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Witch hazel was first recognized for its therapeutic value by the Native Americans in the 1600’s. Since then, it has become a staple of home remedies. The Native Americans used it to treat all sorts of skin conditions and bug bites, and often used it as the main ingredient in their herbal poultices, to prevent infection and bring down inflammation. Today, it can also be used to treat acne, hemorrhoids, puffy eyes, wrinkles, sunburns, and so much more! One of the best things about witch hazel is that it is readily available at almost every drugstore, and is extremely affordable. If you’re looking to experiment with natural healing and herbal remedies, getting yourself a bottle of witch hazel is an excellent way to start.
What is Witch Hazel?
Witch hazel, also known as winterbloom, is a flowering plant indigenous to North America, some parts of China, and Japan. While there are several different species, the one that was most popularized by the Native Americans was the species Hamamelis virginiana, and still today this is the most commonly available product.
Witch Hazel, which is not at all related to the delicious Hazelnut, is a shrub that can be anywhere from 10-25 feet tall. The fruit matures in the autumn or winter. The incredibly unique thing about witch hazel is that blossoming flowers grow when the fruit is mature and getting close to ready for harvest, whereas as in most plants, the flowers appear and disappear before the fruit even begins forming. These flowers are kind of scraggly looking, and can be yellow, orange, or red. This may also be related to how witch hazel got its mysterious and ominous name.
Witch hazel branches were often used as divining rods, perhaps because of its strange backwards blooming tendencies and harried looking flowers. Most people however, simply believe that it got its name from the english colonizers, who most likely named it “wiche”, which simply means “pliant” or “bendable” in Old English.
The leaves, twigs, and the bark of the witch hazel are dried and distilled to extract its active constituents of polyphenols and tannins. These are what give it its astringent and skin healing properties. The extract is then mixed with alcohol or water, and is labeled as “witch hazel water”, or sometimes simply labeled as just “witch hazel.” Although it can be ingested to treat colds and other ailments, it is most commonly used topically for skin treatments, both by home remedy enthusiasts and commercial manufacturers, often making its way into skin toners and acne treatments.
Witch Hazel Benefits For Skin
So, enough small talk. What can witch hazel do? For starters, it’s one of best astringents ever discovered, meaning that it does an incredible job of tightening up the skin and hiding the effects of aging. This is due to the tannins, which naturally help constrict blood vessels, tighten up the skin’s proteins, and improve the skin’s elasticity to help it deal with different and harsh environments. So if you have wrinkles on your face, such as crows feet around your eyes, consistent application of witch hazel can really help tighten your skin back up and reduce the wrinkles.
Another awesome thing witch hazel can do is actually reduce the puffiness and darkness under the eyes. Again this is because of its natural tannins, which can treat all types of inflammation. This happens to be one of the rare, few, tried and proven natural ways to treat puffy eyes and make you look years younger! Just apply a small amount of witch hazel solution to a cotton swab or cotton ball, and dab it on the affected area. Please make sure not to get any directly in your eyes!
The next unique benefit of witch hazel is its ability to treat varicose veins, or “spider veins”. These are the tiny little spider like veins that often pop up on the face and the legs, and can be quite unattractive. While there are many factors that can cause them, these dilated and slightly inflamed veins can be anything from a small unsightly blemish to an actually painful burning condition. Once again, the natural astringent properties of the tannins in the witch hazel help to constrict the veins back to their normal size, and cool any inflammation that was caused by them. Follow the same procedure of applying a small amount of witch hazel solution to a cotton ball, and dabbing it gently on the troublesome veins.
We also need to talk about the polyphenols in witch hazel, which are powerful forms of antioxidants. These polyphenols help to repair cell damage caused by UV rays, as well as many other oxidative stress and free radical damage that builds up over time, do to pollution, stress, poor diet, and so on. These free radicals are the number one cause of aging, and take a huge toll on our skin. Products high in polyphenols, such as our witch hazel, can actually hunt down these free radicals and safely eliminate them. In fact, studies show that witch hazel is actually capable of stopping the cycle of mutating cells, and inducing apoptosis, which is the death of identified dangerous cells. All of these facts point to witch hazel being an effective way to prevent cancer, especially skin cancer.
Can Witch Hazel Treat Acne?
Not only can witch hazel treat acne, it is actually one of the best natural acne treatments known to man. Applying witch hazel to acne prone skin can slow down the inflammation, redness, and oiliness. As a superb natural cleanser, it helps clean up your skin from bacteria and reduce the time it takes to heal infections and scabs.
To understand how witch hazel works for acne, first we need to know what causes it in the first place. The number one cause of acne is excessive sebum production, which is the oily substance excreted through our facial pores. Too much sebum production, as well as excessive sweating, clogs our facial pores and traps bacteria, which causes inflamed acne to grow over the clogged pore. Witch hazel helps this in two ways.
One, its astringent properties help tighten the mucous membrane and skin tissue, which means that our pores become tighter, helping to curb the excessive sebum production and sweating. Two, it works as a disinfectant to kill the trapped bacteria which is causing the infection. On top of this, it helps new healthy skin regenerate more quickly, and reduces the effects of red skin and scarring from prolonged and untreated acne.
