When someone I know was dealing with this issue, the question came up – what IS witch hazel? It was prescribed by a doctor, surely it must be a medicine?

In modern chemistry, the active ingredient that provides the desired effect can usually be isolated. We no longer chew on willow bark, we’ve found that aspirin is what we’re after which is listed by it’s molecular name: acetylsalicylic acid. I was used to seeing active ingredients in 2% solutions, to moderate their effects. The plant name and unusually high concentration of witch hazel stood out as red flags.

Do a search for a medicine such as aspirin and you’ll find links to a ridiculous number of scholarly articles regarding it’s efficacy. This is the key word to search for because it describes exactly how well something works.

When performing this search for witch hazel, you find a LOT of red flag websites with ‘natural’ in the URL. If it has been used as a ‘natural astringent’ for thousands of years, where are the studies? You can’t use the Argument from Antiquity and then follow up with “they just haven’t studied it yet.” There is an actual reason that there aren’t any studies proving the use of witch hazel, and it’s called the File Drawer Effect.

The simple explanation is that negative findings don’t usually make it to publication. Scientists use words like “inconclusive” and “no evidence” on the occasion that they publish a paper in which they failed to find a relationship. In other words, it has no special effect.

Anyways, there I was with unabated hemorrhoids after a month of using glorified baby wipes, angrily flicking through google scholar on my iphone. The red flags are there, and I don’t think the science supports witch hazel in lieu of other hemorrhoid medications. If anyone can show me a credible scholarly source regarding the demonstrated efficacy of witch hazel compared to placebo I will take this comic down.

Also this comic was about a friend of mine. I made that perfectly clear, right?



↓ Transcript
ROB
Hemorroids, how embarrassing. At least with these wipes I didn't need a suppository.

ROB
Wait a second, why are the active ingredients different? 50% witch hazel?

ROB
I've been had!

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