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Witch Hazel as an Astringent

Witch Hazel As An Astringent

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) sits on pharmacy shelves along with with other OTC (over the counter) topical liquids. It is so common in drug stores that most people forget that is herbal medicine. It’s uninterrupted use in medical and home use is more proof of the power and utility of witch hazel as an astringent.

In it’s original form, witch hazel is a shrub or small tree. It is native to North America and can be found in backyards and arboretums nationwide. It has been used medicinally by First Nation people such as the Iroquois, the Potawatomi and the Osage. The abundance of tannins in witch hazel combined with flavonoids and made it favorite for treating skin conditions such as hemorrhoids and bruising. The bark is rich in a diversity of tannins (3-10%) including hamamelitannin, catechins, gallotannins and procyanidins.

How It Works

Lipoxygenase enzymes are a naturally occurring compounds in the body. They are primarily tasked with

Tannins such as hamamelitannin are reliable inhibitors of 5-lipoxygenase.

Form and Dosage

Witch hazel is most commonly sold as a liquid extract or a distilled extract for topical use. It can be found in jars with gauze pads for use on varicosities such as hemorrhoids or varicose veins. It is also available as a decoction, cream, salve, suppository or tablets. It most often used as topically a few times daily or as a PRN.


There is no evidence that topical use of witch hazel is contraindicated with other medicine or prescriptions. Internal of the tea use can cause stomach upset.

Further Research

Science Direct: Triterpenoid Saponin

NCBI: Ocimum sanctum Linn. A reservoir plant for therapeutic applications: An overview

American Family Physician: The Effect of Cytochrome P450 Metabolism on Drug Response, Interactions, and Adverse Effects

NCBI: The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.

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