A Closer Look at Astringent Herbs

Herbal Astringents: List, Potential Benefits, & Uses

Astringent herbs (aka “herbal astringents”) make wonderful plant allies if you’re seeking tighter tissues of the body, whether it be your skin, your gut lining, or even your uterus.

This particular category of herbs can be potentially beneficial in supporting healthier looking skin, tighter “tight junctions” (in cases of leaky gut), reducing diarrhea/incontinence, prompting lighter menstrual cycles (if you’re prone to a heavy menstrual flow), and more.

In this article I’ll divulge into 11 common types of astringent herbs, their benefits and uses, how to work with them, and when to avoid them, from a health and safety standpoint.

Disclaimer: This article was written for general educational purposes, not to replace medical advice! Consult your doctor and a clinical herbalist to receive custom herbal astringent recommendations tailored to your individual needs.

Affiliate disclosure:  This article contains affiliate links*.  As a proud affiliate for Mountain Rose Herbs, I may make a small commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you!

Table of Contents

What makes an herb astringent?

At first glance, it may not seem like witch hazel, rose, and green tea have much in common.  

But they all contain a substance called tannins, which are responsible for these herbs’ toning, tightening, constricting, and drying actions on the tissues of the body.  (Tannins are also what make your mouth pucker when you take a sip of red wine or green tea that was steeped a little too long!)

While the tannins and tissue-toning tendency is the most well-known property uniting all astringent herbs, they share more common ground than you might think!

From an energetic and constitutional standpoint, as a result of their relatively high concentrations of tannins, most herbal astringents generally tend to be:

  • Drying (versus moistening/dampening or demulcent)
  • Cooling (versus heating)
  • Toning/tightening and constricting (versus relaxing)
  • Sour, tart, and/or bitter-tasting

Now that you have a better idea of how herbal astringents behave in the body, let’s dive deeper into the different types of astringent herbs and how you can get started working with them (if they’re safe and potentially beneficial for you).

Astringent herbs list

Below is a list of 11 herbal astringents which you may or may not encounter or hear about at some point along your herbal journey. 

Note that each herb has specific medicinal plant parts (i.e. root, bark, leaves, berries, petals, etc.) which are considered astringent.

Also keep in mind, not all of these herbs or certain plant parts are safe to take internally, so make sure to keep reading so you can learn how to work with them safely and effectively!

Lastly, note that this list isn’t exhaustive – there are other types of astringent herbs not featured in this article.  (I’ve actually got some additional astringent herbs in the pipeline to be added to this list, but I wanted to publish the article sooner rather than later.) 😉

  1. Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)
  2. Black, green, oolong, and white tea (Camellia sinensis)
  3. Blackberry leaf and root (Rubus fruticosus)
  4. Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis)
  5. Canadian fleabane / “horseweed” (Erigeron canadensis)
  6. Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
  7. Red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus)
  8. Rose petals (Rosa damascena)
  9. White oak bark (Quercus alba)
  10. Witch hazel leaves and bark (Hamamelis virginiana)
  11. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Agrimony 

  • Latin name:  Agrimonia eupatoria
  • Astringent plant part used:  Leaves
  • Plant family:  Rosaceae

Benefits and uses as an herbal astringent

Tightening for a leaky gut

The tannin-rich astringent, tightening agrimony leaves are often used by clinical herbalists in formulas to help tone and tighten the not-so-tight junctions in a “leaky” (excessively permeable) gut lining. (1)

Anti-diarrhea

Agrimony can make a great herbal ally (alongside other herbs and possibly medical/nutritional interventions, as needed) in cases of diarrhea and/or gastrointestinal incontinence. (1, 2)

Anti-inflammatory 

Agrimony extracts were shown to be anti-inflammatory due to its high levels of antioxidants and amino acids. (1, 2, 3)

Skin-healing 

Agrimony leaf extract may be used internally and/or topically to help reduce inflammation and swelling in mild wounds as well as in cases of acne, eczema, psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions. (1, 2)

Best delivery method

Agrimony leaf extracts can be taken internally as herbal tea infusions, capsules, or as an herbal tincture. 

Tea infusions of agronomy can also be applied topically to skin as a cleanser, toner, or poultice.

It may be beneficial clinically to combine agrimony with other herbs and medical/nutritional interventions, as needed.

Safety concerns / contraindications

Avoid agrimony when pregnant/nursing.

If you’re prone to constipation, agrimony may worsen these symptoms and would not be the best fit for you.

Consult your doctor before taking agrimony internally if you’re taking any kind of medications.

