Sunday, March 7, 2010

Witch hazel!

I realized when writing a post on toners that I had failed to write up the post on witch hazel. So here it is...Join me tomorrow for more fun formulating with extracts!

Witch hazel (INCI: Hamamelis virginiana) can be found as an extract or steam distilled water and is reputed to do many wonderful things. It is a great astringent, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant that is reported to have good circulation, wound healing, and and bruise healing effects.

Witch hazel's astringency comes from the 7% to 10% tannins found in the hydrosol. It contains proanthocyanins, which play a role in the stabilization of collagen and elastin in our skin, help the body produce histamine to prevent allergic reactions, and work as powerful anti-oxidants. And it contains a special tannin called hamamelitannin, which is a very strong anti-inflammatory and astringent.

It contains some great flavonoids like quercetin, which is a great anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and (possible) anti-viral, and kaempferol, which is a strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. Gallic acid is a great wound and burn healer, good anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory.

Witch hazel is often used in treatments for cellulite and varicose veins because it stimulates blood circulation and is a good venous constrictor. For these reasons, it is a great ingredient in bruise lotions or tonics. It can reduce swelling of tissues and offer a cooling feeling, which is why it is included in so many haemorrhoid medications and throat soothing preparations. (I really don't encourage you to make your own haemorrhoid medications, although I do have a formula for a suppository if you are really gung-ho about this!)

Be aware that the witch hazel you purchase in the drug store is generally steam distilled with added alcohol. It doesn't tend to contain those great tannins, so the alcohol is added to give the sensation of astringency. The stuff we get from our suppliers is the extract, so it contains all the lovely stuff I've mentioned above.

Consider adding witch hazel to toners, after shave lotions, and bruise tonics or lotions. If you need soothing of redness, astringency, or increased circulation, witch hazel is the ingredient to add! Witch hazel is a very non-irritating ingredient - most, if not all, people can tolerate it - and it has some great anti-inflammatory ingredients that may help with allergic reactions (skin, not anaphylactic shock!)

Join me tomorrow for fun with hydrosols!


pearlyn said...

hello. leave in lotion is supposed to be white in color right? mine turn out yellowish. could it be due to the 40% of oils & butter?

if i let it heat & stay for 40 mins instead of 20 mins than pour water into the oil/butter, will i have any side effects?

thanks soo much.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

It depends on the butters and oils. If you were to use something like carrot tissue oil (orange-y colour, full of carotenes), you'd have a yellowish lotion. So the colours of your initial ingredients can have an impact on the final colour of your lotion.

As for the heating and holding, as long as you don't over heat them or burn them, you should be okay.

Anonymous said...

have you heard of a preservative called geogard ultra? can this be used for hair products, in conjunction with btms-50?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I've never used Geogard Ultra, but here's a link to the PDF at lotion crafter - data bulletin on Geogard Ultra. It says it is compatible with hair care products, including shampoos (anionic) and conditioners (cationic), so yay! And you could use it in a lotion in which you use BTMS-50.

More Cowbell said...

I just ordered 3 gallons of witch hazel hydrosol from this place:

I've been looking for a witch hazel extract or hydrosol without alcohol for ages. Theirs is certified organic and is pretty concentrated so good aroma as well as benefits.

No, this isn't an ad for them. I'm just so tickled to find this after looking for literally years. The owner is very nice and is trying to bring some other organic distillers on board so she can offer more products. I'm willing to support that! :)

Just thought you'd like to know.

jaclyn said...

when you say extract vs steam distilled do you mean an alchol extract?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jaclyn. No, I mean that it has alcohol added to it. Products like this one (chosen randomly from contain alcohol. You want to get the stuff from your supplier that doesn't contain alcohol.

Anonymous said...

I love the versatility of witch hazel hydrosol, thank you for your post. Do you know if using this hydrosol in a large batch of clay face mask, would it require a preservative? Thanks so much!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. Clay masks require a ton of preserving if you're adding anything liquid to them, so regardless of what you're adding to the clay, I'd use the highest level possible of your chosen preservative. Believe me, when you see a clay mask go green and fuzzy on you in a few weeks - even in the fridge! - you'll want to use the maximum safe preservative you can!

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan, in one of your blog I read "don't mix witch hazel with potassium sorbate" but I couldn't find the reason or i am mistaken? Because I use citric acid and potassium sorbate as a mild preservative. I try to mix
potassium sorbate with witch hazel for face mist but they didn't mix together but I used in lotion and it worked.I just wanted to know if the quate is true what is the reason I shouldn't mix them together ? thanks a lot

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I don't remember anything about potassium sorbate and witch hazel, so if you have a post to which you can refer me, I'd appreciate it! I have done a search, but that also came up with nothing. I can't be certain, but I don't think I said that you couldn't mix witch hazel with potassium sorbate. I can't think of a reason why you wouldn't mix the two...

More Cowbell said...

In this post you say you have a formula for a suppository with witch hazel. Not really interested in the suppository, but I would like to know how to get witch hazel into something solid and with oils, like a stick-type thing. Where would I find that formula?
Thanks, Susan!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi More Cowbell! (I'm sure I've commented on your name before but awesome!) I have created a post with these PDFs here - pharmacy brochures - because there's some really interesting stuff in them! And come on! Don't you want to make your own suppositories? I'm sure there's some group who thinks this is the fad of the year!!!

