Home remedy extraordinaire
One of the first home remedies in many households was witch hazel – a shrub first used by Native Americans to treat a number of ailments, says Dr Niket Sonpal, assistant clinical professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. But researchers are just now discovering the different chemical compounds within the plant’s bark and leaves that help explain why witch hazel has been a go-to treatment for centuries for everything from infections to bug bites.
There are several different ways that witch hazel could benefit you. “Witch hazel is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, possibly anti-viral, and an astringent,” says dermatologist Dr Ted Laina. But it definitely shouldn’t be applied at full strength. “As with all other natural or organic compounds, witch hazel is composed of numerous chemicals that can be damaging to the skin when applied at high concentrations.” Most commonly, it’s diluted into a cream or with water, alcohol, or a carrier oil, depending on whether it’s being used as a toner or ointment. But no matter how you use it, consult with your doctor before you use it to avoid potential interactions with your current treatment regimen.
There’s a reason that common over-the-counter treatments tout witch hazel as a key ingredient – it’s really effective at soothing the main symptoms of haemorrhoids. “Witch hazel is believed to help treat the itching, redness, pain, and swelling associated with haemorrhoids due to its anti-inflammatory effects and can stop some minor bleeds from them as well,” Dr Sonpal says. To use, swab the area with a cotton pad soaked in witch hazel after every bowel movement.
Calm an itchy or sensitive scalp
A study in the International Journal of Trichology suggests that using a witch hazel-based shampoo and tonic on the scalp may help reduce irritation and sensitivity. This was especially helpful for patients who were treating their hair loss with minoxidil, which could lead to an irritated scalp. Note this study is a retrospective observational study, not a controlled trial.