General recommended dose

1 cup of standard agrimony leaf tea infusion, 1 standard agrimony leaf capsule, or ~30 drops of agrimony leaf tincture, 1 to 3 times daily as needed.

(Consult your treatment team and a clinical herbalist for custom recommendations.)

Black, green, oolong, and white tea

Latin name:  Camellia sinensis

Astringent plant part used:  Leaves

Plant family:  Theaceae

Benefits and uses as an herbal astringent

Anti-aging and anti-wrinkle cosmetic

All variations of Camellia sinensis contain high amounts of astringent tannins and polyphenols.  

As a result, black, green, oolong, and white tea (whether applied topically or consumed internally) has been clinically proven to have toning, tightening, and anti-wrinkle effects on the skin when applied topically, according to a 2019 Molecules publication. (4)

This can explain why Camellia sinensis is making appearances in so many different types of cosmetic products, nowadays!

Anti-inflammatory for the gut

Studies are also uncovering that the tannin-rich polyphenols and catechins (types of antioxidants) in green tea help reduce inflammation and strengthen/tone the gut barrier, in certain cases of inflammatory bowel disease. (5, 6, 7)

May help reduce symptoms of certain female reproductive disorders 

A 2021 Molecules study concluded that the astringent, anti-inflammatory catechins in green tea are effective at reducing symptoms and improving quality of life among people with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and dysmenorrhea (heavy menstrual cycles). (6)

Best delivery method

While most research studies use highly concentrated extracts of certain catechins in green tea (i.e. in a toner or facial cleanser), you can still experience these types of benefits by drinking loose leaf tea infusions on a consistent basis!

You could also consume powdered green tea in the form of matcha which can be easily added into smoothies or made into lattes.

Safety concerns / contraindications

Anemia and zinc deficiency

The high levels of tannins in this type of tea can make it more difficult to absorb certain minerals like iron and zinc.  

You may want to limit or avoid drinking too much black, green, oolong, and white tea if you have iron deficiency anemia or a zinc deficiency.

Iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism

Tea also contains significant levels of fluoride, a known halogen and goitrogen (which reduces iodine absorption).  

Limit or avoid drinking too much tea if you have hypothyroidism, since iodine deficiency can make this worse.

Pregnancy/breastfeeding

Drinking large amounts of green and/or white tea may reduce folate absorption in the body.  

Avoid or limit these types of tea and consult your healthcare team before adding them into your regimen if you’re pregnant or nursing, since low folate levels increase the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida.

Caffeine

All variations of Camellia sinensis contain caffeine. 

General recommended dose

From a safety standpoint, drinking 3 to 5 cups of organic green or white loose-leaf tea infusions per day is considered optimal, if you’d like to reap the benefits of the catechins and polyphenols without the unwanted side effects of too much caffeine.

Blackberry 

Latin name:  Rubus fruticosus

Astringent plant part used:  leaves

Plant family:  Rosaceae

Benefits and uses as an herbal astringent

Anti-diarrhea (“anti-dysentery”)

According to a 2014 publication by Pharmacognosy reviews, the leaves of blackberries contain high levels of tannins which help to tone, tighten, and constrict the gut lining in loose bowels. (7)

The leaves are also somewhat antimicrobial, which makes blackberry leaves a nice natural remedy for ameliorating acute bouts of diarrhea.

(In cases of chronic diarrhea, it’s important to look beyond symptom management to figure out what’s causing your diarrhea!)

Wound-healing

Blackberry leaves have also been traditionally used as poultices to aid in wound-healing.  

This makes sense because the astringent, tannin-rich, antimicrobial blackberry leaves have been proven to be effective at helping to reduce inflammation, tone/tighten tissue, and control minor bleeding. (7)

Natural mouthwash for mouth sores and gingivitis 

If you’re dealing with mouth sores and/or gingivitis, infusions of blackberry leaves can make a nice astringent, antimicrobial remedy and natural mouthwash (alongside other interventions, as needed) to help your mouth recover faster! (7)

Best delivery method

For diarrhea and/or mouth sores, make a standard herbal tea infusion by steeping 1 to 2 tablespoons of organic dried blackberry leaves* in ~16 to 24 ounces of hot water for at least ~20 minutes.

You can also make a homemade herbal poultice with dried blackberry leaves, to apply to topical wounds.

Safety concerns / contraindications

Like all other types of astringent herbs, blackberry leaves are high in tannins. 

