True Witch Hazel Hydrosol can be hard to find. It has a short shelf life and many aromatherapy suppliers sell it as a distillate with something added, usually alcohol, as a preservative. I was however, able to find the true hydrosol listed on Nature’s Gift.com in the US, and The Aromatherapist.com in Canada.
Plant Description: Witch hazel is a deciduous shrub growing between 10 – 25 feet tall. The genus name, Hamamelis means ‘together with fruit’ and refers to the simultaneous occurrence of flowers with the maturing fruit from the previous year.
The leaves and bark of the North American witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, were used in folk medicine, herbalism, and skincare decoctions by Native Americans, and is commonly used for folk remedies in the European Union. Extracts of witch-hazel may be used as a remedy for psoriasis and eczema, in aftershave and ingrown nail applications, to prevent dehydration of skin, and for insect bites and poison ivy.
Witch-hazel is available in the form of a semisolid ointment, cream, gel, or salve for topical use. The ointment may ease discomfort from post-partum vaginal soreness and hemorrhoids.
Aroma and Taste: Suzanne Catty describes this as having a very delicate herbaceous aroma, with a slight woody edge. Smelling plant-like without being overly green.
Stability and Shelf Life: Moderately unstable lasts eight to twelve months.
Please note ‘witch hazel’ sold in pharmacies and health food stores is not a hydrosol. This product typically contains between 10 – 30% alcohol.
pH: 4.0 – 4.2
Witch Hazel hydrosol has analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, antioxidant, antiseptic, astringent, cicatrizant, cooling, sedative, styptic and tonic properties.
Suzanne Catty recommends using this hydrosol topically. She continues that witch hazel is possibly the strongest anti-oxidant hydrosol. Used in topical application it can reduce redness, rashes, itching, swelling and scaling of the skin. It can also heal cracked or blistered skin. It can also be extremely good for soothing eczema and psoriasis, alone or combined with yarrow. She recommends witch hazel hydrosol, with its powerful anti-inflammatory and cicatrizant properties as an effective wound wash and antiseptic. It also calms bites and stings. Its astringent properties are helpful when dealing with varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Along with rock rose (cistus) she recommends it as being important for antiaging substances.
Jeanne Rose says that this hydrosol with its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antifungal properties can be used in a spray for varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
Len and Shirley Price share a study done on witch hazel by Korting et al (1993) which compared the anti-inflammatory properties of witch hazel with hydrocortisone cream and concluded that although not as efficient as hydrocortisone, witch hazel was effective and offered the advantage of not having the serious adverse side effects of hydrocortisone, such as skin atrophy and suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system. They also suggest that according to Bartram (1995) cotton wool saturated in witch hazel and used to plug the nostril can be an effective treatment for nose bleeds.
Naturesgift.com quotes Jeanne Rose as suggesting that true Witch Hazel Hydrosol is the number one hydrosol for radiation treatment. While Madeleine Kerkhof-Knapp Hayes recommends it as one of the best hydrosols for soothing itching, either alone or combined with Helichrysum, Lavender, or German Chamomile hydrosols.
More about Hydrosols
Reference Suzanne Catty, Hydrosols, The Next Aromatherapy, Healing Arts Press, 2001 Beverley Hawkins, Essential Oils and Carriers, Aromatherapy 101, Aromatherapy 201, Aromatherapy 301, 1999-2018 Len and Shirley Price, Understanding Hydrolats Churchill Livingstone, 2004 Jeanne Rose, 374 Essential Oils and Hydrosols, Frog Ltd, 1999