Witch Hazel - Useful Herb for Hemorrhoids

Witch hazel

Hamamelis virginiana Hamamelidaceae


A North American tree, witch hazel is widely grown for the ornamental appeal of its spidery flowers and large oval leaves. Its yellowish flowers grow in clusters at the junction of branches and leafitalks in winter. It bears brown fruit consisting of small capsules, which split to release the seeds.


Parts used

  • Leaves and bark
  • The leaves are gathered during summer before they turn brown.
  • The bark is harvested in autumn or spring.
  • Once dried, witch hazel leaves and bark are used for infusions, powders, dry and liquid extracts, and tinctures.
  • Witch hazel is an ingredient in mouthwashes, gels and ointments.

Constituents

Tannins constitute more than 10 per cent of the dried leaf. They impart vasoconstrictive and antiinflammatory effects. Witch hazel also contains flavonoids - which are anti-inflammatory and strengthen the blood vessels - and a small proportion of essential oil.


Cultivation

Plant young specimens in moist, rich neutral to acid soil.


PREPARATION AND DOSAGE

For internal use


TO TREAT circulatory problems, haemorrhoids
INFUSION Put 10g into 1 litre of water. Leave to infuse for 5-10 minutes. Drink 1-2 cups a day. CAPSULES (dried leaf) Take 2g three times a day.
LIQUID EXTRA a (1:1 in 45% alcohol) Take up to 2ml three times a day.
TO TREAT poor oral hygiene INFUSION Put 2g of dried leaf into 1 cup of boiling water. Allow to infuse for 10 minutes, then strain. Rinse the mouth, then swallow, or use as a gargle. Repeat once or twice a day.


For external use


TO TREAT circulatory problems. haemorrhoids. inflammation GELS, OINTMENTS Massage into affected area once a day. WITCH HAZEL WATER Apply once or twice a day. TINCTURE Add 200g of broken up dried bark to I litre of 40% alcohol and store in sterilised dark-coloured bottle. Mix 20ml tincture with 100ml water and apply to varicose veins.


Medicinal uses

Experiments have demonstrated that the extract made from witch hazel leaves strengthens veins, reduces the permeability of capillaries and has anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been shown to constrict blood vessels. In 2002 German trials showed that witch hazel can reduce erythema, which is the reddening of the skin due to dilated blood vessels. The plant's anti-inflammatory activity supports its use in treating eczema.


Witch hazel can be taken orally or applied as an ointment to treat circulatory problems such as heavy, aching legs, varicose veins and haemorrhoids.


Further German research in 2002 has demonstrated the plant's antimicrobial activity. A formulation containing witch hazel was found to be effective against the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus and the yeast Candida albicans.The plant's antibacterial and soothing qualities account for its use in mouthwashes and eye drops.


CAUTION

Witch hazel appears to have no toxic effects but it might cause contact allergies.


Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid taking witch hazel internally.



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