Avoid or limit blackberry leaf tea if you have iron deficiency anemia or zinc deficiency, since tannins bind minerals and reduce their absorption into the body.

While blackberry leaf (being somewhat similar to red raspberry leaf) is safe during pregnancy, blackberry leaf tea may not be the herb for you either way, if you are prone to constipation!

General recommended dose

For acute-onset or occasional diarrhea, consider drinking 3 to 4 eight-ounce cups of blackberry leaf tea infusions per day to help tone and tighten the tissue in your bowels (alongside other interventions, as needed).

Consult your treatment team for specific recommendations to treat diarrhea which can be very complex and bio-individual.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Latin name:  Calendula officinalis

Astringent plant part used:  flower petals and flower heads

Plant family:  Asteraceae (Daisy/marigold family)

Benefits and uses as an astringent herb

Wound-healing

As it turns out, our ancestors knew what they were doing when they applied topical extracts of calendula to wounds! 

According to a 2019 systematic review, calendula seemed to significantly improve burn recovery during the inflammation phase, as well as increase the production of glandular tissue which helps promote and accelerate wound healing. (8)

Calendula extract has also been shown to be effective in accelerating the healing process for diabetic foot ulcers and venous leg ulcers. (9, 10)

Potentially gut-healing

“As within, so without” is an old saying which holds lots of wisdom!  

This is because our gut is like our internal skin, both serving as boundaries which guard and separate the inside of our body from the outside world.

While more human studies are needed, a 2011 study pointed out that calendula has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-parasitic constituents which helped significantly improve outcomes of ulcerative colitis in animals after just 30-45 days of receiving calendula extract. (11)

Best delivery methods

Topical

For topical wound-healing purposes, calendula can be made into an herbal oil* or salve, or even a calendula nipple whip*.

If you’re looking for a facial toner, you may love calendula hydrosol* – whether on its own or blended with other astringent herbs (such as in this Wild Rose Facial Toner*).

Internal

If you’re interested in taking calendula internally, note that calendula is very bitter!  So it isn’t very practical or sustainable to drink it as a tea infusion multiple times per day (unless you’re integrating it into a blend with other herbs.)

Otherwise, you can easily and effectively take calendula internally as a tincture, organic capsules or powder, if you’re a smoothie lover!

Safety concerns / contraindications

Calendula is generally very safe, except during conception and pregnancy, according to Mount Sinai).  Consult your OBGYN before taking calendula while nursing.

From an allergy standpoint, avoid calendula if you have or suspect an allergy to marigold.

General recommended dose

There’s no standardized therapeutic dose established in conventional medicine. 

However, below are some generally safe ranges prescribed based on my training and experience in clinical herbalism:

  • Tincture:  30 drops 1 to 4x daily, between meals
  • Tea:  1 to 4 cups daily, between meals
  • Capsules:  1 to 3x daily, between meals
  • Flower powder:  1 teaspoon 1 to 3x daily

Canadian fleabane

  • Latin name:  Erigeron canadensis
  • Astringent plant part used:  Roots and above-ground flowering parts
  • Plant family:  Asteraceae (daisy family)

Benefits and uses as an herbal astringent

There isn’t much formal research on Canadian fleabane (“horseweed”) to date. 

However, in traditional folk herbal medicine practices, Erigeron canadensis has been used effectively as an herbal astringent for a variety of ailments.

Anti-diarrhea

The roots of Canadian fleabane are traditionally dried and made into an herbal tea decoction for people suffering from bouts of diarrhea in cases of inflammatory bowel disease flares.  It is believed to help with toning, tightening, and reducing inflammation in the gut lining.

I’ve heard some wonderful anecdotal testimonials about this from herbalists. But since clinical research on this claim is lacking, and there are lots of other evidence-based astringent herbal alternatives available for reducing symptoms of diarrhea, I don’t work with this particular herb in my clinic.

Antitussive (anti-cough)

Erigeron canadensis has also been used in folk medicine as a natural remedy for coughs, sore throat, and airway inflammation in various cultures globally.  (12)

As it turns out, a recent 2022 study via the Journal of ethnopharmacology revealed that this herb contains a special polyphenolic polysaccharide-protein complex which gives it a powerful antitussive (anti-cough) benefit comparable to codeine! (13)

Best delivery method

In traditional folk medicine, the roots of Canadian fleabane (horseweed)are dried and taken internally as a tea decoction or as a dried plant tincture.

Safety concerns / contraindications

The Journal of ethnopharmacology suggested that certain constituents in Canadian fleabane were comparable to heparin, a drug which reduces and slows blood clotting. (13

  • Avoid Canadian fleabane if you have any type of blood clotting disorder and/or take any medications that impact blood clotting.

