—by Linda Morey
Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. — Lao Tzu
Look for witch hazel in 12–ounce recyclable plastic bottles up front near the cash registers and essential oils. It’s a healing anti-inflammatory hemostatic astringent from the bark of the North American Witch Hazel shrub (Hamamelis virginiana). For centuries, it has been used for medicinal purposes. Applied externally, it reduces swelling, cleans wounds, relieves sores, and more. Here are my favorite uses for witch hazel:
After-shave. Prevents or stops itchy bumps.
Sunburn remedy. Reduces swelling, speeds healing, and prevents peeling.
First aid for cuts and bruises. Cleans cuts, protects against infection.
Soothe diaper rash. Apply with a cotton ball for immediate improvement.
Tighten baggy skin. Hold a cool washcloth soaked in witch hazel over under-eye puffiness or wrinkly “turkey-neck” skin. Stage and television actors use hemorrhoid cream under their makeup to smooth facial lines and bumps, but it doesn’t smell very nice. Witch hazel is the magic ingredient in brand-name hemorrhoid cream and has a mild, fresh scent. Plus, you don’t have to scrape it off or deal with greasy residue.
Soothe and shrink. external hemorrhoids After using the toilet, apply witch hazel, either full strength or diluted 50–50 with clean water, using bathroom tissue. Or mix it with petroleum jelly to calm itching, reduce pain, and stop bleeding.
Relieve varicose veins. Lay witch hazel-soaked cloths on elevated legs (propped straight out) for temporary relief of swelling and discomfort.
Heal bruises faster. Dab bruises several times a day so nobody knows you lost the fight.
Take the itch out of poison ivy and bug bites. Dab witch hazel on affected area. Moisturize dry skin After bathing, splash on witch hazel to tighten skin and retain moisture.
Make your own deodorant. Witch hazel’s astringent, sanitizing properties keep underarms clean and fresh without harmful chemicals or added fragrances. Thayers Witch Hazel, available at HPC, is especially good because it contains aloe vera and the natural tannins from witch hazel bark, ingredients that cheaper brands leave out. Natural tannins are cited in pharmacological studies as vital healing ingredients. See author note and reference below.
Help dry up swimmer’s ear. Apply carefully to the outer ear with a cotton swab to dry up excess moisture and fight infection. This works for your dog, too.
Dry up zits. Some people claim that daily use helps clear up acne and fight redness. Heal and protect blisters Eases pain and fights infection.
Cooling relief for hot flashes. I carry a tiny squeeze bottle of witch hazel in my purse and wipe it over my face and neck with a napkin or handkerchief when feeling the heat of my menopausal blast furnace. Witch hazel cools my skin and quickly tones down my embarrassing red face.
Postpartum relief from soreness. The Mayo Clinic recommends using chilled cloths soaked in witch hazel to help soothe, heal, and cleanse wounds related to episiotomies or vaginal tears. Go to mayoclinic.com and search for “witch hazel.”
Remove warts. Some people use daily applications of witch hazel (dabbed on with a Q-Tip several times a day) to gradually and completely remove facial warts, even on the lips, without leaving scars. Cut the clutter. Are you a clutter junky? Keep witch hazel on hand so you don’t junk up your medicine cabinet with a hoard of pricey concoctions, most of which expire before you use them up anyway. I keep a bottle on my bathroom counter and another one in the kitchen (if you’ve ever seen me cook, you’ll understand why I need first aid close by). I keep a tiny bottle in my purse and a travel-size bottle in my suitcase.
Be safe and save money. Using witch hazel will save you money without exposing you to potentially toxic or untested ingredients.
[Linda Morey is a Hampden Park Co-op volunteer, a clutter junky, and a big cheapskate, which is why she loves the benefits of witch hazel. Thayers Witch Hazel, available at HPC, is the only brand she knows of that contains natural tannins, referred to in peer-reviewed studies as a vital healing ingredient.]