You’ve probably walked down your local pharmacy and have seen medicines with a big label: WITCH HAZEL. Yes, that witch hazel is the same witch hazel described on this website! Witch hazel, like many other plants including St. John's Wort, the White Willow and the Cocoa Plant, has many medicinal aspects to it with many benefits towards humans. The most common human uses of witch hazel are treatment, therapy and pain relief of skin issues.  Lotions and salves containing oils from leaves, twig and bark of witch hazel can be applied to skin to treat sun burn, razor burn and many more skin irritations. This is thought to be due to the fact that the leaves, twigs and bark of witch hazel contain a high concentration of tannin, which is an astringent (Deters et al. 2001). The uses of witch hazel are similar to the more commonly known Aloe Vera.

Other than the common dermatology use witch hazel also has a more hidden benefit towards humans. It was found recently that witch hazel has the potential to have anti-tumor properties toward malignant colon cells. Witch hazel oils were found to have inhibiting effects of cell proliferation of colon cancer cells. These oils were also found to be quite efficient in causing cell suicide in colon cancer cells (Lizarraga et al. 2008). Inhibiting cell proliferation in colon tumor cells ensures no more cells will be made, not allowing the tumor to grow. While increasing cell suicide kills off many of the tumor cells found in the colon. Witch hazel is NOT a cure to cancer, but these findings give hope to finding one.

We, humans, are not the only ones that benefit from witch hazel. The fruit of witch hazel, described on the reproduction page, serves as food for many small mammals including deer, beavers and hares. Also, witch hazel seeds serve as the main nutrition for weevil larva in a parasitic relationship. Weevil beetles will lay eggs right on the witch hazel fruit’s surface. The egg will hatch and the larva will makes its way into the fruit, remember this is where the two seeds are housed. The weevil larva will grow inside the fruit while it feeds on the seeds. Once the weevil is mature it will pop out of the fruit, leaving the fruit dead (De Steven 1982).

Poor witch hazel right? Many species benefit from the injuring of witch hazel. Well, don’t feel too sorry for the witch hazel because they too can have adverse affects on many organisms.  For example, witch hazel competes for light and moisture with many of its shorter neighbors. Witch hazel benefits from the extra light intake while decreasing the light exposure to many other organisms.

For some spooky facts about witch hazel, click here. Or go back to the Homepage.