Witch Hazel

Scientific names: Hamamelis viginiana

Common names: Witch hazel is also known as Cortex Hamamelis (dried bark), Folium Hamamelis (dried or fresh leaves), Hamamelis, Hamamelis water, magician's rod, snapping hazel, spotted alder, tobacco wood, white hazel, andwinter bloom.

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Witch Hazel?

Witch hazel is a deciduous bush or small tree reaching about 6 m in height found in damp woods throughout most of North America. It has broad, toothed oval leaves, and golden yellow flowers. Brown fruit capsules appear after the flowers. The dried leaves, bark, and twigs are used.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Witch hazel is a widely known plant with a lengthy history of use in the Americas. The plant, including the crude leaf and bark, is used in a variety of forms; fluid extracts, poultices, and most commonly as witch hazel water. The latter, also known as Hamamelis water or distilled witch hazel extract, is obtained from recently cut, partially dormant twigs. This plant material is soaked in warm water, followed by distillation and the addition of alcohol to the distillate. Witch hazel water is the most commonly found commercial preparation, usually kept in most homes as a topical cooling agent or astringent.

Traditionally, witch hazel was known to native North American people as a treatment for tumors and eye inflammations. It was used internally for bleeding. Other uses include treatment of hemorrhoids, burns, cancers, tuberculosis, colds, and fever. Preparations have been used on the skin for treatment of itching and inflammation, as well as in preparations for eye irritation.

General uses

Witch hazel preparations are commonly used for skin conditions, including diaper rash; however, clinical studies supporting these uses are generally lacking. Witch hazel has been evaluated for antioxidant and antitumor activity.

What is the recommended dosage?

Topical

Steam distillates of Hamamelis are used diluted (1:3 with water) or undiluted, and in semisolid preparations at 5% to 10% of crude drug.

Rectal

Suppositories containing witch hazel contain from 0.1 to 1 g/dose.

Oral

Not recommended.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Internal use is not recommended because of the high tannin content.

Pregnancy/nursing

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Allergic skin reactions have been reported from topical applications.

Toxicities

Although extracts of witch hazel are available commercially, they shouldn't be taken internally because the toxicity of the tannins has not been well defined.

References

  1. Witch Hazel. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; March 2012.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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