Witch Hazel is a shrub that can be used in treating summer itch due to insect bites, sunburn or even poison ivy. It's a herbal remedy that can also treat wounds and certain diseases. Nowadays, it's gaining popularity as a possible form of treatment for cancer.
What is Witch Hazel?
Witch Hazel is scientifically known as Hamamelis Virginiana. For many years, it was used as herbal remedy by Native Americans. In the recent years, modern medical experts utilized it for treating wounds. In fact, you'd often see it in drug stores beside the rubbing alcohol. In bottle form, it is a clear liquid, 86 percent extracted and distilled hamamelis with a mix of 14 percent rubbing alcohol. It has an astringent action that can effectively reduce inflammation, itching and swelling, but it doesn't have the drying effect of rubbing alcohol by itself.
This herbal remedy was first discovered by Theron T. Pond in 1840. He learned about it from the Oneida tribe of Native Americans who lived in New York during that time. It was used by the tribe primarily for boils, wounds and burns by distilling it into a tea. After that, it became an effective remedy for other health problems such as cold, fever, headache, stomach ulcers, eye irritation, hemmorhoids, tuberculosis, heavy menstrual bleeding, and tumors.
Studies of Witch Hazel and Cancer
Recent studies were done to find out the role of witch hazel in the treatment of cancer. The fact that witch hazel is abundant in tannin, which is a type of polyphenols that have great antioxidant powers, prompted scientists to probe more deeply into this.
According to the research entitled Study of Tannins: A Study of the Effects of Tannins Extracted from Witch Hazel (Touriño, 2008), this herb is potent in combating free radicals that destroy tissues and cells in the body. Tannins also protect against red blood cell destruction brought about by free radicals. It was also revealed in the study that the polyphenols in the herb can reduce the spread of melanoma cells which are highly malignant skin cancer cells.
In another study called Witch Hazel and Colon Cancer: A Study of the Action of Witch Hazel Polyphenols on Colon Cancer (Lizárraga, D. 2008), it was found that witch hazel can retard colon cancer by stopping the growth and spread of colon cancer cells, restoring apoptosis responsible for healthy regeneration of cells, and preventing cellular damage caused by hydroxyl radicals, otherwise known as "super radicals".
A study entitled Role of Witch Hazel in Diabetes, Cancer, and Disease Prevention: A Study of PGG (Zhang, 2009) concluded that the Penta-Galloyl-Glucose (PGG) found in high concentrations in this herb acts against diabetes by increasing glucose uptake. It also promotes apoptosis, which regenerates cells when necrosis or death of tissue has occurred. PGG also exhibited anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action while triggering angiogensis, which is the process of wound healing.
These studies confirm that witch hazel is indeed a promising component for cancer drug treatment.