Witch Hazel [Hamamelis virginiana]
HEALTH BENEFITS AND SIDE EFFECTS
Witch Hazel [Hamamelis virginiana] HEALTH
BENEFITS AND SIDE EFFECTS
Witch Hazel grows in North America and Europe. Native Americans believe
that its leaves and bark may have benefits on hemorrhoids, wounds,
painful tumors, insect bites, and skin ulcers.  Some studies have shown
its anti-inflammatory activities. [2,3] A study showed its benefits of topical
use on eczema while another trial didn't. [4,5] Actually, there is a report
that Witch Hazel caused contact dermatitis or allergy.  Side Effects of
the internal use of Witch Hazel include stomach irritation and cramping.
How does Witch Hazel benefit skin conditions?
Extracts from Witch Hazel bark have long been used in therapy of skin
diseases and in cosmetic formulas. Researchers from Glycopharmacy
Research Group, Switzerland, isolated two major classes of constituents,
namely polymeric proanthocyanidins and polysaccharides from Witch Hazel
bark. They found that the proanthocyanidins strongly increased the
proliferation of the cultured human keratinocytes, but not influenced the
differentiation significantly. Within a preliminary cumulative in vivo study on
SLS-irritated skin, researchers proved that proanthocyanidins
(ProcyanoPlus) could reduce transepidermal water loss and erythema
formation. Furthermore, a clinical scoring indicated that procyanidins could
influence irritative processes significantly. 
TNF and actinomycin D caused significant DNA fragmentation and
cytotoxicity of EAhy926 endothelial cell. Researchers from The University of
Greenwich, UK, found that hamamelitannin from Witch Hazel inhibited the
TNF-mediated endothelial cell death and DNA fragmentation in a dose-
dependent manner. The observed anti-TNF activity of hamamelitannin may
explain the antihamorrhaegic use of Witch Hazel in traditional medicine and
its claimed use as a protective agent for UV radiation.
Why some people believe that Witch Hazel may have anti-cancer activities?
Researchers from Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg,
Germany, showed the antimutagenic activities of a commercial tincture and
a methanolic extract in a dose-dependent fashion. The mutagenicity was
induced by 2-nitrofluorene. However, They found tannin-free samples did
not display any inhibition. Bioassay-guided fractionation resulted in the
isolation of two active fractions which were shown to contain oligomeric,
proanthocyanidins. They were capable of inhibiting the mutagenicity of
selected nitroaromatic compounds. The proanthocyanidins acted as direct-
acting desmutagens. The antimutagenic effect increased with an increasing
degree of polymerisation in the proanthocyanidins. The most active fraction
consisted of catechin and gallocatechin oligomers with an average
polymerisation degree of 9.2. 
Witch Hazel may have benefits of antiviral and antiphlogistic activities.
Erdelmeier CA from Dr. Willmar Schwabe Arzneimittel,Germany,
demonstrated that a fraction of Witch Hazel extract had a significant
antiviral activity against Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). In addition, a
concentrate of Witch Hazel extract displayed radical scavenging properties,
inhibited alpha-glucosidase as well as human leukocyte elastase (HLE), and
exhibited strong antiphlogistic effects in the croton oil ear edema test in
the mouse. This concentrate was found to contain mainly hamamelitannin,
catechin, and some unidentified constituents. 
Does Witch Hazel have anti-inflammatory activities?
Researchers from University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK, demostrated the
anti-inflammtory activities of aqueous ethanolic extracts of Witch Hazel in a
study of induced carrageenan rat paw oedema. 
Does Witch Hazel have benefits in diabetes?
In a rat epididymal adipocyte assay, researchers from U.S. Department of
Agriculture noticed the insulin activity of Witch Hazel extract. They found
the extracts they tested contained mainly phenolics. 
What are the active ingredients?
Researchers found that Witch Hazel contains gallic acid, ethyl gallate,
quercetin, and kaempferol. It also contains proanthocyanidins. 
Hamamelitannin seems to be important to its health claims. 
THOUGH WITCH HAZEL SEEMS TO HAVE MANY HEALTH BENEFITS, CLINICAL
STUDIES ARE NEEDED TO PROVE THE CLAIMS. THIS ARTICLE IS FOR YOUR
REFERENCE ONLY. YOU HAVE TO CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FOR ANY
QUESTIONS. BEFOER USING ANY HERBS, CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR. ALL
RIGHTS RESERVED ZHION 2008. DO NOT COPY NOR TRANSFER THE CONTENT OF
THIS ARTICLE TO OTHER WEBSITES. ALL RIGHT RESERVED 2008
References 1. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC
Press, 1985, 221. 2. Bernard P, Balansard P, Balansard G, Bovis A. Venotonic
pharmacodynamic value of galenic preparations with a base of hamamelis leaves. J
Pharm Belg 1972;27:505Â–12. 3. Korting HC, Schafer-Korting M, Hart H, et al. Anti-
inflammatory activity of Hamamelis distillate applied topically to the skin. Eur J Clin
Pharmacol 1993;44:315Â–8. 4. Swoboda M, Meurer J. Treatment of atopic dermatitis
with Hamamelis ointment. Br J Phytother 1991/2;2:128Â–32. 5. Korting HC, Schafer-
Korting M, Klovekorn W, et al. Comparative efficacy of hamamelis distillate and
hydrocortisone cream in atopic eczema. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1995;48:461Â–5. 6.
McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products AssociationÂ’s
Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 105.  Deters A, et
al, High molecular compounds (polysaccharides and proanthocyanidins) from
Hamamelis virginiana bark: influence on human skin keratinocyte proliferation and
differentiation and influence on irritated skin.Phytochemistry. 2001 Nov;58(6):949-
58.  Habtemariam S.Hamamelitannin from Hamamelis virginiana inhibits the
tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF)-induced endothelial cell death in vitro.Toxicon.
2002 Jan;40(1):83-8.  Kostalova D, Misikova E, Gaborova G.Polyphenol
compounds from Hamamelis virginiana L.Ceska Slov Farm. 2001 Jan;50(1):51-3.
 Dauer A, Metzner P, Schimmer O.Proanthocyanidins from the bark of
Hamamelis virginiana exhibit antimutagenic properties against nitroaromatic
compounds.Planta Med. 1998 May;64(4):324-7.  Granlund H.Contact allergy to
witch hazel.Contact Dermatitis. 1994 Sep;31(3):195.  Erdelmeier CA, et al,
Antiviral and antiphlogistic activities of Hamamelis virginiana bark.Planta Med. 1996
Jun;62(3):241-5. Duwiejua M, et al, Anti-inflammatory activity of Polygonum
bistorta, Guaiacum officinale and Hamamelis virginiana in rats. J Pharm Pharmacol.
1994 Apr;46(4):286-90.  Broadhurst CL, et al, Insulin-like biological activity of
culinary and medicinal plant aqueous extracts in vitro.J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Mar;