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Witch Hazel

General Information

Witch hazel is a shrub-like plant native to eastern North America. It contains a chemical called tannin, which is thought to be responsible for the herb's medicinal properties.

Common Name(s)

witch hazel, hamamelis, snapping tobacco wood, spotted elder, winter bloom, witchazel

Scientific Name(s)

Hamamelis virginiana

Scientific Name(s)

The leaves, bark, branches, and twigs of witch hazel are typically used to make supplements that you can take orallyorallyto be taken by mouth (swallowed) (by mouth), apply topicallytopicallyto be applied on the skin (to the skin), or use as a mouth rinse.

Witch hazel for taking orally comes in forms including dried leaves, infusioninfusionthe process of steeping or soaking plant material in hot or cold water to isolate its active ingredient, fluid extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredients, and tincturetincturea desired active ingredient that is extracted from alcoholic solutions.

The forms of witch hazel used topically include decoctiondecoctionthe process of boiling plant parts in water and straining the liquid for medicine (the liquid resulting from boiling the plant in water), ointments, gels, and salve.

When witch hazel is used as a mouth rinse, it needs to be prepared into forms such as infusion, decoction, or tincture.

The recommended dose of witch hazel depends on the route of administration and the part of plant that is used (leaf, stem bark). Table 1 lists the recommended dose ranges for witch hazel.

Table 1. Recommended dose ranges for witch hazel

Route of administration

Source of active ingredients

 

Dried leaf

Dried bark

Oral

1.2–12 g per day

0.6–0.9 g per day

Topical

5–10 g as needed

2–3 g as needed

Mouth rinse

2–10 g as needed
(not to exceed 10 g per day)

2–10 g as needed
(not to exceed 10 g per day)

Oral witch hazel should be taken a few hours before or after taking minerals or vitamin B complex.

Your health care provider may have recommended using this product in other ways. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What is [common name] used for?

What is this product used for?

In traditional herbal medicine, topical witch hazel can be used as an astringentastringentan agent that constricts tissues and stops the flow of blood or other bodily secretions and to help treat varicose veins. Oral witch hazel has been used to help relieve diarrhea and symptoms of varicose veins (e.g., pain, heavy legs). When used as a mouth rinse, witch hazel can help relieve mild inflammation in the mouth.

Witch hazel has also been studied to treat hemorrhoids, bruises, and local swelling. Research suggests that witch hazel, when applied topicallytopicallyto be applied on the skin, may help to temporarily relieve itching, discomfort, insect bites, eczema, or burning from hemorrhoids. It can also help stop minor bleeding or soothe skin irritation. However, there is not enough reliable evidence of witch hazel’s effectiveness for these conditions; additional studies are required to confirm its benefits.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

If your symptoms persist or worsen, or you experience side effects, consult your health care provider.

Side effects of witch hazel taken orallyorallyto be taken by mouth (swallowed) include nausea, vomiting, constipation, and stomach upset. Taking it by mouth at high doses can result in liver and kidney damage. People with liver and kidney disorders should use oral witch hazel with caution.

Witch hazel is likely safe when used externally, although topical witch hazel can cause skin rash, redness, or burning.

Witch hazel may lower your blood sugar levels and therefore should be used with caution if you have diabetes or are taking diabetic medications. You may need to monitor your blood sugar more often.

Do not use witch hazel if you are:

  • allergic to witch hazel
  • allergic to Compositae plants (e.g. arnica, chamomile)

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not use any form of witch hazel due to lack of safety studies in these populations. Topical witch hazel should only be used by people 2 years and older.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.

Source(s)

  1. Witch hazel (monograph). Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. (subscription required). Accessed 28 June 2012.
  2. Health Canada. Licensed Natural Health Products database. Witch hazel-Oral. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=186&lang=eng. Accessed 04 July 2014.
  3. Micromedex. Witch Hazel Monograph. (subscription required). Accessed 28 June 2012.
  4. Health Canada. Natural Health Products Ingredients Database. Witch hazel – Topical. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=witch.hazel.topical&lang=eng. Accessed 04 July 2014
  5. Health Canada. Natural Health Products Ingredients Database. Witch hazel – Buccal. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=188&lang=eng. Accessed 04 July 2014
  6. Lexicomp. Witch hazel monograph. www.lexi.com (subscription required). Accessed 04 July 2014

 

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