Witch Hazel is one of those products that has been around pharmacy shelves for years , usually on old style pharmacy bottles hidden away on a bottom shelf. As we approach Halloween it made us wonder if there is any witchcraft in “Witch Hazel”!
The name however comes from a middle English name “Wyche” meaning pliant or flexible. Disappointing as it may be, this Halloween, it’s name actually has nothing to do with witchcraft. It is in fact a small “pliant” tree reaching about 6 m in height native to North America. It comes with a very impressive scientific name Hamamelis Viginiana and over the years distilled Witch Hazel Extract has been used extensively across herbal medicine. It contains chemicals called tannins known for their anti-inflammatory and astringent properties.
Traditionally Witch Hazel has been attributed a number of uses:
Swollen /Puffy eyes and even Black Eyes – Dab a little Witch Hazel on cotton balls and place them on your closed eyes for 10 minutes.
Reduces Itching and Swelling – It has soothing properties on chicken pox,insect bites, psoriasis, eczema and even itchy scalps.
Soothes Burns- Gently dab on burns to help reduce pain and prevent peeling. It can provide long lasting anti-inflammatory effects.For an even better remedy mix it through Aloe Vera gel.
Haemorrhoid Treatment- Dab on external haemorrhoids to tighten the skin and reduce itching. Preparation H is a proprietary product on our shelves for Haemorrhoids and it has Witch Hazel in it.
Bruises and swelling- Apply to bruises three times a day to speed up the healing process
Acne and Blemishes-Witch Hazel’s astringent properties make it a very good option for greasy/oily skin and blemishes.
Over the last number of years Ultra Pure labs in Foxford , Co.Mayo have brought Witch Hazel into the 21st century with bright new packaging and this is now available in both Cunningham’s Pharmacy stores in Athlone as well as online at http://www.cunninghamspharmacy.com/p/witch-hazel-ultrapure/witc012
Like with all skin treatments it is best to do a patch test with Witch Hazel before you use it to make sure you don’t react but generally Witch Hazel is very well tolerated.
Even though Witch Hazel has been used for centuries evidence as to it’s effectiveness is lacking. So is it a trick or a treatment then? Whereas traditional home remedies such as Witch Hazel shouldn’t replace a doctor’s advice there is no doubt it does have a role to play due to it’s soothing astringent properties for mild skin ailments.Witch Hazel is definitely a useful addition to have in your home remedy chest.