Witch Hazel - How Witch Hazel Works? - Side Effects of Use
Common Trade Names
Witch Doctor, Witch Hazel Cream, Witch Hazel Liquid, Witch Hazel Lotion, Witch Hazel Pads, Witch Hazel Soap, Witch Stik.
Available as dried bark, cream, dried leaves, liquid extract, lotion, medicated pads, soap, and witch hazel water (milder form of extract).
The active components are derived from the leaves and bark of Hamamelis virginiana, a shrub that is native to North America. Witch hazel is prepared by distilling twigs of the plant and adding alcohol to the distillate. Commercial sources originate in western Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Witch hazel water distillate is prepared from wintergreen twigs and contains 13% to 15% alcohol in water with a trace of volatile oil.
Witch hazel contains tannins, flavonoids (kaempferol, quercetin, and others), traces of volatile oil (eugenol, safrole, sesquiterpenes), a bitter principle, calcium oxalate, fixed oil, resin, wax, saponins, and gallic acid.
Witch hazel is reported to exert astringent, antihemorrhagic, and antiinflammatory effects. Some studies have shown that witch hazel distillate reduces swelling and inflammation of skin after exposure to ultraviolet B radiation another study failed to show this effect. Other components from witch hazel bark have demonstrated antimutagenic properties.
Witch hazel has long been used to relieve anal and vaginal itching and irritation, hemorrhoids, and postepisiotomy or posthemorrhoidectomy discomfort. It is also claimed to be useful for treating bruises, local swelling, and varicose veins. Witch hazel has been used as a gargle to decrease inflammation of mucous membranes of the mouth, gums, and throat.
Dried leaves: 2 g as a tea t.i.d. or a gargle.
Liquid extract (1:1 in 45% alcohol): 2 to 4 ml P.O. t.i.d.
Witch hazel water: apply topically t.i.d. or q.i.d.
GI: constipation (more than 1,000 mg), nausea, vomiting.
Hepatic: hepatotoxicity (tannin component), increased risk of liver cancer (controversial; related to safrole component.
Skin: contact dermatitis.
None interactions are reported for witch hazel.
Contraindications and Precautions
Avoid using witch hazel in pregnant or breast-feeding women; effects are unknown.
Witch hazel products are known to be effective astringents and produce hemostatic effects. Although they are apparently safe for external use, they are not for internal use.
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