Witch hazel is used topically to remedy minor skin ailments, such as sunburn, acne, burns, insect bites and varicose veins and has been used to treat fever. Witch hazel also has an astringent and toner affect on the skin due to the tannins it contains, and some also find it to be a useful sunscreen. Some use witch hazel internally for diarrhea, colds and cancer, which may be risky.
Witch hazel is effective for minor skin conditions but should not be used for chronic conditions unless a doctor has been consulted, cautions Cathy Wong, ND, in About.com Alternative Medicine. Consuming witch hazel is not recommended due to the risk of vomiting, constipation and liver damage. Distilled witch hazel extract mixed with alcohol and water may be applied to the forehead as a cold compress for fever, suggests holistic healing expert Phylameana lila Desy in About.com Holistic Healing.
The astringent features in witch hazel also are used to treat hemorrhoids. It is distilled in a liquid or ointment and applied to the anal area to reduce the swelling and itching symptoms, and it may also decrease the pain and bleeding, About.com states. Witch hazel applied with pads as a compress also is an effective hemorrhoid treatment.