We choose every ingredient for each product intentionally. Each component chosen to be included in a Cordial Organics product offers stand alone benefits worth noting. In this post, we would like to explore why we chose witch hazel as part of our Refresh Hydrosol formulation. Witch hazel when combined with the other ingredients in Refresh results in a therapeutic product that we promise you will love (If you require a refresher on what a hydrosol is, visit this blog post we wrote about hydrosols).
Witch Hazel the Plant
Three different species of the woody flowering shrub witch hazel can be found in North America. Names include: Witch-Hazel, Witch Hazels, and the genus name hamamelis which is Latin and means service tree.
Witch hazel is found growing wild all over the East Coast and is happy in gardening zones 5-8. The shrub can reach 15 ft in height and prefers well-drained moist soil and part shade.
The US Forest Service describes American Witch Hazel as “Extraordinary in its flowering pattern.” The bright yellow flowers, which bloom in late fall, are pollinated by moths. The late blooming shrub occasionally is referred to as WinterBloom. Note, witch hazel will not bloom until the plant is six years old.
In addition to the three North American species of witch hazel, both China and Japan can claim their very own species.
Folklore surrounding Witch Hazel
Early European settlers in North America witnessed Native American people using the branches of witch hazel as divining rods to determine water sources underground. The limbs chosen by Native Americans were forked and the branch would bend when water was detected underground. The Europeans were impressed and not only exported this practice back to the European continent but also adopted the use of witch-hazel divining rods to locate water before digging to establish wells for farmland. A modicum of science and a whole lot of historical lore and there you have it: A water witch.
Despite years of practical use, in 1917 the US Geological Survey released a publication that revealed their stance and stated there was no substantial proof that “dowsing” or water witching was a reliable method for determining water beneath ground.
Witch Hazel as Folk Medicine
The early European settlers to North America must have concluded that witch-hazel was pure magic. Not only could the branches assist in locating unseen water, but it could remedy those pesky hemorrhoids (let’s face it: Traveling by horse and / or ship is unkind to the bum). Early European settlers observed Native Americans using witch hazel to treat sore muscles, stomach issues such as dysentery as well as all sorts of skin irritations.
Tannins in Witch Hazel
Why does witch hazel offer so many therapeutic benefits for the skin? The short answer: Tannins. Tannins when applied topically offer skin a lot of benefits. Witch hazel naturally contains 8-12% antioxidant rich tannins.
Tannins are all natural and the compounds in a plant or food that make it bitter. Tannins can be found in nuts, legumes, herbs, fruit, spices, and vegetables. You may be acquainted with the tannins found in red wine which make red wine dry. The more tannins the drier the wine.
Tannins are often isolated and used in cosmetics and listed as tannic acid. While tannic acid sounds scary at first glance, it is completely natural and in fact, therapeutic. Tannic acid is sometimes referred to as a polyphenol which is another term for describing a naturally occurring organic compound.
Tannins or tannic acid, can be one of the best ingredients you can apply for your skin’s health.
Witch Hazel is a Natural Astringent
It is the astringent qualities of witch hazel that can also benefit the skin. An astringent is a naturally occurring chemical (in this case) liquid based and acts to constrict tissues. The word derives from the Latin adstringere, which means “to bind fast”. An astringent can shrink pores, remove excess oil and does not dry out the skin.
Witch Hazel and your Skin
The astringent qualities along with the sensitizing tannins found in witch hazel offer so many benefits for topical application:
- The tannic acid in witch hazel has antimicrobial properties
- Tannins contain anti-inflammatory properties that can help minimize redness and inflammation.
- Tannins also act as an antioxidant against free radicals and can reduce cellular damage
- Witch hazel can reduce breakouts and acne, blemishes or razor bumps
- The astringent nature of witch hazel can tighten the skin
- Witch hazel can promote the healing of wounds, burns and bug bites
Originally, European settlers boiled (distilled) witch hazel twigs when they bloomed to extract the goodness. In 1846, witch hazel became the first mass marketed toiletry in the United States. The original label named it Golden Treasure.
So brilliant is witch hazel that after all this time it has earned its rightful place on every modern day drugstore shelf and can be found in my medicine cabinet – yours too?
Witch Hazel in Refresh Hydrosol
A toner is useful and arguably necessary in skincare rituals -we use a hydrosol as toner before applying Nourish Facial Oil which hydrates the skin so that it can absorb the moisturizing oil thoroughly. When we formulated Refresh Hydrosol, we wanted to offer a toner that was the best ever toner in the world – anti-inflammatory, astringent, and hydrated the skin. Beyond the functional qualities, we wanted it to smell fantastic. It was clear to us that witch hazel would be part of the whole. Hello and thank you Refresh Hydrosol for all you do. We like to imagine Refresh Hydrosol not only in your bathrooms but also at your desk and in the center console of your car as you commute hydrating you throughout the day, keeping you fresh.