We otherwise don’t yet know a lot about the side effects of this herb in clinical practice. 

I advise you to consult with your treatment team and explore other options if you’re looking to treat diarrhea and/or lung issues naturally.

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)

Latin name:  Euphrasia officinalis

Astringent plant part used:  Aerial (above-ground) parts – harvested during flowering

Plant family:  Scrophulariaceae (Figwort family)

Astringent benefits and uses

May help inflamed, infected eyes

The name of this herb is a pretty clear giveaway! Eyebright is most commonly used as an astringent and antiseptic eye wash for the eyes, in cases such as conjunctivitis or “pink eye”.

Since the nature of eye infections is to make the eyes swollen, inflamed, infected and congested, it makes sense that the astringent, cooling, antiseptic properties of eyebright (as an herbal infusion) can help to dry and tighten, leaving the eyes feeling more clean and clear.

While more research is needed, the clinical effectiveness of eyebright extract in eye drops (just 1 drop, 3 times  per day) for conjunctivitis was demonstrated in a 2000 study by the Journal of Complementary Medicine. (14)

Eyebright in combination with chamomile was also shown to be beneficial at reducing inflammation in the cornea, in a 2017 study. (15)

Potential nasal and sinus decongestant

In folk herbalism, eyebright tea infusions have been used for centuries (traditionally in Europe) as nasal and sinus decongestants. 

And I’m sure they wouldn’t have been doing this for hundreds of years if this natural remedy wasn’t legit and helpful!

However…

Ironically, I haven’t gotten a “common cold” since Christmas 2018 (right before I finally started going deeper down the path of herbal medicine making and natural remedies like elderberry syrup and adaptogenic herbs for immunity).  So I have yet to give this eyebright a try for nasal congestion.

I also haven’t worked with eyebright in my private practice, since conjunctivitis and inflamed eyes are not exactly my specialty (and not why people seek out nutrition and herbal medicine consultation with me). 😉

So while I’m pretty darn confident that eyebright tea infusions and tincture extract of eyebright could potentially help relieve sinus decongestion, we still need some research studies before I feel comfortable making any bold claims about this remedy!

Best delivery method

Eye drops or glycerite

Since eyebright has an affinity for the eyes, the best delivery method would be in the form of eye drops.

Tea infusions and tincture

When taken internally, eyebright may be safely taken as a standard herbal tea infusion or at a standard tincture dosage.

Safety concerns / contraindications

There are no documented safety concerns or contraindications of working with eyebright when used in the recommended dose.

However, since research is very limited, I recommend avoiding eyebright if you’re pregnant/nursing, and don’t give it to children.

Either way, make sure to consult with a clinical herbalist as well as with your doctor before giving eyebright a try, just to be on the safe side!

General recommended dose

The general recommended safe and clinically effective dose of eyebright eye drops is 1 drop per eye, 3 times daily.  (14)

Internally, eyebright can be safely taken at a standard tea or tincture dosage of 1 cup tea or ~20 to 30 drops of tincture), 1 to 3x daily.

Red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus)

Latin name:  Rubus idaeus

Astringent plant part used:  Leaves (dried)

Plant family: Roseaceae (Rose family)

Potential benefits and uses as an astringent herb

Anti-diarrhea

While there’s very limited research on this, red raspberry leaf tea infusions have been taken historically (especially in parts of Europe) to help reduce acute episodes of diarrhea. 

This is likely because of the astringent, drying nature of the tannin-rich leaves.  

However, I’ve never personally experienced or witnessed this anecdotal benefit of red raspberry leaf!  Ultimately we need more research to investigate whether or not red raspberry leaf can help with diarrhea. 

May help remedy dysmenorrhea and menorrhagia

In folk herbalism, red raspberry leaf tea is often recommended for helping to lighten the flow of heavy periods and reduce cramping, such as in cases of dysmenorrhea and menorrhagia. This is because the tannin-rich astringent tea leaves are said to help tone and strengthen the lining uterus.

There isn’t any peer-reviewed research (yet) on this front, but I’ve found it helpful in the past, when I used to struggle with both of those types of health issues.

May help optimize pregnancy and delivery outcomes

Over hundreds of years, there’s been lots of discussion around the potential benefits of red raspberry leaf tea for ripening of the cervix as well as for toning the uterus, in preparation for an easier and faster delivery.

This is because there are lots of anecdotal claims and clinical observations showing this to be true. 

