Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Hamamelis macrophylla

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Depending upon how a preparation is made witch hazel products contain varying amounts of active compounds such as flavonoids, tannins (hamamelitannin and proanthocyanidins), small amounts of volatile oil, and other components, which may be responsible for its astringent action and to stop bleeding. Tannins have been characterized as hamamelitannin and a number of proanthocyanidins. The bark contains 31 times more hamamelitannin than the leaf extract, so plant part used in preparation is important. In distilled witch hazel products much of the tannin content is lost. A recent study shows there may be more at work in witch hazel than has been previously known. A specially filtered fraction of the extract, containing mostly proanthocyandins, was found to have significant anti-viral activity against Herpes simplex virus type 1. The same fraction was also found to have a strong antiphlogistic (inflammation-reducing) effect. In contrast, fractions high in hamamelitannin were found to have weaker antiviral or antiphlogistic activity.


The significant of this study is that it shows that compounds other than tannins may play a role in witch hazel's recognized antiphlogistic effects, as well as newly recognized topical antiviral activity. Such studies serve to improve products available to consumers by helping manufacturers refine extraction processes to enhance the best possible therapeutic results. Antioxidant, radiation-protective, and anti-inflammatory activity have been confirmed.


Recently hamamelitannin and proanthocyanidins isolated from witch hazel were evaluated for their mechanisms of action in reported anti-inflammatory activity. It was found that some proanthocyanidin fractions inhibit inflammatory mediators derived from arachidonic acid and inhibited the formation of platelet-activation factor, a chemical mediator of inflammatory processes. When it is quelled, so is inflammation. Strong antioxidant activity against superoxide (a highly reactive form of oxygen), released by several enzymes during the inflammatory process may also play a role in witch hazel's anti-inflammatory effects. In a recent study, Japanese researchers sought plant compounds that protect cells in skin tissue from damage against harmful forms of oxygen. Witch hazel was found to have strong activity against reactive oxygen in skin tissue. The scientists proposed that witch hazel extracts should be further researched for their potential application in anti-aging or anti-wrinkling products to apply to the skin.


Scientific literature: Toxicon. 2002 Jan;40(1):83-8. Related Articles, Links  Hamamelitannin from Hamamelis virginiana inhibits the tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF)-induced endothelial cell death in vitro. Habtemariam S. School of Chemical and Life Sciences, The University of Greenwich, Wellington Street, London, UK.


The tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF) inhibitory activity of hamamelitannin from Hamamelis virginiana was investigated by assessing the TNF-mediated EAhy926 endothelial cell death and adhesiveness to monocytes. Treatment of the cells by TNF (25 ng/ml) and actinomycin D (0.1ng/ml) resulted in significant DNA fragmentation (34+/-0.6, n=4) and cytotoxicity (97+/-4.5%, n=6) following treatment for 8 and 24h, respectively. One to 100 microM concentrations of hamamelitannin inhibited the TNF-mediated endothelial cell death and DNA fragmentation in a dose-dependent manner. One hundred % protection against TNF-induced DNA fragmentation and cytotoxicity was obtained for hamamelitannin concentrations higher than 10 microM. The protective effect of hamamelitannin was comparable with that of a related compound epigallocatechin gallate while gallic acid was a weak protective agent (<40% protection). EAhy926 endothelial cells upregulated (by 4- to 7-fold) the surface expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and adhesiveness to monocytic U937 cells after treatment with TNF (0.5ng/ml) for 6 or 24h. Concentrations (1-100 microM) of hamamelitannin that inhibited the TNF-mediated cell death and DNA fragmentation, however, failed to inhibit the TNF-induced ICAM-1 expression and EAhy926 cell adhesiveness to U937 cells.

Thus, hamamelitannin inhibits the TNF-mediated endothelial cell death without altering the TNF-induced upregulation of endothelial adhesiveness. The observed anti-TNF activity of hamamelitannin may explain the antihamorrhaegic use of H. virginiana in traditional medicine and its claimed use as a protective agent for UV radiation.



