The source for all Witch hazel preparations is the witch hazel plant, Hamamelis virginiana. Almost all parts of the witch hazel plant are used in varied witch hazel preparations, including the bark, leaves, and twigs, as they are high in tannins and show exceptional astringent properties. Witch hazel benefits come from the extracts of the witch hazel plant being rich in procyanadins, resin, flavanoids, volatile oil, a bitter principle, calcium oxalate, resin, wax, saponins, and gallic acid.
Common forms of witch hazel extracted from the witch hazel plant are dried bark, cream, liquid extract, lotion, medicated pads, soap, and witch hazel water. Witch hazel is extracted from the twigs of the witch hazel plant by distillation in alcohol, while witch hazel water is prepared from wintergreen twigs that contain 13% to 15% alcohol in water with a trace amount of volatile oil.
The reported witch hazel benefits isolated from the witch hazel plant include:
- Relief from anal and vaginal itching and irritation
- Curing hemorrhoids
- Treating bruises
- Reducing local swelling, especially from insect bites
- Varicose vein treatment
Other witch hazel benefits include its ability to act as an antioxidant, radiation-protective, and anti-inflammatory.
When used for gargling, witch hazel can alleviate throat, mouth, and gum inflammation.
The extracts of witch hazel plants have also been known to possess anti-viral properties owing to the presence of proanthocyanidins.
Witch hazel cream can cure inflammation, protect against sun burn, and radiation effects while sun bathing. In the U.S., witch hazel cream is approved and used as an over-the-counter astringent in external analgesic, skin protectant, and anti-inflammatory creams in both pads and as ointments.
Witch hazel leaf extracts along with other ingredients have been used as a medicine for outer ear infections and for treating swimmer’s ears. The alcoholic preparation of witch hazel from witch hazel leaf, bark, and twigs is used for drying up pus and secretions.
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