Witch hazel: 8 effects & 5 uses of witch hazel

Even the North American natives used witch hazel as a medicinal plant. In Germany, too, the plant has long been known for its healing effects. We will explain the exact effects of witch hazel and the form in which you can best use it.

Witch hazel can be used for many purposes. It can be used both internally and especially externally. It is used for medicinal as well as cosmetic purposes. The medicinal plant is mainly used in the form of a witch hazel ointment. We will inform you about the various effects and possible uses of the medicinal plant.

Hamamelis: The North American witch hazel

The term Hamamelis, which is used medicinally and for cosmetic purposes, actually comes from Latin. In German, the plant is commonly called witch hazel, while in English it is known as witch hazel , which means something like witch hazel. This name probably goes back to the former use of the branches as dowsing rods. And the plant actually has all sorts of magical effects. Last but not least, the ripening process is different from that of most other plants. The fruits of the plant ripen before the flowers. While the flowers usually form in late autumn or winter, the fruits already thrive in the summer months.

In general, the witch hazel belongs to the witch hazel family, the so-called Hamamelidaceae, which are mostly native to the eastern regions of North America. Hence the nickname of witch hazel: “virginiana”, which can be traced back to the eastern US state of Virginia. In addition to Hamamelis virginiana , which can be used medicinally , there are other witch hazel plants. The “late-flowering witch hazel”, which is used as an ornamental plant but does not bear ripe fruit, is particularly popular in this country.

Ingredients of the witch hazel plant

The leaves and bark of the plant, which differ slightly in their ingredients , are mainly used for health purposes . Both parts contain essential oil as well as tannins that produce the health effects of the medicinal plant. While tannins are mainly found in the bark, the leaves contain a different form of tannins – namely catechins. Catechins are among the flavonoids, a form of secondary plant substances with a variety of health effects.

In addition to tannins, essential oils can also help with a variety of ailments. The leaves in particular contain a significant percentage of essential oils, namely 0.5 percent. You can read more about the healing properties of essential oils here.

Effects of Witch Hazel

Due to its high content of tannins and essential oil, witch hazel has numerous effects and can be used to treat many ailments. The natives of North America used the medicinal plant for various ailments such as skin inflammation. In the following you will find out how the medicinal plant works and for which complaints you can use it.

For hemorrhoids

The best known is the effect of witch hazel on hemorrhoids. That is why the medicinal plant is found in numerous preparations for the treatment of painful and unpleasant ailments. Hemorrhoids refer to the sensitive skin just around the anus. Everyone has hemorrhoids, but it’s only when they’re enlarged that they can really hurt. That’s when witch hazel comes into play. Hamamelis can provide relief, especially in the lighter degrees of severity I and II, which are associated with itching , burning and slight bleeding .

Due to its numerous tannins, witch hazel has numerous effects that can alleviate the symptoms of hemorrhoids. Hamamelis works against itching , among other things, since the tannins make the nerve endings in the skin less sensitive to irritation. In addition, the medicinal plant promotes wound healing and can even stop light bleeding . This is because the upper layers of skin and mucous membranes contract when witch hazel is used. They become less permeable and are also protected from bacteria. The witch hazel also has an anti-inflammatory effect .

For skin injuries

Since witch hazel has an anti-inflammatory, wound-healing and haemostatic effect, it is also used for minor skin injuries such as cuts. Applied to the wound in the form of an ointment, witch hazel can help with minor skin injuries and small skin infections and accelerate wound healing. Hamamelis can also supplement the treatment and alleviate the symptoms of neurodermatitis .

For inflammation of the oral mucosa

Skin irritation rarely occurs when witch hazel is used, which is why the medicinal plant can also be used very well on the mucous membranes – including in the mouth. The contained tannins can unfold their effects in the form of a gargle solution very well with an inflammation of the oral mucosa. Because of its pain-relieving effect, witch hazel is also excellent for toothache .

For diarrheal diseases

In folk medicine, witch hazel is also used to treat diarrhea, but this healing effect has not yet been officially confirmed. However, witch hazel is said to have a slightly constipating effect and thus help with mild diarrhea. Internal use of the medicinal plant should always be discussed with a doctor beforehand.

For varicose veins

The catechins contained in the leaves can also have an excellent effect on varicose veins. Applied in the form of an ointment, witch hazel can have a vascular-protective effect and thus relieve mild symptoms of varicose veins.

In case of skin irritation

Witch hazel is suitable even for sensitive skin and can even help with skin irritations in the form of witch hazel water. For example, the use of witch hazel water can have an anti-itching and anti-inflammatory effect on light sunburns. These effects also benefit the treatment of insect bites . The pain-relieving effect of witch hazel is particularly beneficial in the external treatment of bruises .

For diaper rash

According to studies, witch hazel is excellent for treating diaper rash. Diaper rash refers to a rash on the genital area in the area where a diaper usually sits. Diaper rash mainly occurs in babies and small children , but older people who have to wear a diaper due to incontinence can also be affected by diaper rash.

Witch hazel can relieve rash symptoms by promoting wound healing, relieving itching, and reducing inflammation. In this way she can let the small wounds in the diaper area subside quickly and ensure improvement.