While a 1999 study suggested these claims to be accurate (16), more recent research studies on all of this to date is still limited and inconclusive. (17, 18, 19)

However, I’ve gotten lots of feedback from friends and colleagues who drank safe quantities of high-quality red raspberry leaf tea infusions during their second and third trimester of pregnancy and experienced positive outcomes. 

The 1999 study also suggested that red raspberry leaf may help reduce and minimize tissue tearing and damage during delivery.

Best delivery method

As I mentioned above, the most popular delivery method of red raspberry leaf tea is generally herbal tea infusions (1 teaspoon of dried organic red raspberry leaves* per cup of hot filtered water).

Red raspberry leaf tincture* can also provide a similar benefit, due to the high levels of tannins.

Safety concerns / contraindications

The research on red raspberry leaf tea is limited, but at this time it isn’t recommended to drink red raspberry leaf tea during the first trimester of pregnancy.

I also don’t recommend giving this tea to children.

This herb may interact with certain medications, so make sure to consult your doctor if you’re unsure.

General recommended dose

As I mentioned earlier, there’s very limited clinical research on red raspberry leaf tea; however, it’s generally recommended in folk herbalism in the following dose:

  • Suggested dose:  1 cup tea or 30 drops tincture, 1 to 3 times daily

Rose (Rosa damascena)

Latin name:  Rosa damascena

Astringent plant part used:  Flower petals, rose buds

Plant family:  Rosaceae (rose family)

Benefits and uses as an astringent herb

Facial toner (topical)

Rose petals are a popular addition to many types of herbal facial toners, because like green tea, rose petals are astringent, toning, tightening and antioxidant-rich for skin cells, reducing pores and puffiness.

This has been validated in lots of clinical studies incorporating rose with or without other herbs for the skin, in topical formulas.  

  • For example, rose (in combination with other herbs) was shown to have a protective effect on skin cells. (20)

May help lighten heavy periods and reduce cramping

Rose is a popular women’s ally in Traditional Chinese Medicine for reasons very similar to red raspberry leaf.

While this claim was deemed “inconclusive” in a recent meta-analysis from 2021 (21), a small 2005 study from the Journal of midwifery and women’s health found that drinking rose tea resulted in less cramping and premenstrual symptoms for up to 6 months in adolescents with dysmenorrhea.  (22)

I believe more research is needed to validate these claims, but it seems promising based on anecdotal stories I’ve heard from many of my colleagues in herbal medicine. 

May help reduce acid reflux

A 2021 study published by Complementary therapies in clinical practice concluded that rose oil capsules were as effective as Prilosec (a proton pump inhibitor) at reducing symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – but without the unwanted side effects. (23)

This is very new, and more research is needed, but I’m loving the direction this is going in! (I’m not a fan of proton pump inhibitors due to all the negative nutrition-related side effects long-term.)

Best delivery method

For facial toner, I love spraying a few spritzes of organic rose hydrosol* topically after washing my face at night before bed.

In folk herbalism, rose bud* herbal tea infusions are recommended daily for at least a few weeks leading up to and during the menstrual cycle, a few times a day.

Safety concerns / contraindications

There aren’t any documented safety concerns related to rose petal extracts, aside from the possibility of an allergic reaction.

Always consult your doctor if you’re pregnant/nursing, under the age of 13, or taking medication.

General recommended dose

Spray a few spritzes of rose hydrosol on your skin (after washing).

  • Recommended dose of tea:  1 cup, 1 to 3 times daily during a heavy menstrual cycle (anecdotally)

Additional types of astringent herbs

There’s more on the way!  Some additional types of astringent herbs include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Wild oak bark
  • Witch hazel
  • Yarrow

As I continue to update this article, you can learn more about wild oak bark, witch hazel, and yarrow.  Stay tuned!

Recommended reading

If you’re interested in learning more about the different categories of herbal medicine, feel free to check out the following articles and resources:

Final thoughts

Astringent herbs are amazing for toning, tightening, and strengthening loose tissues of the body – whether internally or topically.

This class of herbs is most popular in facial toners, potential diarrhea remedies, and as allies for pregnancy and menstrual discomfort – but more research is needed on their safety and efficacy for specific internal use.  Either way, it’s looking promising!

Thanks for choosing to read this article on herbal astringents. I hope you learned something new!

If you found this article helpful, please pin it (or share it) with your fellow herbal medicine enthusiasts!

-Jenna

A Closer Look at Astringent Herbs - List, Potential Benefits, and How to Work With Them

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