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8 Household Uses for Witch Hazel

Discover why humble witch hazel should be your go-to remedy for first aid and skin ailments.

| March/April 2016

  • Use witch hazel to treat blemishes by applying a cotton pad soaked in witch hazel extract to the affected area.
    Photo by iStock
  • Witch hazel is a wonder plant for natural healing. It's a natural astringent that's great for treating conditions such as acne or psoriasis.
    Photo by iStock
  • Cotton pads can be used to apply witch hazel extract to the skin. You can make your own extract, or find it easily at a drug store.
    Photo by iStock

Witch hazel is one of the world’s wonder plants—its skin-healing uses have been well-known for centuries. A natural astringent, witch hazel owes its medicinal properties to the tannins in its leaves and bark, which help treat skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis, as well as minor cuts and scrapes. Witch hazel extract is used in many lotions, ointments and other skin treatments. It can also be used alone.

When shopping for witch hazel, look for the plant’s bark or leaves in either powdered or full-leaf form. It’s also available as a clear liquid distillate in drug-stores. To make your own witch hazel extract, put a pound of broken witch hazel leaves, twigs and stems into a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer on low, uncovered, for about 8 hours, until the stems become soft, covering the mulch with more water as needed. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then strain the liquid through a cheesecloth into a bottle or jar, and keep it in the fridge.

1. Clear Your Complexion: Witch hazel’s astringent properties make it a great natural treatment for acne. Treat blemishes with a cotton pad soaked in witch hazel extract. The witch hazel will remove dirt and oil without drying skin.

2. DIY Deodorant: Use witch hazel to as an alternative to commercially produced deodorant. For a basic deodorant, pour witch hazel extract onto a cotton pad and dab under arms, letting it dry before you get dressed. For a scented solution, mix 3 tablespoons vodka with an essential oil blend (try 6 drops lavender, 8 drops cypress and 4 drops neroli) in a spray bottle and shake. Add 1⁄2 cup witch hazel and 1⁄4 cup rosewater; use daily.

3. Treat Troublesome Skin: In Germany, witch hazel is a mainstream psoriasis treatment, and research proves its effects. Apply witch hazel cream to relieve this troublesome skin condition, as well as eczema and dermatitis. Note: Be sure to check with your health-care provider before altering any psoriasis treatment you may be on.

4. Terrific Toner: The tannins in witch hazel help it tone skin and tighten pores, leaving skin cooled and refreshed, and killing breakout-causing bacteria. To make a toner, combine equal parts distilled water and witch hazel, along with a few drops of naturally antimicrobial tea tree oil.

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