Botanical name: Hamamelis virginiana
© Steven Foster
Parts used and where grown
Although native to North America, witch hazel now also grows in Europe. The leaves and bark
of the tree are used in herbal medicine.
Witch hazel has been used
in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
Native Americans used poultices of witch hazel leaves and bark to treat hemorrhoids, wounds, painful tumors, insect bites, and skin
Tannins and volatile oils are the main active constituents in witch hazel. These
constituents contribute to the strong astringent effect of witch hazel. Pharmacological
studies have suggested that witch hazel strengthens veins and is
anti-inflammatory.2 3 Topical creams are currently used in Europe to
treat inflammatory skin conditions, such as
eczema. One double-blind trial found that a topical witch hazel ointment (applied four
times per day) was as effective as the topical anti-inflammatory drug bufexamac for people
with eczema.4 However, another trial found that witch hazel was no better than a
placebo when compared to hydrocortisone for people with eczema.5 Witch hazel is
approved in Germany for relief of local mouth inflammations such as canker sores.
How much is usually taken?
A tea of witch hazel can be made by steeping 2–3 grams of the leaves or bark in 150
ml of boiled water for 10 to 15 minutes.6 The tea can be drunk two to three times
daily between meals. A tincture, 2–4 ml three times per day, is also occasionally
In combination with warm, moist compresses, witch hazel extracts can be applied liberally
at least twice each day (in the morning and at bedtime) on hemorrhoids. For other skin problems, ointment or
cream can be applied three or four times a day, or as needed.7
Are there any side effects or interactions?
With internal use, witch hazel may cause stomach irritation and cramping.8 In
particular, it should not be taken internally in combination with medications, supplements or
herbs containing alkaloids, as the tannins in witch hazel may interfere with absorption.
There are no known restrictions to the internal use of witch hazel during pregnancy or breast-feeding.9
Are there any drug
Certain medicines may interact with witch hazel. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.
1. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC
Press, 1985, 221.
2. Bernard P, Balansard P, Balansard G, Bovis A. Venotonic
pharmacodynamic value of galenic preparations with a base of hamamelis leaves. J Pharm
3. Korting HC, Schafer-Korting M, Hart H, et al. Anti-inflammatory
activity of Hamamelis distillate applied topically to the skin. Eur J Clin Pharmacol
4. Swoboda M, Meurer J. Treatment of atopic dermatitis with
Hamamelis ointment. Br J Phytother 1991/2;2:128–32.
5. Korting HC, Schafer-Korting M, Klovekorn W, et al. Comparative
efficacy of hamamelis distillate and hydrocortisone cream in atopic eczema. Eur J
Clin Pharmacol 1995;48:461–5.
6. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded
Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000,
7. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete
Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative
Medicine Communications, 1998, 231.
8. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products
Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 105.
9. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds). American Herbal
Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997,