5 Health Benefits of Witch Hazel

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • Yellow flowers of witch hazel Hamamelis in winter

    Witch hazel, or Hamamelis virginiana, has been used as a home remedy for many conditions for years. Different parts of the plant, including the leaves, bark or twigs, can be used to treat minor conditions or on the skin. In everyday use, it’s most often used as an astringent or as a topical cooling agent.

    Keep in mind that witch hazel benefits for skin and other uses may be temporary, rather than a long-term solution. But if you’re using witch hazel to soothe a bug bite, for example, the short-term benefit is likely exactly what you need. Find out other potential health benefits of witch hazel to see how you can use it to your advantage.

  • 1
    Natural astringent
    Young Asian woman using face wipe in bathroom

    Particularly if your face is oily, witch hazel can be good for your skin. As a natural astringent, thanks to its high tannin content, witch hazel can tighten your pores when used topically. Ointments made with witch hazel are frequently used as acne cosmeceuticals, which is a term used by the cosmetics industry to mean that a product may have medicinal benefits. Keep in mind, however, that if you have dry or sensitive skin, witch hazel may make the problem worse because witch hazel products often contain alcohol, which can dry out your skin. Talk to your dermatologist to make sure using witch hazel on skin will be a help, rather than a hazard, for you.

  • 2
    Inflammation reducer
    Close-up of Adult Woman applying bug Bite Balm Into Her Hands Outdoors

    Rich in tannins, witch hazel can be used topically to help reduce inflammation. In fact, over-the-counter witch hazel, often used in the form of pads or wipes, has long been an anti-inflammatory home remedy for hemorrhoids. Witch hazel uses also include soothing sunburns and itchy bug bites or even poison ivy. One study showed that an ointment made with witch hazel (not the liquid kind) helped relieve diaper rash.

  • 3
    Antiviral agent
    Unseen Caucasian man holding washcloth against lip in bathroom

    One study showed that applying a witch hazel cream topically helped shrink cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex 1 virus. Compared with the placebo group, the people who used the witch hazel cream had significantly smaller cold sores and reduced inflammation. Be sure to note, though, that in this study, the cream was applied six times a day for three to eight days. Witch hazel cannot kill the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • 4
    Eczema remedy (skin soother)
    Smiling Woman Applying Moisturizing Cream At Home

    Witch hazel has often been used to soothe minor skin irritations. As a treatment for eczema, the evidence is mixed. Applying a 10% witch hazel cream on the skin has been shown in one study to be as effective at soothing eczema as using a 1% hydrocortisone cream. However, in another study, hydrocortisone cream was a more effective anti-inflammatory than witch hazel.

  • 5
    Antibacterial agent (topical)
    Bandage covering wound

    Topical application of witch hazel on minor cuts or scrapes may help the wounds heal faster, according to a study on witch hazel’s antimicrobial activity. The study was conducted in a lab, and the best results were found with the highest concentration of witch hazel. Scientists who conducted the study noted that more research on these effects is needed because witch hazel is not a typical disinfectant.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 May 17
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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