For acne

Witch hazel can be found in numerous skin care products. Hamamelis can be found not only as witch hazel water or toner, but also in creams, body lotions, shampoos and other skin cleansing products. Especially impure and oily skin but also acne responds very well to the medicinal plant. In general, however, the use of witch hazel is suitable for all skin types, even sensitive skin, as the plant is well tolerated.

Witch hazel has many properties that benefit the treatment of blemished skin . Among other things , witch hazel water has a clarifying , skin-cleansing and even pore- refining effect . Regular use of witch hazel water can make the complexion appear more even. Hamamelis can also be used for acute skin blemishes such as pimples and blackheads. Since the medicinal plant has an anti-inflammatory and wound-healing effect, it can heal skin impurities faster and thus ensure a clean complexion.

Does witch hazel have any side effects?

Above all, external use of witch hazel is only slightly risky. Side effects are hardly known when using the medicinal plant on the skin. Allergic reactions rarely occur . Nevertheless, you should follow the instructions on the package insert to avoid possible complications. If you still have an allergic reaction, you should definitely consult a doctor.

Using witch hazel internally is far more risky. A witch hazel preparation should only be used in a very diluted form here, as the medicinal plant can irritate the stomach in high doses and even promote stomach pain and nausea . The high tannin content can also block the absorption of some essential vitamins and minerals that are extremely important for the healthy functioning of the body. Hamamelis should therefore only be used internally for a short period of time.

Applications with the witch hazel

Witch hazel is found in numerous preparations and can be used in many different forms. There are numerous possibilities, especially for the external use of the medicinal plant. You can apply them locally or over a large area, in the form of creams and ointments, as a small lotion or a cooling compress. In this way you can alleviate various ailments and use the medicinal plant according to your own needs.

witch hazel ointment

Hamamelis ointment is particularly suitable for treating small wounds. Hamamelis ointment is particularly suitable for diaper dermatitis, skin injuries, varicose veins and hemorrhoids. It has a haemostatic, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing effect. Sometimes it can take away the itching and allow the symptoms to subside in a targeted manner.

The first records of special witch hazel preparations for treating hemorrhoids date back to the 19th century. In Germany, the first ointment with witch hazel was developed in 1878 by the Leipzig pharmacist Dr. Willmar Schwabe made. Since then, witch hazel ointment can be found in almost every pharmacy, as it can be used for a wide variety of ailments.


Witch hazel water is similarly versatile. The distillate from the leaves and bark of the witch hazel is found in various products, but can also be used on its own. For example, it is suitable as a facial toner to clarify the skin after cleaning. Used regularly, it can even refine the pores and lead to a cleaner complexion. Treatment with witch hazel water can also be helpful for skin irritation, sunburn and insect bites.

Witch hazel wrap

Witch hazel wraps can easily be made using an infusion. To do this, simply put about ten to 20 grams of witch hazel leaves and bark in a bowl and pour boiling water over everything. Let the mixture steep for ten minutes before pouring the liquid through a sieve. Now you can soak a cotton cloth in the witch hazel infusion and place it on the appropriate area of ​​skin. Such an envelope is suitable, for example, for the treatment of hemorrhoids and inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes.

Witch hazel suppositories

Witch hazel suppositories are particularly suitable for the local treatment of hemorrhoids. They can act directly and intensively on sensitive skin and thus quickly bring about improvement. The use of the suppositories should be discussed with a doctor beforehand.

Gargling solution from witch hazel

A gargle solution made from witch hazel is particularly recommended for oral mucosal infections. Such a gargle solution can also be used for toothache. Prepare the gargling solution from about two to four grams of leaves and bark and pour 250 milliliters of boiling water over them. Allow the liquid to cool well before using it as a mouthwash . You should never swallow the gargling solution, as this can cause stomach irritation. To relieve the symptoms in the long term, you should use the mouthwash three times a day .

Alternatives to witch hazel

Hamamelis originally comes from North America, which is why the medicinal plant often has to travel a long way before it can be used in this country. But native plants also have effects similar to witch hazel. Red vine leaves are particularly noteworthy . This has been used for inflammation since ancient times. Red vine leaves are also effective in the treatment of varicose veins due to their high flavonoid content.

Also worth mentioning is grapeseed oil . The high-quality oil is a widely used oil, especially in facial care, which nourishes the skin without causing unsightly pimples. In addition, the oil contains numerous tannins that can have effects similar to those of witch hazel.

Buy witch hazel

You can find products containing witch hazel both in retail stores and online . There are products from natural cosmetics and organic quality for skin care , but the extract of the medicinal plant is also often used in conventional cosmetics . Depending on the quality of the product, the prices here vary greatly. You can get witch hazel water for just a few euros, but you pay up to 15 euros for good organic quality.

You will also find some dried witch hazel leaves that you can use to make your own witch hazel infusion. Sometimes you can even buy your own witch hazel plant . In Germany, however, you will often only find ornamental plants that are not suitable for medicinal purposes.

You can usually only find medical preparations in pharmacies, but you will also find them online. Here, an ointment usually costs around ten euros. You will find both purely herbal preparations and medicinal ointments that are suitable for treating wounds or hemorrhoids.


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