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Witch Hazel for Psoriasis? Benefits, Risks, Effectiveness

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on April 30, 2020

A number of common household products are touted as home remedies for psoriasis, and one of them witch hazel. But can it actually do anything to help psoriasis? The short answer is maybe a little.

What you typically see in the store is a clear liquid, it’s a distilled form (hamamelis distillate), but witch hazel itself is a plant. It’s a small tree or shrub with yellow flowers that grows all over North America. The bark and leaves of this plant have ingredients known for antioxidant and astringent properties. Native Americans have used the plant to treat ulcers, sores, and other ailments. Early American colonists used it to treat insect bites, hemorrhoids, and acne.

You can find witch hazel at any drugstore or grocery store. It’s found in liquid form and sometimes also in wipes. Companies that sell it say it can soothe chronic skin conditions. Some people use it for psoriasis.

Does It Work?

There’s no cure for psoriasis. Can it help with the itchy, sore plaques?

Continued

There’s some scientific research that witch hazel protects skin and can help get rid of inflammation and redness. But the skin that the researchers tested was red from ultraviolet light, not psoriasis.

There’s no good evidence to tell us how well witch hazel works for symptoms of psoriasis. It might feel good and it might offer some short-term relief. But it probably won’t work as well as other things such as over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or ointment.

Is It Safe?

Generally speaking, witch hazel is safe on skin. It comes with no real side effects. So if it seems to help, it’s probably OK to use.

But if you do use it, keep an eye out for signs it’s drying your skin. If it is, stop using it. If you have psoriasis, you want to keep your skin moist.

What Else Should I Try?

Other things you might try to help with discomfort or itching from psoriasis include moisturizers, ice packs, and oatmeal baths.

If your skin is causing you a lot of discomfort or is getting worse, check with your doctor. They may suggest other over-the-counter or prescription medicines to help you feel better. They may also recommend you try light therapy.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Psoriasis.”

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center: “Hamamelis virginiana.”

Herb Gardens at ONU: “Witch Hazel.”

Skin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology: “Anti-inflammatory efficacy of topical preparations with 10% hamamelis distillate in a UV erythema test.”

Biological &Pharmaceutical Bulletin: “Active-oxygen scavenging activity of plant extracts.”

Journal of the German Society of Dermatology: “Which plant for which skin disease? Part 2: Dermatophytes, chronic venous insufficiency, photoprotection, actinic keratoses, vitiligo, hair loss, cosmetic indications.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “What psoriasis treatments are available without a prescription?”

Melissa Piliang, MD, dermatologist and dermatopathologist, Cleveland Clinic.

Shenefelt, D. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, 2011.

Phytomedicine: “Evidence for the efficacy and safety of topical herbal drugs in dermatology: Part I: Anti-inflammatory agents.”

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