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!