Witch hazel has antibacterial, antimicrobial and astringent properties, which make it an effective treatment for a number of medical and cosmetic skin problems, according to Women's Health. It is an inexpensive and effective form of first aid for skin.
Witch hazel derives from the dried bark, twigs, and leaves of the witch hazel shrub, which is present in damp woods in certain parts of North America, as explained by Best Plants. Native Americans used the shrub for medicinal purposes, and people later integrated it into modern health care products. Witch hazel treats razor burn and sunburn, poison ivy and poison oak, chickenpox, dry skin and bruises. It also soothes diaper rash, external hemorrhoids, varicose veins, cuts and bug bites. It shrinks pores, helps skin maintain its elasticity, reduces acne, eliminates bags under the eyes, and locks moisture in the skin. There are few clinical studies that support these uses of witch hazel, advises Drugs.com.
Witch hazel is exclusively a topical treatment except for rectal suppositories that contain 0.1 to 1 gram of witch hazel per dose, as Drugs.com states. People should not take witch hazel orally, as there is a high tannin content in the shrub's bark. The known side effect of witch hazel is potential allergic reaction with topical use.