Witch hazel is widely regarded as a home remedy for psoriasis symptoms. The plant’s extract is said to reduce inflammation and soothe the skin. It does this by ridding the skin of excess oil while still maintaining hydration. This can prevent overdrying, which is common when dealing with skin conditions.
At this time, there isn’t any recent research to support or advise against the use of witch hazel for psoriasis. If you’re interested in adding witch hazel to your skin care regimen, speak with your doctor. They can help you determine whether this is the best option for you.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect the skin and nails. In people with psoriasis, skin cells turn over faster than normal. This causes skin cells to rapidly build up on the skin’s surface. This creates rough patches of irritation and inflammation.
Symptoms vary from person to person. They can include:
- patches of red, irritated skin
- silvery scales
- cracked or dry skin that may bleed
- ridged or pitted nails
- pain and discomfort on skin
Although the cause of this condition is unknown, researchers believe that there may be a genetic link. Certain triggers can also prompt a flare-up. These triggers include:
- heavy alcohol use
- certain medications
You may also be at greater risk of developing psoriasis if you’re overweight or have a compromised immune system.
Psoriasis is a lifelong condition. Treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms and improving your overall quality of life. Some people find relief with different topical medications or light therapies. At-home treatments and lifestyle changes may also provide relief.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved witch hazel for use as an active pharmaceutical ingredient. You may have seen witch hazel on the shelf at your local grocery or drugstore. The over-the-counter astringent is derived from the Hamamelis virginiana plant, which is native to North America. The distilled liquid at stores comes from the dried leaves, bark, and twigs of the plant.
The plant is considered to be a natural antioxidant and is widely regarded for its anti-inflammatory properties. One 1995 study explored the extract’s anti-inflammatory properties in the form of a topical anti-aging treatment. Researchers found that the extract protected against skin cell damage.
A 2002 study produced similar results. The study concluded that distilled witch hazel can serve as an anti-inflammatory. The distillate’s hydrating and barrier-stabilizing effects also make it ideal for routine skin care or targeted treatment.
Witch hazel has traditionally been used to treat many skin conditions. This includes:
Witch hazel also possesses antiviral properties. A 2014 study found that the extract may be beneficial in preventing bacterial colonization.
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, witch hazel may help ease the most classic psoriasis symptoms, which are:
Although many topical medications prescribed for people with psoriasis may perform these same functions, witch hazel is completely drug-free. It’s also available without a prescription. It’s important to read the label of your witch hazel product carefully, though. Some organic varieties may contain alcohol, which can dry skin and make symptoms worse.
You should look for varieties that contain benzoic acid in place of alcohol. This preservative is less irritating than standard alcohol. It may be better suited for people with psoriasis and other skin conditions.
Generally, people can use witch hazel topically without experiencing any side effects. If you have sensitive skin or spend a lot of time in the sun, you may develop some irritation.
Do a patch test before you apply witch hazel to a large portion of your body. To do this, apply a small amount to a quarter-sized area of your skin. If you experience any side effects within 24 hours of applying, witch hazel may not be the best treatment for you.
In rare instances, some people may have an allergic reaction to witch hazel. Symptoms of this reaction can include:
- difficulty breathing
- difficulty swallowing
If you encounter any of these symptoms after using witch hazel, discontinue use and contact your doctor immediately.
You shouldn’t use witch hazel if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. More research needs to be done to determine whether witch hazel has any damaging effects on women in these groups.
Witch hazel isn’t approved for internal use. Ingesting witch hazel may lead to gastrointestinal problems, such as indigestion and constipation. Repeatedly ingesting large amounts of witch hazel can also lead to kidney and liver damage.
There isn’t a set treatment method for using witch hazel to soothe psoriasis symptoms. Some people find that combining it with glycerin produces the best results. To do this, it’s recommended that you combine these two ingredients together in equal parts. Store them in a spray bottle so you can easily spritz the affected area.
For psoriasis on the scalp, it’s recommended that you massage witch hazel directly onto hair after washing. You should massage the area until the astringent is fully absorbed. From there, you can rinse the astringent out and style your hair as you normally would.
These treatments may work for some, but they aren’t a guaranteed fix. Speak with your doctor before using any at-home treatments, especially if you’re already using other topical medications to treat your psoriasis symptoms.
If you’re interested in using witch hazel to soothe your psoriasis symptoms, there are a few things you can do now:
- Ask your doctor if this treatment is a good option for you.
- Select a product that contains benzoic acid instead of alcohol to avoid irritation.
- Do a patch test on a small area of your skin before applying it to a large portion of your body.
Although there isn’t specific scientific evidence to suggest that witch hazel is an effective psoriasis treatment, the anecdotal reports are compelling. Some believe it’s worth a try because of its affordability and wide availability.
Remember: Always ask your doctor before you try anything new on your skin. They can help make sure that it won’t interact with your current treatment plan.