Witch hazel uphold mysterious connotation. In colonial America, the shrub’s flexible forked branches were a favorite “witching stick” of dowers used for searching out hidden waters or precious metals. It had nothing to do with witches.
The botanical name combines two Greek work roots meaning fruit (apple) and together, referring to the plants habit of producing flowers at the same time the previous year’s fruits mature and disperse seed.
Witch hazel extends from Nova Scotia, west to Ontario and south to Texas, and Florida, common witch hazel flourishes on shaded north facing slopes along fence rows, country roads and stony banks of brooks.
Since early American medicine, witch hazel was primarily used to treat eye inflammations, hemorrhoids, bites, stings and skin sores, Diarrhea, and dysentery.
It’s also been confirmed as an antioxidant, radiation-protective agent, and an anti-inflammatory agent.
The topical forms of witch hazel that are available in the United States include creams, lotions, and towelettes; but more common is witch hazel “water”. This clear, thin liquid is usually made by steam-distilling witch hazel twigs or bark, and then mixing the result with alcohol. Frequently, witch hazel is combined with other herbal products, such as horse chestnut, which also have astringent effects. Witch hazel water is generally dabbed or sprayed directly on irritated skin as often as needed. For hemorrhoids, it can be used after each bowel movement -- up to six times a day.
Witch hazel is safe for everyone; however, it should never be taken orally.
Although some people may have allergic reactions to the plants, no major side effects are usually experienced with using witch hazel water on the skin; however, its alcohol content may further irritate skin that is already damaged. As a result, no specific interactions have been identified between witch hazel and prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, other supplements, or foods.
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68 Fed. Reg. 35,346 (June 13, 2003)
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