Also known as Hamamamelis virginiana (Hamamelidaceae), Hamamelis Water, Hazel Nut, Snapping Hazel, Snapping Tobacco Wood, Spotted Alder, Striped Alder, Tobacco Wood, Winter Bloom and Witch Hazel.
Hammamelis is native to the eastern part of North America, from New England to west Minnesota, and was a traditional remedy of many native North Americans. American Indians used poultices soaked in a decoction of bark to treat tumours and inflammations (especially of the eye), and took the herb internally for haemorrhaging and heavy menstrual bleeding.
Hammamelis was introduced in Europe in the 18th century. Frequently labeled as “witch hazel water” topical witch hazel is most commonly used as an astringent to dry and tighten itchy or irritated skin. Certain chemicals in witch hazel cause skin proteins to tighten and make a thicker layer over the damaged tissue. They may also give witch hazel some mild anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, but these possible effects have not been studied extensively.
Witch hazel is often used to stop minor bleeding - applied after shaving, it lessens "razor burn" and controls bleeding from nicks. It may also relieve other minor skin surface irritations such as cold sores, insect bites, scrapes, and sunburn, and is useful in treating bruises and sprains, and the pain associated with them.
Traditionally, witch hazel has been applied to constrict varicose veins and help them return to normal firmness. It is also moderately effective as a compress or an enema to shrink and soothe haemorrhoids. As a mouthwash or gargle, witch hazel water may soothe the gums, mouth, throat and tongue.