Uses and benefits
Witch hazel is an astringent. People commonly use it topically, meaning they apply it directly to the skin. Witch hazel may help treat the following conditions:
- Hemorrhoids Witch hazel may help heal hemorrhoids, which are dilated veins in the anus or rectum. Hemorrhoids can cause irritation, bleeding, and discomfort. While there is not enough evidence to prove it is effective, some people get relief by adding witch hazel to a bath. This may be due to its anti- inflammatory properties.
- Acne Many topical treatments for acne contain witch hazel. Its astringent properties make it a good option for people with oily skin. According to some research, it may also have skin-soothing properties that might be beneficial for people with acne.
- Rashes Witch hazel may help soothe rashes on the skin, as it reduces inflammation. It is best to avoid putting it on any area where the skin is broken or oozing, however. Some caregivers use witch hazel on diaper rashes, but there is little research to prove whether this is safe or effective.
- Varicose veins Varicose veins are dilated veins in the legs that can cause significant discomfort. Some people also find their appearance bothersome. An older review from 2001 argues that while many people use witch hazel to treat varicose veins, more research is needed to determine whether it is effective. Some people recommend soaking cloths in witch hazel and applying these to the legs to gain relief from varicose veins.
- Dandruff Witch hazel may reduce the appearance of dandruff. While there is no research to support its use for this purpose, one small study found that a shampoo containing witch hazel was effective in reducing irritation and sensitivity of the scalp. One of the researchers involved with the study had links to the shampoo manufacturers, however. For this reason, more independent studies are needed to prove that witch hazel works for this purpose.
- Bug bites or stings Similarly to sunburn, bug bites and stings can cause swelling and inflammation. Applying witch hazel to the bite may reduce itching and discomfort.
- Sunburn Witch hazel has anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce discomfort from sunburn. People can use a cloth or cotton ball to apply witch hazel directly to sunburn. It may be especially soothing if a person mixes witch hazel with aloe vera, which is another plant and anti-inflammatory agent.
- Stretch marks Some people apply witch hazel to pregnancy stretch marks in an effort to lighten them and make them less noticeable. However, there is no research to support this use.
- Bleeding The astringent properties of witch hazel cause the skin to tighten and small blood vessels to constrict, which may help stop bleeding from minor cuts or nosebleeds.
Witch hazel is safe for most people to use as an at-home treatment for some common skin issues. Some people may have an allergic reaction to witch hazel, so it is best to test it first on a small patch of skin and monitor it for 24 hours. If there is no redness, itching, or irritation, it should be safe to apply to a larger area.
Witch hazel can be a great addition to an at-home medicine cabinet and is usually well-tolerated. It is safe for most people to use for certain skin conditions, even if the research has not yet proven its effectiveness scientifically. However, using home remedies such as witch hazel cannot replace advice from a doctor or other healthcare provider. If using witch hazel as a remedy does not work or the condition gets worse, it is vital that people consult their doctor for further advice.
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