witch hazel

With its witchy name, witch hazel sounds like something that should be bubbling in a cauldron. Don’t judge this handy plant by its gloomy given name, however. Witch hazel actually provides many beneficial—not evil!—healing and beauty properties.

Although the origins of its distinct name aren’t completely clear, the name witch hazel may have come from the Middle English word “wich” which means “flexible”, in honor of the plant’s bendy branches. The plant grows wild as a spreading shrub or small tree in the northeastern part of the country. Witch hazel has been used for centuries as a natural healing remedy. Native Americans used the plant topically to ease swelling and to treat minor wounds, abrasions and skin conditions. Today, herbalists consider it a powerful remedy for relieving muscle aches and pains, treating hemorrhoids and varicose veins, as well as to stem bleeding from cuts and scrapes. It’s also well known in the beauty world.

The bark and twigs from the plant contain naturally astringent and antibacterial properties and, when distilled, form a colorless liquid that you can find in health food stores and pharmacies today. Discover why you should add a bottle of the beautifying solution to your medicine cabinet.

1. Astringent

Witch hazel is a common ingredient in many of today’s skin care products, especially astringents and facial cleansers. The liquid distillate is naturally antibacterial and can effectively remove dirt and oil from skin without over drying. It also helps control oil production on your skin, so your facial skin will maintain a normal balance between oily and dry. To use witch hazel as an astringent, simply soak a cotton pad in the solution and gently rub the pad over your face to cleanse skin.

2. Toner

Witch hazel can effectively tone and tighten pores. Unlike many of today’s harsh toners that contain chemical ingredients, witch hazel naturally firms skin without making your face feel too tight. The mild solution helps reduce inflammation and redness. It also has a naturally cooling feeling that leaves you feeling refreshed.

3. Natural deodorant

The same antibacterial and astringent properties that make witch hazel so effective at reducing oily skin can also apply to your underarms. To use witch hazel as a deodorant, simply saturate a cotton ball in the liquid solution, dab it on your underarms, let it dry and continue on with your day. You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to give it a nice scent.

4. Eye relief

Ease tired, swollen or red eyes with good ol’ witch hazel. All you need to do is lightly moisten a couple of cotton balls with witch hazel, place them on your closed eyes spa-like, and relax for 10 minutes. The anti-inflammatory effects of witch hazel will help relieve strained eyes.

5. After shave

For the man in your life, witch hazel works as an effective after shave. It soothes irritated skin and will help prevent those annoying bumps and redness that tend to come up post-shave.

Not sure where to look for witch hazel? Head to your local health food store and scope out these long-standing brands: Thayers, Dickinson’s or Humphrey’s.

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image: Dr.RawheaD