To use witch hazel to treat your acne, apply a small amount of witch hazel solution to your a cotton ball and apply it to the affected area, up to several times a day. You can even apply it preemptively to areas that are particularly prone to acne, as well to blackheads and whiteheads that you catch early before they are fully formed. Once you’ve cleared your skin of acne, mix a little witch oil in with your daily moisturizer to help keep those pimples at bay.
Whatever you do, don’t pick at the acne or pop it and make it worse, and stop putting those toxic commercial acne treatments on your face! They often only make your skin more sensitive, more dry, and destroy the outermost layer of your skin, leaving you prone to all sorts of skin problems. Witch hazel is an an incredible, fully natural treatment, that not only will it not make your skin worse, it will actually make it better, and protect it from all sorts of additional problems in the future.
Witch Hazel Benefits For Hair
Witch hazel can also be used in many way for treating your scalp and hair. For starters, it can help with dandruff. That’s a big one, since nobody likes having flakes snowing down all around them. If you’ve gotten nicknamed the snowman, don’t despair! Witch hazel can help, especially if your dandruff is caused by a dry scalp or something more severe such as eczema or psoriasis. It effectively helps by re-balancing the moisture level of your scalp, and healing the skin damaged by the condition. If an oily scalp is more of your problem, just like it does on the skin, witch oil helps curb the sebum production on the scalp as well. You can also use witch oil to effectively wipe and remove the excess oil from the scalp.
For dandruff, first comb your hair to ease out the frizzes. Then, part your hair into sections and massage the witch hazel directly into the scalp. Leave it there for 10-20 minutes before shampooing it off in the shower. For oily hair, apply some witch oil to a cotton ball and simply wipe off the the oil, the same way you would remove makeup (which is actually another use for witch hazel, to remove makeup).
Your scalp is the “soil” for your hair, so using witch oil to promote a healthy scalp will also have a direct positive effect on your hair. However, if you want to use witch oil to get even more out of it, you can get some water-based witch hazel (not alcohol based), transfer the solution to your own spray bottle, and spray that in your hair. Leave it in for some time, and then rinse it out with a natural shampoo, or even leave it in if it dries well and doesn’t bother you. This should give your hair a nice smooth shine, help calm the frizz, and give your hair some added elasticity and bounce. The witch oil will also stimulate the roots of your hair to temporarily stand up more erect, which can give your hair a wonderful temporary volume boost as well.
Can Witch Hazel Prevent Hair Loss?
While there are many many factors that cause hair loss, such as stress, aging, and poor scalp hygiene, the root of fixing the matter lies – in the roots! Hair falls out when the roots get weak, plain and simple. Witch hazel is able to strengthen the roots by stimulating increased blood flow to the scalp. More blood flow means more oxygen, and more oxygen means those body parts do their job better. In the scalp, that means growing better stronger and better roots.
To use witch hazel for hair loss, massage some directly onto your scalp, using your fingertips in firm, circular motions. For an added boost, do this with your head upside down, lower than your heart, to really increase the blood flow to your scalp. Do this treatment consistently, but no more than two or three times a week. You can also combine witch hazel with other oils that are known for preventing hair loss, such as jojoba oil, rosemary essential oil or lavender essential oil. The combined effect of having a healthy scalp, increased circulation, and a volumized look from the stimulated roots, will be sure to make your hair look noticeably healthier!
— Newtons Labs (@newtonslabs) March 29, 2017
Side Effects Of Using Witch Hazel
There are no known side effects of witch hazel when applied in reasonable amounts to the skin. Of course, it’s always possible to have an allergic reaction to it, especially if you have sensitive skin, so it’s best to patch test it first. Put a small amount on a small patch of your skin, and wait one or two days to see how your skin reacts to it. Chances are you’ll be fine, and then you can confidently begin treating whatever area you need to heal.
If you are treating dry skin conditions such as sunburns, flaking skin, and dandruff, or conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, it’s best to go with a water-based witch hazel, since the alcohol based ones can sting and dry out your skin even more.
When it comes to ingesting, it is considered safe for most people, including pregnant women, although some people do report having an upset stomach and minor indigestion. If you are pregnant, or are taking any sort of medication, it is strongly advised that you consult with your doctor first, since witch hazel can interact negatively with the medications.
One last word on this subject. I highly advise that you look for witch hazel that is organically cultivated. It’s extracted and distilled from a potent plant, which means that it’s extremely concentrated, and anything that is in the plant, or on the plant, such as pesticides, will also be concentrated into the final product. When trying to treat yourself, the last thing you need to is to add to the problem by lathering your skin in concentrated pesticides. So do yourself a favor, and whenever you try a natural herb remedy, go organic! You’ll thank me later.
The big pharmaceutical companies took the the market by storm over the last century, providing people with quick solutions solutions and relief in the form of a pills and creams. At first, people bought into it, thinking that these money making products were actually fixing their problems. However, slowly, more and more people are becoming aware of the awful side effects of these drugs, and on top of that, understanding that these drugs were only treating the symptoms, not treating the actual ailment itself.
Over the last decade there has been a tremendous wave of brave and curious people who believe that nature has wonderful cures for everything, cures that just take a little more patience, love, and finesse. So whether you are trying to avoid some nasty side effects, like the idea of going green, or simply want to save some hard earned money, go get a bottle of witch hazel, and become the master of your own health!