More Cowbell said...

Thanks for those links, Susan. I did follow the link to Paddock, too. They've apparently been acquired by Perrigo, so, those links may change. But at the moment they're still good.

And I'm certain you're right, that somewhere on the wonderful interwebs there is a sight devoted to the magic of suppositories. ;)

Thanks, again, for being such a great resource and for keeping track of comments even on old posts.

Always.Looking.4.1.More said...

Hi Susan,

Jaclyn's question, your answer to her, and your statement quoted below have left me with a few (more) questions about witch hazel.

"Be aware that the witch hazel you purchase in the drug store is generally steam distilled with added alcohol. It doesn't tend to contain those great tannins, so the alcohol is added to give the sensation of astringency. The stuff we get from our suppliers is the extract, so it contains all the lovely stuff I've mentioned above."

Q: [Per Jaclyn's question] If the extract is not extracted with alcohol, but alcohol is 'added', then what is the extraction method?

Q: [Per your quoted statement] Are you saying that the tannins are destroyed during the steam distillation process? If that's the case, then what extraction method do you know of that retains the good qualities of the witch hazel? I thought that's the method used by the people who claim theirs is organic and doesn't contain any alcohol.

I've been looking for some WH that doesn't contain any alcohol for a while. But each time I hear someone explain WH it leaves me with more questions. Finally, I've decided to buy some WH bark and boil my own. It doesn't seem I will hurt it any worse than the steam distilling will, especially since they have to add alcohol afterward. Besides, how do you make an extract or a hydrosol without using some liquid and heat to make the witch hazel (or any other plant, bark, flower, etc.) usable? Wouldn't that liquid be water or alcohol?

See how confusing it becomes? Please help me understand so I can know I have good WH without the alcohol.

Always Looking For 1 More (way to understand)

More Cowbell said...

Always Looking, have you talked to the folks at:

I bought my organic witch hazel from them and was very happy with it -- no alcohol, certified organic etc. I checked them out a few months ago and they were still there and still making the organic hydrols.

I did not ask about tannins, never even thought about it. But if you haven't already, you might check with them to see what their method is and so on.

Anonymous said...

I am working on an insect repellent using 90% Witch hazel and 10 % EO. Will the two ever blend or will it have to be shaken each time?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous! I have answered your question in today's Weekend Wonderings. The short answer, you need a solubilizer or they won't mix.

When you comment again, can you leave your name somewhere? I don't normally allow anonymous posts because anonymity doesn't really add much to a sense of community, but it certainly detracts from it!

Anonymous said...

Any experience with witch hazel bark powder? I'm trying to get past the witch hazel scent and was wondering if this still has the smell after dissolved. I'm also wondering if this have all the same great properties as the steam distilled extract?


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Andrew. I honestly don't know. Without a sample of the stuff and the data bulletin, it's hard to offer any information. I'm not the biggest fan of witch hazel smell either, so I get your concerns. But biological things have such different make-ups from manufacturer to manufacturer - even from batch to batch of the same product - that it's hard to make that kind of assessment.

What I can say is that I have found very few of my powdered extracts smell of anything at all, let alone anything I would associate with the original thing (for instance, banana or strawberry or rosemary), although I notice chamomile still has that musty smell!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your insight Susan! I think I will go the tincture path for the witch hazel for now. I've read that it works really well to get rid of that scent of witch hazel.

Thanks again and love your blog.


Matter Company said...

Hi Susan I wanted to make a cooling spay using witch hazel distillate and calendula flowers. I was going to infuse the calendula in the witch hazel distillate do you know if its okay to heat the witch hazel in a water bath to extract the herb into the formula? Sincerely Denise

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan!

First of all, thank you for your blog. I'm learning a lot! I'm from the Netherlands and I haven't found any good, complete and most of all understandable websites in Dutch about making cosmetics at home. Good thing I've learned some English in high school!

I'm confused about witch hazel. According to Paula Begoun, (love the website and products), witch hazel isn't such a good thing:

What do you think about this information?


Yes, that's a weird name. It's old Dutch. You pronounce it as in 'not yet'. Not that you need to pronounce it, but i felt like mentioning it ;)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jet! I disagree with Paula based on the research I've done on witch hazel, which I note in the post above. I'll put it on the to-do list to look into witch hazel again to see if there's more information on the topic that I haven't seen before, but what I've read about witch hazel indicates it's full of great stuff!

Lainie G said...

I'm making an insect repellant with essential oils and witch hazel. Would I need to add a preservative? What would you suggest as a solubilizer?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Lainie. Yes. If you have a product that contains water soluble ingredients, you must have a preservative. I suggest checking out the label "solubilizer" or doing a search for the word to see what solubilizers are available to us and what work might work well for you.

Michelle le said...

Hello Susan, if steam distilled extraction method for witch hazel isnt recommended. What extraction method should i look for when buying witch hazel product?

You said: "The stuff we get from our suppliers is the extract, so it contains all the lovely stuff I've mentioned above"

I am still confused after reading that part. I am in texas and hard to find the right witch hazel.

Thank you for your post!

MiteLie said...

Hai Susan,

I live in southeast asia which is i can't find witch hazel in my country. Do u have any suggestion alternative of witch hazel in same way they treating ance and oily skin? Some said using rose water, but I'm afraid it could make my skin more soggy/muddy..?

Mite Lie