Can Witch Hazel Help Relieve Hemorrhoid Discomfort?

Have you ever considered using home remedies like petroleum jelly, tea bags, sitz baths, or witch hazel for hemorrhoids? These non-invasive treatments may help ease the pain and discomfort associated with hemorrhoidal disease, allowing you to carry on with your day, says Reader's Digest. Experts also recommend using white, unscented toilet paper and applying cold compresses.

Home remedies are not a long-term solution, but they may offer temporary relief, explains Johns Hopkins Medicine. A high-fiber diet, stool softeners, and hemorrhoid creams can be helpful, too. For example, one meta-analysis found that the risk of not improving hemorrhoid symptoms and having them linger was reduced by 53%, reports the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels, so you can't "get rid" of them. The only way to remove them is through surgery. However, this treatment option is reserved for more severe cases, such as grade III or IV hemorrhoids, notes the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). If your symptoms are mild, you may try natural remedies or ask your doctor about topical nitroglycerin, corticosteroids, and other medications.

Speaking of home remedies, the AAFP mentions witch hazel as a potential treatment for hemorrhoids. Here's what you should know about it and how to use it safely. 

How witch hazel might help hemorrhoid flare-ups

Witch hazel, or Hamamelis virginiana, is a plant used in topical preparations for acne, dermatitis, and other skin or vascular disorders. In clinical trials, it has been shown to reduce inflammation due to its high antioxidant content, according to a recent review published in the International Journal of Molecular Science. This natural remedy may also help relieve hemorrhoid discomfort because of its astringent effects. Simply put, it shrinks and constricts the blood vessels, explained gastroenterologist Marvin Schuster in an interview with Prevention

A 2020 review of three case studies investigated the use of witch hazel and other compounds for treating hemorrhoidal disease. Patients received an oral medication containing flavonoids, along with a rectal ointment based on witch hazel, calendula, and chamomile. The ointment also contained sucralfate, a medicine that may ease hemorrhoid pain and itching. All subjects experienced a gradual reduction in their symptoms within the first 14 days of treatment, and a complete resolution by the end of the third week, according to Acta Biomedica.

Based on these findings, it's hard to say which compound worked best, but witch hazel might have played a role. The University of Michigan says this plant is "possibly effective" for hemorrhoids when applied topically. Dr. Schuster suggests using it cold for faster pain relief. Refrigerate a bottle or jar of witch hazel, and then use a cotton ball to apply it directly to hemorrhoids. Repeat as many times as needed.