Witch hazel is a plant. The leaf, bark, and twigs are used to make medicine. You may see a product called witch hazel water (Hamamelis water, distilled witch hazel extract). This is a liquid that is distilled from dried leaves, bark, and partially dormant twigs of Hamamelis virginiana.
Witch hazel is taken by mouth for diarrhea, mucus colitis, vomitingblood, coughing up blood, tuberculosis, colds, fevers, tumors, and cancer.
Some people apply witch hazel directly to the skin for itching, pain and swelling (inflammation), eye inflammation, skin injury, mucous membrane inflammation, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, bruises, insect bites, minor burns, and other skin irritations.
In manufacturing, witch hazel leaf extract, bark extract, and witch hazel water are used as astringents to tighten the skin. They are also included in some medications to give those products the ability to slow down or stop bleeding. Those medications are used for treating insect bites, stings, teething, hemorrhoids, itching, irritations, and minor pain.
How does it work?
Witch hazel contains chemicals called tannins. When applied directly to the skin, witch hazel might help reduce swelling, help repair broken skin, and fight bacteria.
Possibly Effective for:
- Hemorrhoids. Applying witch hazel water to the skin may help to temporarily relieve itching, discomfort, irritation, and burning from hemorrhoids and other anal disorders.
- Minor bleeding. Applying witch hazel bark, leaf, or water to the skin reduces minor bleeding.
- Skin irritation. Applying witch hazel cream seems to relieve mild skin irritation, but not as well as hydrocortisone. Other research shows that applying a specific witch hazel ointment (Hametum) to the skin appears to improve symptoms of skin injury or irritated skin as effectively as a dexpanthenol ointment in children.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Itchy and inflamed skin (eczema). Applying a cream containing witch hazel to the skin for 14 days does not seem to improve itchy and inflamed skin in people with moderate eczema. Applying hydrocortisone cream seems to be a more effective treatment option.
- Vomiting blood.
- Coughing up blood.
- Eye inflammation.
- Varicose veins.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & Safety
Witch hazel is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when applied directly to the skin. In some people, it might cause minor skin irritation.
Witch hazel is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when small doses are taken by mouth. In some people, witch hazel might cause stomach upset when taken by mouth. Large doses might cause liver problems.
Witch hazel contains a cancer-causing chemical (safrole), but in amounts that are too small to be of concern.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Children: Witch hazel is POSSIBLY SAFE for children when applied directly to the skin.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking witch hazel if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For itching and discomfort associated with hemorrhoids and other anal disorders: Witch hazel water (Hamamelis Liquid Extract diluted with water) applied up to 6 times a day or after every bowel movement.