Natural products you can make at home will always be healthier than products you can purchase from stores, whether online or locally. Use these directions to make your own homemade witch hazel that you can grow in your garden to use for your DIY skincare recipes.
About Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is a small shrub (hamamelis virginiana). Its bark, leaves, and flowers have all been used in herbal remedies and skin care products. Witch hazel has a drying effect because it contains large amounts of tannins, making it an excellent astringent.
Witch hazel, also commonly known as spotted alder, striped alder, and winter bloom, is one of those plants that is really useful to have in the medicine cabinet, and I wondered to myself if it’s something that one could make at home.
Historically, witch hazel is a plant commonly used by Native Americans. They used a distillate of the plant to treat wounds, tumors, and other issues. Both the bark and the leaves are highly astringent, though the bark is most often used.
Why Use Witch Hazel
Whether or not you homestead, chances are there will be skin health needs, DIY cleaning needs, and wound caring needs to tend to.
Research shows hydrogen peroxide and plain rubbing alcohol applied to wounds may do more harm than good, leaving witch hazel a better option, with generations of proven safe use. In addition to cleaning wounds, it can be soothing for hemorrhoids or as a skin toner, with moisturizer applied afterward to prevent skin drying out. (More uses are listed at the end of this post.)
Another concern is that the witch hazel you buy in the stores may only have a tiny trace amount of the actual witch hazel plant in it, may have unnecessary additives, and is significantly more expensive. If you make it yourself you’ll always know exactly what is in your own supply.
Foraging Witch Hazel
Witch hazel grows wild throughout northeastern and southeastern North America -exceptionally well in the Appalachian Mountains – and thrives in moist habitats, such as stream banks or damp woods.
A great way to spot a witch hazel plant in your area is to search shaded forests in late October or early November for the only blossoming plant. The witch hazel plant blooms instead of dropping its leaves for the winter. Witch hazel can be found as either a large shrub or a small tree, displaying bright yellow flowers throughout the cold winter months.
If you can’t find any wild-grown witch hazel in your foraging endeavors, you may choose to plant your own Witch Hazel bushes at home.
Grow Your Own Witch Hazel Plants
If you’re interested in growing witch hazel in your garden, you may order them online for approximately $14 each. They’re typically hardy in zones 5-8 and do well in part sun to full shade.
It makes a beautiful, multi-purpose ornamental shrub with many medicinal and cosmetic uses.
Purchase Witch Hazel Bark and Leaves
Suppose you can’t find witch hazel in your area and want to test out your DIY skills by making your own astringent before committing to gardening your plants. In that case, you may purchase witch hazel plant material from various places, including local herbalists and some health stores. Mountain Rose Herbs is my favorite online store to buy dried witch hazel bark and witch hazel leaves.
Tips for Harvesting Witch Hazel
Distinguishing between North American and Asian witch hazels (H. mollis) is imperative. Only the American witch hazel will yield the astringent. It’s easy to tell them apart. American witch hazel blooms in the fall (October through December), while Asian witch hazels bloom during the winter (January through March).
Traditionally, witch hazel bark is gathered and dried in the early spring or late fall. Harvesting in the late fall will make a more potent tonic.
Easy DIY Witch Hazel Recipe
Making your own witch hazel is simple, gives you assurance of its purity, and is helpful to keep on hand for numerous uses and DIY solutions.
Native Americans used the astringent to treat skin conditions and made it by boiling whole pieces of stems and branches. Now, it is common to only use the bark and the layer below the bark by cutting off a few branches and peeling the bark from them. You may either dry the bark for later use or use it fresh.
Equipment and Supplies You’ll Need to DIY Witch Hazel Astringent
- A 2-gallon stainless steel pot
- Fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
- Glass storage jar
- 1 lb twigs from shrubs as soon as they have flowered (produces the strongest tonic)
- Distilled water
Yield: one gallon
7 Steps To Make Witch Hazel Astringent
- Prune one pound of fresh twigs
- Strip off the leaves and flowers (save these for sachets) and chop the twigs into a coarse mulch using either a mechanical mulcher or pruning clippers.
