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While most herbs are sold as dietary supplement, witch hazel is one of very few American medicinal plants still approved as an ingredient in non-prescription drugs by the Food and Drug Administration. Witch hazel is approved as an over-the-counter astringent in the external analgesic (pain-relieving), skin protectant categories, and as an external anorectal, primarily used for symptomatic relieve of hemorrhoids (as pads, ointments, or suppositories). In Germany, the bark and leaf are approved for treatment in mild diarrhea, inflammation of the gums and mucous membranes of the mouth, and mild irritation or local inflammation of the skin, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins. There, witch hazel is considered astringent, inhibits-inflammation, and locally styptic.
For nearly 200 years, witch hazel has been valued for astringent, tonic, and mild pain-relieving qualities, used in treating hemorrhoids, itching, irritations, and other minor pains. Few clinical studies have been conducted, but every generation of Americans, since the formation of the United States, has had witch hazel preparations in their medicine cabinets.
A tea made of the leaves or bark may be taken freely with advantage, being good for bleeding of the stomach and in complaints of the bowels, and an injection of this tea is excellent for inwardly bleeding piles, the relief being marvellous and the cure speedy. An ointment made of 1 part fluid extract of bark to 9 parts simple ointment is also used as a local application, the concentration Hamamelin being also employed, mainly in the form of suppositories.
Witch Hazel has been supposed to owe its utility to an action on the muscular fibre of veins. The distilled extract from the fresh leaves and young twigs forms an excellent remedy for internal or external uses, being beneficial for bleeding from the lungs and nose, as well as from other internal organs. In the treatment of varicose veins, it should be applied on a lint bandage, which must be constantly kept moist: a pad of Witch Hazel applied to a burst varicose vein will stop the bleeding and often save life by its instant application.