Witch Hazel Vs. Aloe Vera: SPICEography Showdown

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Witch hazel and aloe are both alike in that their primary use is for treating skin conditions. Their culinary applications are not well-known except by herbalists. Both plants come with some serious health warnings, which means that you will need to use them carefully. You should also be aware of the ways that they are not alike. Let’s examine how witch hazel and aloe compare to each other.

How does witch hazel differ from aloe vera?

Witch hazel and aloe vera have very different appearances. If you were to place witch hazel and aloe vera side by side, the first difference you would notice is that witch hazel is a shrub and aloe vera is a cactus-like succulent. Witch hazel is a deciduous shrub native to North America. Aloe comes from the Middle East.

Witch hazel seeds are the only truly edible part of the plant. You can make a decoction of the leaves but you don’t eat them. You can eat the outer green skin of the aloe plant as well as the inner gel. The yellow latex that lies between them is the only part of the plant that you shouldn’t eat.

Witch hazel and aloe also differ when it comes to how you ingest them. You consume witch hazel by making a tea with the leaves or bark, or by cracking open the hard outer shells of the seeds and eating the kernels within. Aloe vera skins are edible as is the inner gel part of the leaf. You can eat both raw or cooked.

The flavors are different. Witch hazel tea is astringent and bitter. Because of its unpleasant flavor, it is usually necessary to combine it with a more pleasant-tasting herb or a sweetener. The seeds taste like pistachio nuts. In comparison, aloe vera has a slightly bitter flavor with a little acidity and sweetness on the back end.

Can you use witch hazel in place of aloe vera and vice versa?

While witch hazel and aloe vera are sometimes interchangeable for skin health, they don’t make perfect substitutes for each other if you plan to use them internally. For example, you can’t use witch hazel in a stir-fry the way you could aloe vera skins. While you can make a beverage with the bark or leaves, its flavor is dramatically different from an aloe vera drink.

Aloe vera won’t make a great witch hazel substitute either if you look at it from a culinary standpoint. You can’t use it to make a tea, and it doesn’t have any nut-like seeds.

You may be able to use one in place of the other if you look only at the health benefits. Both witch hazel and aloe vera have long lists of medicinal properties some of which are the same. The two plants have strong antioxidant effects, which means that you can consume either if you are trying to treat inflammation.

When should you use witch hazel and when should you use aloe vera?

Use witch hazel leaves to make tea. You have the option of combining the leaves with black tea or mint for a more palatable taste. You can also sweeten with honey or another sweetener.

Aloe vera skins are good in salads. They make a crunchy addition to stir-fried dishes and can work as effective substitutes for snow peas or green beans. You can use the inner gel in the same ways that you use the skin or you can blend it to add to a smoothie.