- Place the chopped twigs into a two-gallon stainless steel pot.
- Cover the twigs with distilled water (available at the supermarket) and bring the contents to a boil.
- Reduce heat to simmer, then cover and cook for at least eight hours; add water as needed to cover the mulch.
- Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
- Pour the witch hazel tonic through a funnel containing a cheesecloth filter and into clean plastic squeeze bottles or other suitable, tightly-capped containers.
Use the tonic within a week unless it is kept refrigerated.
You may preserve your tonic for long-term room temperature storage by adding nine ounces of vodka or grain alcohol to 23 ounces of witch hazel tonic. If you have sensitive skin, you should skip the alcohol. Adding alcohol for preservation may cause dry skin.
Warning: Do NOT use it internally! Keep out of the reach of children.
Contraindications: Internal consumption should be done in moderation for short periods of time, and under the care of an experienced herbalist or naturopathic doctor. The tannins in witch hazel may cause stomach and liver irritation. Never take internally if you add isopropyl alcohol!!
After your mixture has simmered for 8 hours or overnight, strain out the bark using cheesecloth or a coffee filter and store your witch hazel water in a glass jar such as a mason jar.
Store it in the refrigerator or a dry, cool place.
Using Your Witch Hazel Tonic
Once you’ve got your own supply of witch hazel you can use it as an ingredient in other products. Moreover, astringents are good at tightening pores and this can be applied to any kind of leaky or loose tissue condition. Therefore, I use this tonic as the base for our facial astringents. I love to teach my community how to make these with fresh, local ingredients or a simple combination of essential oils. These astringents act to close the pores in our skin after a gentle wash and prevent dirt and grime from building up.
DIY Recipes and Ideas for How To Use Witch Hazel
- DIY Facial Toner
- DIY Insect Repellant Spray
- Homemade Linen Spray
- Makeup remover
- Use in your DIY rose water recipe
- Homemade deodorant
- Homemade “Tucks” Cooling Pads for hemorrhoid relief
- Clean scrapes
- Help ease swelling and inflammation
- Acne treatment
- Oily skin cleanser
- Reduce the appearance of varicose veins
- Eliminate under-eye puffiness
- Sooth wounds
- Stop an itch
- Help dry up poison ivy
- Refine your pores, and reduce their size
- Astringent/skin refresher
- Use to rinse your hair to prevent frizz
- Balance out skin moisture
- Reduce dandruff
- Help relieve the redness/appearance of pimples
- Soothe skin irritations
- Minimize varicose veins
- Treat chickenpox blisters
- Soothe sunburn (especially helpful to blend with aloe vera)
- Aftershave to prevent razor burn after shaving
- Remove the sting from insect bites
- Soothe psoriasis, eczema, and other forms of dermatitis [source]
- Support your postpartum body with a DIY perineum spray or soak cotton pads in witch hazel for DIY witch hazel pads.
- DIY soothing compress for perinatal tears
- Jewelry Cleaner
- Bathroom cleaner (mix with baking soda)
- Thin out paint
- Floor cleaner (mixed with a bucket of water)
- Stain remover (mix with white toothpaste)
- Make a disinfectant and sanitizer
- DIY hand sanitizer
- Streak-free cleaner for chrome
- Eyeglass and mirror cleaner
- Soak on cotton balls in a plastic bag to take hiking for first aid needs
- Make your own herb-infused witch hazel for DIY beauty products
- 2 oz spritzer bottle
Homemade witch Hazel spray ingredients
- 2 Tbsp Witch Hazel Tonic (from recipe above)
- distilled water (enough to fill the bottle)
- 8-10 drops of your favorite essential oil
Directions to make homemade witch Hazel astringent spray
Pour the witch hazel into a small spritzer bottle. Add 8-10 drops of your favorite essential oil (I love using frankincense and geranium). Fill the bottle the rest of the way with distilled water.
Store this natural astringent spritzer in a cool dark place or in the refrigerator.
Don’t want to make your witch hazel? The witch hazel from Mountain Rose Herbs is double distilled and made with cane alcohol instead of rubbing alcohol, which is much better for your skin.
A Note From Nicole
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