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.
5. (Don’t) Feel the Burn: Treat blisters from a minor burn by applying a gauze pad soaked in witch hazel extract, then covering the area with an adhesive bandage.
6. Heal Minor Cuts: Also known as “nature’s Neosporin,” witch hazel is a natural antibacterial that will help treat minor wounds. To disinfect and heal cuts, scrapes and abrasions, apply witch hazel extract directly to the affected area with a cotton pad or washcloth.
7. Lighten Up: The sensitive skin around our eyes is prone to swelling and inflammation from lack of sleep, stress or a host of other factors. To treat puffy eyes and dark under-eye circles, lay cotton balls doused in witch hazel on your eyes and relax for 15 minutes.
8. Eliminate Insect Bites: To relieve itching and swelling from bug bites, simply apply a cotton pad soaked in the extract to the affected area.