Witch hazel, botanically named as Hamamelis virginiana, which belongs to a family Hamadelidaceae. The Atlantic coast of North America is the native place of this plant. It is widely found in Florida, Nova Scotia, Texas. Depending upon the geographical location, the plant and leave structure little varies. The plant may become under a tall shrub or small tree with a height up to 4.6 m tall. The branches of the plant arise from the base. The length of the leaves varies from 1cm to 5 cm long and follow alternate or stipulate arrangement with short petioles. Golden-yellow colored, thread-like flowers and grown as in axillary clusters. The fruit of this is a two-beaked, two-celled, woody capsule. Each cell contains a single black seed. The unusual feature of this plant is both flowers and fruit appear at the same time.
European pharmacopeia has specified the quality specification of Witch hazel. Whereas German Drug Codex has also mentioned the drug quality of Witch hazel bark, Witch hazel leaves fluid extract and Witch hazel bark fluid extract.
This plant parts are used in traditional medicinal practice. Following are some traditional medicinal use of Witch hazel:
- Eye irritation may occur due to smoky atmospheres, prolong swimming in the sea or swimming pool can be treated with Witch hazel leaf. External application of Witch hazel eye formulation provides temporary relief from eye irritation or discomfort.
- Traditional practitioners recommended Witch hazel leaf to treat hemorrhoids symptoms, the sensation of heavy legs. Leaves and bark usually used for preparing formulation to treat hemorrhoids.
- A throat infection can also be treated with Witch hazel containing gargle due to its anti-inflammatory effect.
- Witch hazel bark is recommended for external application to treat small wounds, skin injuries and bruises, atopic dermatitis, skin inflammatory condition, mucous membrane inflammation, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.
- Oral intake of witch hazel bark preparation is recommended to treat diarrhea, hemorrhoids and mucous colitis.
- Traditionally this herbal ingredient is used for cosmetic and skincare purposes to improve skin roughness.
- In folk medicine, Witch hazel formulation is recommended to treat menorrhagia and dysmenorrhoea due to its hemostatic property.
- External application of Witch hazel leaf can treat bruises, sprains, neurodermatitis atopica.
Phytochemicals and their mechanism of action
The active phytochemicals include tannins, primarily hamamelitannins, and catechins. The concentration of flavonoids is more in leaves than the roots. Witch hazel leaves and bark contain tannins, alkanes, volatile oil, volatile terpenes. Volatile phenylpropanoids are only present in the bark.
Different dosage forms
Hamamelitannins and proanthocyanidins are two tannins of witch hazel bark which have a strong anti-inflammatory effect. An in-vitro research study reported that these phytochemicals have a potent inhibitory effect on 5-lipoxygenase activity and platelet-activating factor. These herbal constituents can reduce the production of leukotriene B4, and proanthocyanidins. An animal research study reported that topical application of witch hazel bark confirmed the anti-inflammatory effect.
There are different witch hazel herbal formulations are formulated from leaves and bark.
- For external application leaves, infusion preparation is formulated by cutting witch hazel leaves.
- Creams and ointment prepared from the fluid extract obtained from witch hazel leaves.
- Witch hazel suppositories are prepared from the dried extract of leaves.
- Witch hazel tincture is added in ointments and liquid preparations.
- The distillate forms of leaves and twigs of witch hazel are added to the lotions, liquids and ointment preparations.
- The tea infusion is formulated from witch hazel bark and leaves. The daily recommended dose is 2 to 10 gm thrice a day for compression and rinsing purposes. This infusion can be used as gargles and mouthwashes by pouring 2 to 4g of chopped witch hazel leaves or bark into 250ml of boiling water and strain after 10 minutes.