As you might remember, I love buying tires from Costco . I was in there the other day waiting for service and reading Reader’s Digest’s Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things: 2,317 Ways to Save Money and Time  when I stumbled upon the section on witch hazel.
Witch hazel is a type of flowering plant in the Hamamelidaceae family with three varities in North America – Hamamelidaceae ovalis, Hamamelidaceae virginiana and Hamamelidaceae vernalis. They’re absolutely amazing, or creepy, to look at and apparently they have both ornamental and medicinal value.
The bark and leaves are astringent because of their tannins and can shrink or constrict body tissue, which leads people to use them to shrink mucous membranes to reduce mucous secretions. It’s used by acne sufferers and can be used to heal stretch marks. I was especially interested in its affect on mucous membranes because I have some vicious spring and fall allergies.
As with anything medical you read on the internet, consult with a licensed physician before you try anything.
The witch hazel products you buy in the store will often contain isopropyl alcohol, which is toxic to human beings if ingested. Don’t gargle or drink it.
The tannins in witch hazel can cause nausea if you take too much or take it too frequently.
External Uses for Witch Hazel
Pimples! Witch hazel is most often cited as a way for acne sufferers to overcome their blemishes. The astringent qualities of witch hazel are effective if you use it on a pimple and you can often find it listed as an ingredient in many treatments. The tannins in the bark and leaves of witch hazel give it these astringent properties.
Bruises, Swelling. Anytime you have bruising or swelling, witch hazel is useful to help bring that swelling down as it constricts blood vessels. It can also be used for temporarily relief on swelling varicose veins. Have a nasty sunburn? Get some aloe and witch hazel. The aloe will sooth your skin while the witch hazel repairs and reduces inflammation. Witch hazel has procyanadins, resin, and flavonoids which have anti-inflammatory properties. Soak a cloth in witch hazel tea and drape it over the affected area.
Itch Reduction. I have a big reaction to poison ivy or oak and witch hazel can be used to relieve itching as well as swelling, after a good wash with special soap that can wash away the oils. Mosquito bites? Call up some witch hazel.
Internal Uses for Witch Hazel
Oral Care. To use it on sore throats, gargle some witch hazel tea infused with myrrh and cloves. Do not use store purchased witch hazel as it contains dangerous isopropyl alcohol! This can also be used for swollen and infected gums as an oral rinse.
Digestive Issues. Drinking an herbal tea made from witch hazel, chamomile, mint, and thyme can combat digestive issues and stomach flus. Discuss with an herbalist or search online for a witch hazel tea formula you’ll like.
Harvesting Witch Hazel
According to Reader’s Digest, harvesting the witch hazel yourself beats buying it the store because commercial processing tends to reduce the effectiveness of the witch hazel. If you’d like to give it a shot yourself, here’s a recipe for making your own witch hazel extract . It’s a pretty involved process that has you grind up the twigs, boil them for eight hours, and then pouring the result through a cheesecloth filter to produce the extract.
Are you a fan of witch hazel? Do you use it for things I haven’t listed?
(Photo: ladybugsleaf )