Witch hazel: Uses, medicine, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

Witch hazel: Uses, medicine, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

Hamamelis is native to North America, specifically Canada and the eastern United States. The plant is grown in gardens and parks in Europe. The medically used material comes mainly from North America.

Witch hazel in medicine

The bark (Hamamelidis cortex) and the leaves (Hamamelidis folium) of Hamamelis are used in herbal medicine. Hamamelis water (Hamamelidis aqua) is also extracted from the branches.


Witch Hazel: Special Features

Hamamelis is a 3-7, rarely 10 m tall shrub or small tree with characteristic, broadly oval leaves that look very similar to the European hazelnut . Small yellow flowers with long, narrow petals appear in autumn. The shrub also carries woody fruit capsules.

The plant’s bark material consists of curved pieces of various lengths of dried bark harvested from the trunk or branches. The (reddish) brown outside of the bark pieces is covered with cork; underneath, lighter bark comes to light.

Properties of the leaf drug

The foliar drug consists of thin, pliable leaves and leaf fragments that are dark green on top, light green to -brown, and glossy on the underside. The leaf veins stand out clearly on the underside; the nerve angles are hairy.


Smell and taste of witch hazel

Neither witch hazel bark nor leaves emit a characteristic odour. The taste of the bark and leaves is moderate to strongly astringent, and the bark also tastes bitter.

Witch hazel: what to use for?

Witch hazel bark and leaves are typically used for the same indications. The drugs are used for minor skin injuries such as abrasions and bruises and local, small-scale inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes, such as gum and pharyngitis. Furthermore, witch hazel treats haemorrhoids and varicose veins in the early stages.

Empirical medicine has shown that treating skin diseases such as neurodermatitis, anal fissures, and inflammation in the genital area with witch hazel can also be successful. However, there still needs to be scientific evidence for these latter uses.


Witch hazel in folk medicine

From a traditional point of view, witch hazel is said to support skin function and alleviate the discomfort of tired legs. Hamamelis came to Europe from North America in the 18th century and has since been used externally in folk medicine to stop bleeding, haemorrhoids, skin and mucous membrane injuries and diseases of the veins ( e.g. spider veins ).

Internally, the bark and leaves are used for diarrhoea and inflammatory colon diseases caused by a specific bacterial infection (bacteria dysentery, dysentery).

Homeopathic use of witch hazel

In homoeopathy, the fresh bark of the roots and branches is used to treat skin diseases, the venous vascular system and coagulation disorders. The dried bark and the fresh leaves are also used in anthroposophic therapy.


Ingredients of witch hazel

Witch hazel leaves contain 3-8% tannins, mainly catechin and small gallo-tannins. In addition, there are proanthocyanidins, flavonoids, caffeic acid derivatives and up to 0.5% essential oil. The plant’s bark contains even more tannins (8-12%, including witch hazel tannin) and ellagitannin, a few catechin tannins and essential oil.

Hamamelis: For which indication?

The use of witch hazel can be helpful for the following indications:

  • skin injuries
  • abrasions
  • bruises
  • mucosal inflammation
  • dermatitis
  • gingivitis
  • haemorrhoids
  • varicose veins

Witch hazel – dosage

Hamamelis bark and leaves are offered less in tea and more in ointments, gels, suppositories and tinctures for vein, skin and haemorrhoidal disorders. The drugs are only found in a few veins and hemorrhoidal teas. Combination preparations made from the bark and leaves are also commercially available. Steam distillates can also be used externally and internally.

Witch hazel – dosage

The average daily dose for internal use is 0.1-1 g of witch hazel bark or leaves inappropriate preparations several times a day. Suppositories containing 0.1-1 g of the bark or leaves can be inserted rectally 1-3 times a day.

The bark preparations (e.g., ointments, creams or poultices diluted with water) can be applied or placed on the affected skin several times a day. The dosage depends on the surface to be treated.


Hamamelis – Prepared as a tea

For a tea made from witch hazel leaves, 1-2 g of the finely chopped leaves (1 teaspoon corresponds to about 0.5 g) are poured over with boiling water and, after 10 minutes, pass through a tea strainer.

To prepare a tea from witch hazel bark, 2 g of the powdered or finely chopped bark (1 teaspoon corresponds to about 2.5 g) is mixed with cold water, boiled for 10-15 minutes and strained while hot.

In the case of inflammation in the mouth or throat, the infusions can be used to rinse or gargle several times a day.

Instructions for using witch hazel

Interactions with other means and contraindications are currently not known.

In aqueous extracts of the drugs, the tannins are predominant as ingredients that determine the effectiveness, while in preparations with the steam distillates, the essential oil determines the effect. It is, therefore, advisable to use both dosage forms alternately – this way, the different ingredients can be optimally used.

Witch hazel leaves and bark should be kept dry, cool and protected from light.

Hamamelis – Synonym

German plant name: Hamamelis

German synonyms of the plant: Magic shrub, witch hazel, witch hazel, witch hazel, American witch hazel, witch hazel, witch hazel, witch hazel, hop hornbeam, dowsing rod

Latin plant name: Hamamelis virginiana L.

Latin synonyms of the plant: Hamamelis androgyne, Hamamelis Carolinians, Hamamelis corylifolia, Hamamelis dentata, Hamamelis dioica, Hamamelis festivals, Hamamelis macrophylla, Witch hazel, Trilopus rotundifolia, Trilopus Virginia

German drug name: Hamamelisrinde, Hamamelisblätter

German synonyms of the drug: Magic Hazel Bark, Magic Shrub Bark, Virginia Witch Hazel Bark, Dowsing Bark, (bark); Magic Hazel Leaves, Magic Shrub Leaves, Dowsing Leaves (Leaves)

Latin drug name: Hamamelid bark, Hamamelid leaf

Latin synonyms of the drug: Cortex Hamamelidis, Folia Hamamelidis

English name: Hamamelis bark Witch hazel bark (Rinde); Hamamelis leaf, Witch hazel leaf (Blätter); Hamamelis, Witch Hazel, American Witch Hazel, Witch hazel, Virginian witch-hazel, Snapping hazelnut, Spotted alder, Winterbloom (Pflanze)

Plant family Latin: Hamamelidaceae

Plant family German: witch hazel plants


Witch Hazel – Effect

The drugs have anti-inflammatory (antiphlogistic), local haemostatic (hemotypic), astringent, antipruritic and wound-healing effects. The anti-inflammatory effect is attributed, among other things, to the hamamelis tannins, which reduce blood circulation in the skin and consequently spread inflammatory reactions by forming a tannin-protein complex. The flavone glycosides probably have a cell-protecting effect because they intercept cell-damaging substances (radicals).

Witch Hazel – Side Effects

In sporadic cases, witch hazel preparations can lead to local allergic reactions and skin irritation. Interactions with other means and contraindications are currently not known.


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