In my opinion, one of the most beautiful things about naturopathic medicine is that patient education and home care play a large role in treatment. Throughout my time at CCNM I have been seeing a 4th year intern at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic as well as implementing many of the things I have learned in my classes into my own life! I am continually amazed at how having a few key things in my bathroom and/or kitchen cabinet have become so useful. For me, it has been truly empowering to be able to implement easy, affordable and effective health habits simply by using some very basic products. So far, both of my interns at the clinic have had a very large focus on teaching their patients (me included) how they can make small lifestyle changes that are in-line with their long-term health goals.
I created this blog to share my experiences and growing body of knowledge with you! So, for the next 6 weeks I am going to post about the 6 most useful things I have in my cupboards at home. The first of these is Witch Hazel!
I always have this handy in my bathroom cabinet! Witch Hazel (Latin binomial: Hamamelis virginiana) is mainly used as an astringent because it contains tannins. Why do tannins = astringency? Well, tannins are molecules that interact with proteins and act to tighten superficial cells. This means that when applied to the skin Witch Hazel will help the tissue to contract and thicken, decreasing permeability. Witch Hazel is also a famed anti-inflammatory, making it an excellent topical application for a host of common complaints.
I bought a distilled Witch Hazel (this means it contains 15% alcohol) at the drugstore for maybe $5-8! Probably my personal favourite use for it is when I get a paper cut (maybe more often than those non-students out there!) or when I get razor burn/cut myself while shaving. Because of the tannins, applying some Witch Hazel right after a small cut works wonders! It helps to pull the skin together and stop bleeding. Come on, how many of you have tried the whole, stick a piece of toilet paper to the razor cut, only then to have to pick it off and have it bleed all over again? Ouch! Well, Witch Hazel has become my ‘go to’ for scrapes and cuts.
I’ve also used my Witch Hazel to soothe itchy bug bites, sore bruises and sunburn (it’s also useful when I burn my finger from the oven – this happens alot too! I’m a clumsy cook). And, that is not the end of the list! It can be extremely useful and soothing for canker sores when applied topically; I usually just use a soaked cotton swab and compress over the canker for a few minutes. In my botanical medicine course we also learned that Witch Hazel is a wonderful topical for both varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
While my distilled Witch Hazel is sufficient for most things, when it comes to my face, I use a Witch Hazel floral water instead. I worked for an amazing, Toronto based, all-natural spa during my undergraduate degree. There, I learned that while we often feel the need to dry out oily or blemished skin, using harsh products (like alcohol) is actually very counterproductive. Because Witch Hazel is an astringent and anti-inflammatory it can be both tonifying and soothing when applied as a toner. However, I avoid alcohol containing products and instead use Pure + Simple’s Witch Hazel Hydrosol! I have dry skin but am prone to blemishes, especially from stress, so I do like to have a more astringent toner on hand for those ‘high-stress’ times (hmmm, like exams maybe?). I find this is a particularly useful hydrosol for those prone to open comedomes (blackheads).
Anyways, as you can see Witch Hazel is one of my favourite products and has a list of great uses at my house! Have you used Witch Hazel water? I’d love to hear from you as always!
Reminder: this post is not meant to be construed as medical advice, but only as informational and based on personal experience. For more clarification on this please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
Godfrey, A. & Saunders, P.R. (2010). Principles & practices of naturopathic botanical medicine.Toronto, Canada: CCNM Press Inc.
Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.