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Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

treats Insect bites, Varicose veins, Perineal discomfort after childbirth, Skin irritation, Ultravio... more

Generic Name: Hawthorn

Category

Herbs & Supplements

Synonyms

Aldehydes, aliphatic alcohols, catechins, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, flavone aglycones, gallate, gallic acid, gallocatechin, galloylhamameloses, Hamamelidaceae (family), Hamamelis japonica, Hamamelis mollis, hamamelis ointment, Hamamelis vernalis, Hamamelis virginiana, hamamelitannin, hamamelose, kaempferol, monoterpenoids, phenolic acids, phenylpropanoids, polymeric proanthocyanidins, polysaccharides, proanthocyanidin fractions, proanthocyanidins, Prrikweg® gel, quercetin, safrole, sesquiterpenoids, snapping hazel, snapping tobacco wood, spotted elder, tannin, tincture of witch hazel, volatile fractions, winter bloom, winterbloom, witchazel, witch hazel distillate, witch hazel extract.

Background

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is a flowering shrub, native to Eastern North America although other related species exist in North America, Asia, and Europe. Witch hazel has traditionally been used as a facial cleanser/toner and for the treatment of skin irritations, bruises, hemmorrhoids, and to stop bleeding.

Early research has shown that the leaves, stems, and bark of witch hazel contain compounds which may have astringent, anti-irritant, antioxidant, and antiinflammatory properties.

Although witch hazel is widely available and has been used for a variety of medical conditions, there is currently little human evidence supporting how effective witch hazel is in treatment of many of these conditions.

Evidence

DISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Eczema: Based on human study, witch hazel was less effective than hydrocortisone cream, and no more effective than placebo in relieving inflammation associated with atopic eczema. Additional studies are needed to confirm these results.
Grade: C

Hemorrhoids: Witch hazel is a common ingredient in over-the-counter hemorrhoid preparations for the skin; however, human study evaluating the effectiveness for this indication is currently lacking.
Grade: C

Insect bites: A homeopathic formulation containing an extract of witch hazel and tinctures of other botanicals was studied for its effects in relieving redness and itching associated with mosquito bites. According to study results, the formulation did not provide effective relief from mosquito bite symptoms. However, because information about the strength or concentration of the witch hazel extract used was not available, and witch hazel was not evaluated alone, conclusions about the effects of witch hazel on insect bite symptoms cannot be made. Additional research is needed in this area.
Grade: C

Perineal discomfort after childbirth: Witch hazel has a long history of use for treating inflammation and hemorrhage when applied to the skin. Its use to reduce perineal discomfort associated with childbirth requires well-designed human study before recommendations can be made.
Grade: C

Skin irritation (minor/pediatric patients): Although witch hazel has been commonly used to relieve minor skin irritations, there are few human studies evaluating its use for this purpose, especially in children. Witch hazel as an oil based formulation may be safe and well tolerated when applied to the skin in children with minor skin irritations. High quality human study is needed for a conclusion to be made.
Grade: C

Ultraviolet light skin damage protection: Witch hazel has a long history of use for treating skin irritations. Human study evaluating the effects of witch hazel formulations applied to the skin have demonstrated some antiinflammatory effects. Until better quality studies are conducted, the efficacy of witch hazel for this indication cannot be determined.
Grade: C

Varicose veins: Witch hazel has been studied for the treatment of varicose veins and improving venous tone. Additional study is needed in this area.
Grade: C

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