What happens to your body when you drink witch hazel

Witch hazel is one of the most well-known skincare ingredients. If, like most of us, you're not sure exactly what it is, here's the scientific answer: "Witch hazel is extraction that is made from leaves, bark and twigs from the genus of Hamamelis virginiana, H. mexicana, H. ovalis. Eastern – H. japonica, H. mollis," Tsao-Lin Moy, acupuncturist, Chinese medicine expert, and founder of Integrative Healing Arts, explains to The List. "It is an astringent with high tannin concentration and affinity for treating skin inflammations." 

And while witch hazel is commonly used topically, would you see any benefits from drinking it? "Some 'folk medicine' uses for witch hazel seem to indicate preparations by making teas and poultices from the leaves and twigs," says Moy. However, there's no way it's the same witch hazel you find on the shelves of your local drugstore today, which has most likely been distilled to ensure it is highly concentrated. In folk medicine, "the plant is less processed, and the delivery of medicinal properties would be different," Moy adds.

Drinking witch hazel isn't the best idea

Ultimately, "there is no research on the good or bad of drinking witch hazel," says Moy. "[But with] the tannin protein interaction with saliva and mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, you would experience a 'puckering and drying' in the throat, possibly feeling like the throat is closing," she explains. "This would be similar to eating a peach that is not ripe." 

Witch hazel may also give you tummy troubles, similar to what you might experience if you've had too much coffee. Again, it's the tannins, plant compounds found in both, that cause the upset stomach. But despite this discomfort, Moy notes that it's unlikely drinking witch hazel will cause any real harm. However, with no real reason to drink it, you're better off using witch hazel topically and letting it do what it does best. If you do decide that you want to try drinking it, speak to a medical professional first, as there may be an alternative that has more research behind it.