Question: I discovered witch hazel in my woods. How can I make witch hazel extract?
Answer: First, prune your witch hazel with an eye toward stripping off the bark, discarding any leaves or wood. Place 5 cups of distilled water in a glass, enamel, or other nonreactive pan. Add only as much bark as you can completely submerge in the water. Bring the water to a rolling boil, then cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer you "decoct" the bark, the stronger your extract will be. Strain out the bark and bottle the liquid in well-sterilized glass containers. Use as desired. Witch hazel is often mixed with other herbal infusions, such as chamomile, rosemary, lavender, or sage, to make fragrant and cleansing astringents for facials, aftershave lotions, or hair rinses. Commercial witch hazel often contains some alcohol (about 10 percent) to prolong its shelf life.