Planta Med. 1996 Jun;62(3):241-5. Related Articles, Links  Antiviral and antiphlogistic activities of Hamamelis virginiana bark. Erdelmeier CA, Cinatl J Jr, Rabenau H, Doerr HW, Biber A, Koch E. Dr. Willmar Schwabe Arzneimittel, Research and Development, Karlsruhe, Germany.


A crude hydroalcoholic extract from Hamamelis virginiana bark was subjected to ultrafiltration (UF) with a cut-off limit of 3 kDa to obtain a higher and a lower molecular weight fraction. Characterisation of the fractions was attempted with TLC, HPLC, acidic hydrolysis, and chromatography over Sephadex LH-20. The UF-concentrate was shown to consist mainly of oligomeric to polymeric proanthocyanidins (PA). This fraction was found to exhibit significant antiviral activity against Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). In addition, the UV-concentrate displayed radical scavenging properties, inhibited alpha-glucosidase as well as human leukocyte elastase (HLE), and exhibited strong antiphlogistic effects in the croton oil ear edema test in the mouse. With the exception of the antioxidant potential and the inhibition of HLE-action the lower molecular fraction possessed weaker activities and contained mainly hamamelitannin, catechin, and further, unidentified constituents.


Phytochemistry. 2001 Nov;58(6):949-58. Related Articles, Links 

High molecular compounds (polysaccharides and proanthocyanidins) from Hamamelis virginiana bark: influence on human skin keratinocyte proliferation and differentiation and influence on irritated skin.

Deters A, Dauer A, Schnetz E, Fartasch M, Hensel A. Hochschule Wadenswil, University of Applied Sciences, Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Glycopharmacy Research Group, Gruental, CH-8820, Wadenswil, Switzerland.


Although extracts from Hamamelis bark have long been used in therapy of skin diseases and in cosmetic formulas there are only few pharmacological investigations verifying the activity of distinct Hamamelis bark constituents. Therefore two major classes of constituents, namely polymeric proanthocyanidins and polysaccharides were isolated from Hamamelis bark and tested concerning their influence on proliferation and differentiation of cultured human keratinocytes. While the polysaccharide fraction, consisting mainly of arabans and arabinogalactans, did not effect human keratinozytes, the proanthocyanidins strongly increased the proliferation of the cells, while the differentiation was not influenced significantly. Within a preliminary cumulative in vivo study on SLS-irritated skin, proanthocyanidins (ProcyanoPlus) were proven to reduce transepidermal water loss and erythema formation. Furthermore, a clinical scoring indicated that procyanidins can influence irritative processes significantly.


Dermatology. 1998;196(3):316-22. Related Articles, Links  Anti-inflammatory effect of hamamelis lotion in a UVB erythema test.

Hughes-Formella BJ, Bohnsack K, Rippke F, Benner G, Rudolph M, Tausch I, Gassmueller J. BioSkin, Institute for Dermatological Research and Development, Hamburg, Germany. BACKGROUND:

Although Hamamelis virginiana has long been used in the traditional treatment of skin diseases, there are few controlled clinical studies defining the extent of its anti-inflammatory action. OBJECTIVE: The anti-inflammatory efficacy of pH5 Eucerin aftersun lotion with 10% hamamelis distillate, the vehicle and a prior aftersun formulation were tested in 30 healthy volunteers using a modified UVB erythema test as model of inflammation.



Four UVB doses ranging from 1 to 2 MED were evaluated in each subject. Test fields on the back were treated occlusively for 48 h following irradiation. Chromametry and visual scoring were used to determine the degree of erythema in the treated fields and an untreated, irradiated control field 7, 24 and 48 h after irradiation.



Erythema suppression ranged from approximately 20% of 7 h to 27% at 48 h in the hamamelis fields. A suppression of 11-15% was recorded in the fields treated with the other lotions. Significant differences were noted between hamamelis and these lotions.



These data provide evidence for an anti-inflammatory action of the aftersun lotion with 10% hamamelis and support the usefulness of the UVB erythema test with multiple UV doses for the testing of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents. J Dermatol Sci. 1995 Jul;10(1):25-34.


