HEALTH AND BEAUTY

How-to-Make-Witch-Hazel-1-660x432Few people have heard of “Witch Hazel”–sounds a little like some sort of ingredient used in a magic potion, doesn’t it? Well, as it turns out you could say it actually is a “magic potion” because it is a little bit of a miracle.

Witch hazel is a topical astringent derived from the bark and leaves of Hamamelis virginiana, the common or North American witch-hazel shrub. The bark, twigs, and leaves of the witch hazel plant are used to extract active properties known as tannins and polyphenols which are added either to water or alcohol to produce distilled witch hazel extract or witch hazel water. It’s the tannins in witch hazel extract that make it a natural astringent, as they help to remove excess oil from the skin. That’s why it’s considered one of the best natural acne treatments out there and is used in all sorts of washes and treatment gels.   Native Americans have long recognized the medicinal properties of witch hazel and used a decoction of the boiled plant parts to treat skin irritations and tumors.  Nowadays this popular herbal remedy is recognized world-wide as a natural cleanser and toner, but witch hazel has many more uses than simply to clarify skin and shrink pores. You’ve probably noticed witch hazel extract in the list of ingredients in many beauty and health products as its powerful antioxidant and astringent benefits are known to help speed healing, prevent signs of aging, stop cellular damage that can lead to skin cancer and eradicate bacteria that lives within the pores of the skin.

Plants like witch hazel contain a high level of polyphenols; the same compounds used to create anti-aging supplements that help slow down disease. As it’s a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it’s able to battle free radicals to protect against DNA damage. Now that you know a little bit more about witch hazel and how it works, here are some of the reasons you should start using it on your face.

Puffy eyes are a common skin problem that many people face, it can be caused by allergies, stress, overindulging in alcohol, sun exposure, cigarette smoking and many other factors. The next time you wake up and find yourself with puffy eyes, be sure to have some witch hazel around, and you’ll have a quick fix for that problem. Witch hazel is known to tighten skin, which helps reduce under eye baggage and puffiness. Just soak some cotton balls with witch hazel, and apply it to closed eyes. Let it remain for five minutes or so, allowing it to soak into the skin. Repeat one more time for severe puffiness. As it can be more effective if it’s cool, storing your witch hazel in the refrigerator is a good idea, particularly if this is the main reason you plan to use it. Sometimes you don’t have bags under your eyes, but you get a kind of general puffiness. This can come from fatigue, crying, allergies, or other irritants. Just dab a couple of cotton balls in witch hazel, and then set them on top of your eyelids. Keep your eyes closed. Take a 10-minute catnap, sit up, and look in the mirror. The puffiness and redness should be gone, or at least greatly reduced.

If you’re suffering from eczema, witch hazel can help with that too, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. It not only helps stop that incessant itching, but it improves symptoms like scaling, redness, burning and even scarring. One study found that patients with eczema who were treated with witch hazel on one arm, and a non-steroidal cream on the other over three weeks, experienced just as effective relief in improving symptoms with the witch hazel as compared to the cream.

Soak soft terry cloth in witch hazel and lay over skin affected by varicose veins to temporarily reduce swelling and pain.  Also, remember to prop up the areas to be treated as high as possible.  This will decrease blood pressure in swollen veins and maximize the effectiveness of your treatment.

For both men and women, witch hazel is a great follow-up to shaving any part of the body.  Not only will it stop bleeding from nicks or cuts, anti-inflammatory witch hazel can also work to prevent razor burn.  Furthermore, those who employ hot wax treatments for hair-removal may also apply witch hazel as an anti-inflammatory post-waxing or use it to stop bleeding from damaged hair follicles.

Witch hazel is great for easing the pain, itching, swelling, and bleeding of hemorrhoids.  In fact, it’s a common ingredient used in many commercial hemorrhoid creams.  Just mix witch hazel with a carrier like Aloe Vera gel and apply to affected areas for fast relief.

Anti-inflammatory properties of witch hazel make it an effective and safe remedy for soothing pain from diaper rash.  Regular application will also assist in healing damaged skin faster, further reducing your baby’s discomfort.

Mix some witch hazel in with your Aloe Vera gel the next time you need to treat a sunburn.  The anti-inflammatory power of this incredible plant extract will aid your skin in healing while it and the Aloe help to cool the burn.  This treatment can also help to prevent skin from peeling in the days following a bad burn.

Not only is witch hazel great for your scalp, but it also can be helpful for your hair care routine in other ways. If you have frizzy hair, witch hazel can help you to tame your locks. Just add a little to your shampoo before washing. You will be stunned at the difference when your hair dries!

Just as witch hazel can be used to ease pain and itching from poison ivy and its cousins, the same works for bug bites and stings.  Yet another reason to carry a bottle of this awesome remedy with you the next time you plan to spend a day outdoors!

There are so many natural remedies for common problem all made from plants or herbs. Mother earth really has provided all the answers to our problems if we look for them. I really would prefer to look for a natural remedy rather than using man-made products and now you know the wide range of health issues that “Witch Hazel” can solve. Throw a bottle in your camper or backpack next time you are heading out for the weekend. It may come in handy!

Stay Healthy

Kathryn Hartwell

References: naturallivingideas.com, diyncrafts.com, naturallivingideas.com

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