or winter, long after the leaves have fallen off. Both the leaves and bark are used for medicinal purposes and can be made into salves, distilled liquid, tinctures, infusions, or decoctions. These preparations are mild and thus suitable for applying to and treating extra sensitive, bruised, irritated or inflamed skin; even eye inflammations benefit from a witch hazel wash. Witch Hazel also helps heal hemorrhoids and varicose veins. An astringent and inflammatory, it can stop internal and external bleeding, taken internally, it can relieve diarrhea. The extract is also a remedy for insect bites and sunburn.
Compresses and rinses
Use decoctions of leaves and bark for compresses and rinses. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over ½ cup of dried witch hazel leaves. Steep for 15 min.; strain. Alternatively, boil 3 tbsp. of chopped bark in 2 cups of water for 15 min. strain while hot. Use witch hazel rinses and compresses several times per day.
Use externally, witch hazel has wound healing properties, wounds and abrasions close up faster and heal more cleanly. This medicinal plant also promotes the formation of healthy skin tissue. It is anti-inflammatory, and therefore able to reduce the swelling of varicose veins and hemorrhoids. When taken internally, witch hazel is a good remedy for relieving mild diarrhea.
Both bark and leaves contain high levels of tannins, which are responsible for the plant's astringent, tissue tightening and skin soothing effects. Witch hazel also contains flavonoids, organic acids and volatile constituents.
To soothe skin irritations
Whether in the form of an extract, oil based salve or water based cream, witch hazel soothes and helps heal all kinds of skin injuries and irritations, including rashes, bruises, damaged blood vessels and eczema. The healing of infected sores on bedridden patients can be hastened with witch hazel compresses. Compresses and baths using a witch hazel decoction make a good remedy for a baby's dry, chapped and irritated skin. This is because acids in the witch hazel help to form a protective layer on their sensitive skin.
To relieve inflamed gums
Diluted witch hazel extract makes a good rinse for inflamed oral mucous membranes and bleeding gums.
First aid : Witch hazel bark and oak bark complement each other beautifully in their ability to stop bleeding. To stop a nosebleed: make a decoction with equal parts of witch hazel and oak bark. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture. Insert it gently into the base of the bleeding nostril.
Used for treating inflammations, a range of skin care needs, minor burns, bleeding, varicose veins and hemorrhoids
For sunburn and minor burns
The tannins and other astringent ingredients in witch Hazel tighten skin tissue, help it regenerate and keep blisters from weeping. They cover burned skin with a thin film that protects it from germs. For sunburn and minor burns: pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tbsp. of dried witch hazel leaves and bark. Steep, covered, for 15 min. after it has cooled, soak a linen cloth in the tea, and apply it 2-3 times a day to the burn. Or fill a spray bottle with the tea and spritz burns every 15 mins.
Witch hazel strengthens and constricts swollen veins, so pain and itching are reduced. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over ¼ cup of dried witch hazel bark. Steep for about 15 min. use the tea for compresses, rinses and sitz baths. These compresses can also be applied to help ease varicose veins in the legs.
A blended witch hazel and blackberry decoction relieved mild diarrhea. Steep 1 tsp. each of dried witch hazel bark and dried blackberry leaves in 1 cup of boiled water for 10 min. strain. Drink 1 cup 3 times a day. If symptoms do not improve in 3 days, consult a physician.