Habitat & Cultivation:
The Hamamelidaceae family contains plants with deciduous leaves that grow alternatively (Go Botany, 2018). The flowers are radially symmetrical (actinomorphic). Witch hazel is found primarily in damp woods in Eastern North America (American Botanical Council, 2013). Witch hazel grows as a deciduous shrub that flowers in the fall (American Botanical Council, 2013). It can be cultivated also in Europe and Canada (American Botanical Council, 2013). Being from a damp woodland environment, the aqueous bark of witch hazel was traditionally used to treat hemorrhage, inflammation, and hemorrhoids (American Botanical Council, 2013). There are four species of witch hazel found in North America and one in Japan. Witch hazels occur naturally in cooler climates with defined seasons such as along the eastern coast of the United States and in the high, cold terrain of the Ozark Mountains. Witch hazels tolerate a range of light levels, from full sun to heavy shade. Full sun is best for most cultivated witch hazels because it produces a more compact shape with more spectacular blooming, although light shade is beneficial in hotter climates where drought it common.
Twigs, bark & leaves
Minor skin injuries, local inflammation of skin and mucous membranes (including eye irritation), hemorrhoids, and varicose veins. Can also be used for oral hygiene.
There are no contraindications for witch hazel, no drug interactions known, and no safety issues in regards to pregnancy and lactation.
(American Botanical Council)
The main constituent in witch hazel is tannins; witch hazel leaf contains 3-10% tannins and witch hazel bark contains 8-12% tannins (American Botanical Council, 2000). When determining the efficacy of a commercial product you want to make sure that the product contains the pharmacopeial grade of the witch hazen content. There are products on the market that are approved by the FDA such as witch hazel water that contains no tannin content. You want to ensure that the product contains witch hazel distillate (American Botanical Council, 2000).
clear (Frawley & Lad, 1986).
Safety considerations: according to Hoffmann (2003) no side effects or drug interactions from the use of witch hazel have been reported. According to the ABC (2013) there are no contraindications, other precautions or drug and supplement interactions known. The only adverse event or side effect listed is possible localized irritation to either the stomach if ingested orally, or allergic contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals if applied topically (ABC, 2013).
I have used witch hazel for postpartum and hemorrhoids. It is very cooling and healing and helps to remove the hemorrhoids.
American Botanical Council. (n.d.). Witch Hazel Leaf and Bark. Accessed from
Frawley, D., & Lad, V. (2001). The yoga of herbs. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press
Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press: Vermont.
Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2005). The essential guide to herbal safety. Elsevier Health Sciences.
Romm, A. (2010). Botanical medicine for women's health (p.18-19). St. Louis, Mo: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)