Related Articles, Links  Protective activity of hamamelitannin on cell damage of murine skin fibroblasts induced by UVB irradiation. Masaki H, Atsumi T, Sakurai H. Shiga Central Laboratory, Noevir Co. Ltd., Youkaichi, Japan.


The protective activities of hamamelitannin (2',5-di-O-galloyl-hamamelose) in Hamamelis virginiana L. and its related compound, gallic acid, on damaged murine skin fibroblasts induced by UVB irradiation were investigated. In order to exclude the UV absorbing effect of the compounds, the protection study was performed such that the fibroblasts were pretreated with hamamelitannin or gallic acid for 24 h before UVB irradiation. At 200 microM concentration, hamamelitannin gave the higher survival of 72.6 +/- 0.4% in comparison with that of gallic acid (35.5 +/- 1.0%), while UVB absorbers such as 2-ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate and hexylbenzoate did not show such protection. The scavenging activities of hamamelitannin and gallic acid against active oxygens such as superoxide anion radicals, hydroxyl radicals and singlet oxygens were evaluated using electron spin resonance (ESR-spin trapping method).


Hamamelitannin and gallic acid showed potent scavenging activities against all active oxygens tested. Furthermore, the association of hamamelitannin to fibroblasts was examined by comparing it with that of gallic acid, and the following results were obtained: (1) hamamelitannin reduces the reaction rate of liposome entrapped-nitroblue tetrazolium (NBT) with external superoxide anions, and (2) several glycosides associate with fibroblasts.

From these results, it was concluded that hamamelitannin protects murine fibroblasts against external active oxygens by associating with the cell surface through its sugar moiety.


Phytother Res. 2000 Dec;14(8):612-6. Related Articles, Links  Antioxidants in medicinal plant extracts. A research study of the antioxidant capacity of Crataegus, Hamamelis and Hydrastis. Periera da Silva A, Rocha R, Silva CM, Mira L, Duarte MF, Florencio MH. Laboratorio de Genetica da Faculdade de Medicina de Lisboa, 1600 Lisboa, Portugal.


The antioxidant capacity of extracts of Crataegus oxyacantha, Hamamelis virginiana, Hydrastis canadensis, plants native to Europe and North America which have long been used in herbal medicine for the treatment of cardiac and circulatory functions, has been investigated. The total antioxidant potential conferred by all hydrogen donating antioxidants present in these extracts has been assessed by the ABTS assay and the relative order of antioxidant potential has been established. Gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC-MS) has been used for the chemical identification of the antioxidant volatile compounds present in the extracts. The GC-MS data were related to the results obtained using the ABTS assay.


Biol Pharm Bull. 1995 Jan;18(1):162-6. Related Articles, Links  Active-oxygen scavenging activity of plant extracts. Masaki H, Sakaki S, Atsumi T, Sakurai H. Shiga Central Laboratory, Noevir Co., Ltd., Youkaichi, Japan.


To find antioxidative compounds present in plants, 65 types of plant extract were tested using the neotetrazolium method for evidence of superoxide anion-scavenging effects and 7 plant extracts were selected for further investigation. The activity of active-oxygen scavengers such as superoxide anion radicals, hydroxyl radicals, singlet oxygens and lipid peroxides in the 7 plant extracts (Aeseclus hippocastanum L., Hamamelis virginiana L. Polygonum cuspidatum Sieb., Quercus robur L., Rosemarinous officinalis L., Salvia officinalis L. and Sanguisorba officinalis L.) was examined in detail by both ESR spin-trapping and malondialdehyde generation. Furthermore, the active-oxygen scavenging activity of these plant extracts was evaluated using a murine dermal fibroblast culture system. Both Aeseclus hippocastanum L. and Hamamelis virginia L. were found to have strong active-oxygen scavenging activity of and protective activity against cell damage induced by active oxygen. Both Aeseclus hippocastanum L. and Hamamelis virginiana L. are proposed as potent plant extracts with potential application as anti-aging or anti-wrinkle material for the skin.