Witch Hazel – an ancient, efficacious remedy for skin ailments.

Witch Hazel

Witch HazelThe witch hazel shrub (Hamamelis virginiana), which is native to North America, is also known as winterbloom or spotted alder. The leaves and bark are used to make an astringent extract, also called witch hazel, which was used medicinally by Native Americans long before European settlers arrived on the continent. The Native American tradition was to steam the twigs to extract the useful compounds.

To this day, witch hazel extract remains a component of a several commercial healthcare products. It can also be purchased in a relatively pure form, from most pharmacies and drug stores.

Wikipedia states: ‘The essential oil of witch hazel is not sold separately as a consumer product. The plant does not produce enough essential oil to make production viable, however, there are various distillates of witch hazel (called hydrosols or hydrolats) that… contain alcohol. … Witch hazel is mainly used externally on sores, bruises, and swelling.’

Douglas Harper, in the Online Etymology Dictionary (2001) explains that the term ‘witch’, in this case, has its origins in Middle English ‘wiche’, from the Old English ‘wice’, meaning ‘pliant’ or ‘bendable’.
Our modern word ‘wicker’, (defined as pliable twigs, typically of willow, plaited or woven to make items such as furniture and baskets) evolved from the same root.

For people who suffer from histamine intolerance, the gentle, healing properties of witch hazel liquid from the druggist can be of great benefit. When dabbed on itchy skin, it can greatly ameliorate symptoms. One patient with an itchy scalp, who had tried every prescription treatment to no avail, cured her condition by rinsing her hair every day for a fortnight with witch hazel.

Liquid witch hazel hydrosol is a strong anti-oxidant and astringent. It can help soothe ‘weeping’ or oozing dermatitis, reduce inflammation in contact dermatitis, and for many people it relieves the itching of perioral dermatitis and atopic eczema. It is frequently used to treat psoriasis, shaving rash, excess sweating of the face, cracked or blistered skin, insect stings and bites, allergies to plants such as poison ivy, varicose veins and hemorrhoids, and to reduce swelling and soothe wounds.

Witch hazel is inexpensive, natural and gentle; a boon to those with histamine intolerance who often endure itching skin.

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Chemicals in baby products increase allergies

Baby wipes linked to rise in skin problems

The Sydney Morning Herald
March 3, 2014
Bridie Smith Science Editor, The Age

Dermatologists are reporting increasing numbers of parents and carers presenting with skin problems linked to using disposable baby wipes.

In a research letter published in The Medical Journal of Australia on Monday, dermatologist Rosemary Nixon from the Skin and Cancer Foundation reports that an ingredient used to prevent bacterial infection in moist wipes is now the most common cause of dermatitis in patients sampled.

The preservative, methylisothiazolinone or MI, accounted for 11.3 per cent of skin reactions in 353 patients seen at two clinics last year, up on 8.4 per cent in 2012 and 3.5 per cent in 2011.

“We’re seeing an increasing number of allergic reactions,” she said. “It could be because the concentration might be too high because it’s been on the skin too long, or because the skin is damaged, allowing the chemical to get through the epidermal barrier.”

Professor Nixon said patch testing for the ingredient started in 2011, after similar reports surfaced in Europe. She said the trend was also occurring in the US where, like in Australia, the preservative has been used in a range of water-based products, including cosmetics and personal products such as deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, sunscreens and moisturisers since the early 2000s. Professor Nixon said she expected dermatitis caused by using wet wipes was probably under-diagnosed in adults, with many people putting the allergic reaction down to other factors because the red itchy rash appeared up to 48 hours after contact. In infants, an allergic reaction might be put down to nappy rash.

“I’m sure we only see the tip of the iceberg in our clinic; there’s probably a bit more out there than people realise,” she said.

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