Witch Hazel, What Is It and What Are Its Benefits

Witch hazel (Hamamelis Virginiana) is a medicinal shrub that is native to North America, and has been in use for centuries. Native Americans would often use the plant to make poultices for painful swelling and bruises. The medicinal properties are found in the leaves and bark of the plant and have astringent, anti-inflammatory, tonifying and sedative qualities. These properties are the result of the tannic and gallic acids, as well as the volatile oils found in the plant. The ‘witch’ in the name may come from the historical use of the plant’s branches as dowsing rods. Dowsing is an old way of trying to find underground wells, and was often associated with witchcraft.

Today, witch hazel is found in most pharmacies and grocery stores. The products you find in-store are either an alcohol or water-based liquid. Either of these solutions may be applied topically for the indicated conditions. Although witch hazel is often taken internally for some conditions, the alcohol-based product should not be consumed. If you wish to take witch hazel internally, either find a water-based product or steep your own witch hazel tea. You may be able to find the dried plant at an organic grocery, and be sure to ask the local herbalist how best to brew the herb for your particular uses.

Witch hazel is often used for the following conditions:


Applied topically, witch hazel solution may help reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, and reduce oil production.

Rashes (including diaper rash):

Applied topically, witch hazel solution’s astringent properties may help reduce inflammation, shrink visible veins, and relieve pain.

Oily Skin:

A common use for witch hazel, when applied topically may tighten pores and vessels and reduce oil production.


Traditionally, witch hazel tea was taken for this condition to help it heal, and a solution was applied topically to reduce symptoms.

When taken as instructed on the container or by a professional, witch hazel, is generally a safe product, although, there are a few things to be aware of. Witch hazel preparations are generally designed for topical use and may not be safe for consumption. Also, the alcohol-base typically used may dry out skin or cause an adverse reaction, and an individual may have an allergic reaction to the plant itself.

Over all, witch hazel is a safe and readily available natural product. It has been used safely for centuries for its anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. It is useful for rashes, acne, and varicose veins, and oily skin. Just be mindful of over applying any alcohol-based solutions as they may excessively dry your skin.

Have you had success with witch hazel? Discuss below!

The opinions shared in this article are those of the contributor and not Total Gym Direct.

Josh Wood BHSc GCSC

Coach Josh Wood, BHSc GCSC is a Personal Trainer and Backpacking Coach who lives in Hobart, Tasmania. Josh works to help people find their passion for activity. He spent most of the last decade studying the body through manual therapies, health science, and strength and conditioning. With a background in teaching Massage Therapists and Personal Trainers he also writes for various online publications which keeps his communication skills sharp. His diverse background brings the many facets of health and fitness together. Head over to coachjoshwood.com to learn more!

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