The Many Uses of Witch Hazel

The Many Uses of Witch Hazel

My assistant tells me yesterday about her aunt’s mother: how every morning of her adult life, she would soak cotton balls in witch hazel and place them on her eyes while she laid on the ground and did her stretches for about 30mins.  Since my assistant is now worried that age is getting the better of her eyes (I personally doubt it, her skin is as good as my seven-year-old’s), she’s wondering if she can co-opt this old-time remedy...

Witch hazel really is amazing enough to avoid being relegated to the “something weird I might find in Grandma’s medicine cabinet” file. Its also a great topical remedy for both kids and their parents, which doubly justifies its shelf space. A yellow flower found both in Asia and parts of the United States, it is used both internally and externally (my recommendations are all external, for internal, I’d consult with an herbalist). Native Americans used it as a poultice for bruises, wounds and tumors. Nowadays, it is often mixed with isopropyl alcohol, to increase its astringing effects (-- and in this form is only appropriate for external use). Its astringent, antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties give it a wide range of utility. Here is a list of possible ways to use witch hazel -- and promote it from aunt’s-mother’s-relic to mainstay of your first aid cabinet:Thayers Witch Hazel

It IS great for swollen eyes, mama! Lightly soak a couple of cotton balls, leave them on your closed eyes for 10 minutes and voila! It may not be elegant, but it works at least as well as cucumbers...and with a bit of lavender essential oil, smells pretty too. The anti-inflammatories plus high count of antioxidants provide us with a much-needed fountain of youth. Close your eyes, relax, and let the inflammation of a sleepness night(s!) drift away.

Diaper rash, beware! Topical witch hazel water, sometimes mixed with lavender, rosewater or aloe, was always next to our changing table when my son was in diapers -- I would add some to his regular wipes, which were always a bit too dry to do the real work, and I have to say, he never had a case of diaper rash.

Bruises, sprains, and strains: mixed with arnica, or used on its on, witch hazel reduces tissue inflammation -- the same property that helps with our at-home eye facelift.

Skin conditions: Have a blemish? Did your kid come home with a rash of unknown origin? Poison ivy? sunburn? minor kitchen burn? Let the tannins in witch hazel (which give it its astringent properties) go to work by applying it topically. I’ve even used it after stings to bring down swelling and soothe pain. And its worth a mention: while research is mixed, the anecdotal reports of eczema sufferers who say that witch hazel dramatically reduced itching, bleeding, swelling is compelling -- worth a try.

Bleeding: Let common sense be your guide, but know that witch hazel has been used for centuries to stop bleeding. By topically applying witch hazel to small wounds and cuts, you can reduce bleeding at the site.

I hope you don’t have them, but if you do: Hemorrhoids. Anti-inflammatory. Astringent. Soothing. Post-partum, whenever, witch hazel as a sitz bath or wipe provides well-reported relief.

Dad’s out of aftershave: no problem, this works better than most we’ve tried -- AND it’s all natural.

Your aunt’s mother wasn’t wrong. At least, not this time...:)

For more information on witch hazel, here a couple of great sites to check out:

http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/05/05/17/ 
http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/

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