They are tinctures prepared under the hermetic method, that is, applying the principles of a tradition that we can trace back to the Egyptian heritage, but whose roots can be found before it, and that start from the correspondence between things "below" (the earth) and "above" (heaven), or as the most famous axiom of said doctrine says: “As above, so below; as below, so above”.
It was Theophrastus Phillippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, better known as Paracelsus (1493-1541), a Swiss doctor and alchemist, who popularized the method in European culture, based on the idea that the most important use that could be made of alchemy was that of preparing medicines that would restore the chemical balance of a body altered by disease.
Some historians consider him a precursor of biology, anthropology and biochemistry, others like Carl Jung consider him one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis and still others call him the "father" of toxicology because he was the first to understand that certain poisons, administered in small doses they can work optimally as medicines. "Dose alone facit venenum" (the dose makes the poison) is one of his most famous phrases and the highest principle of that discipline.
Although he had a university education, his main source of knowledge was the ancient teachings and he was adamantly opposed to the doctors of the time, whom he provoked, insulted, despised and humiliated at any opportunity. For the same reason, his thesis was kept outside the establishment until today.
One of his greatest contributions to our understanding of alchemy was the idea that there were not only two principles: sulfur and mercury, but also salt. Obviously, he was speaking in alchemical, figurative language, where sulfur refers to that which contains the specific characteristics of the material (soul), in the case of plants its essential oil which gives each plant its distinctive smell. Mercury refers to that which is common to the whole kingdom (spirit); in the case of the plantae kingdom, it is the alcohol that is produced by the fermentation of the plant. And the innovation (or revelation) is the salt (the body), that is, the purified product of the calcination of plant waste. Once the alcohol and essential oil are extracted, what remains is a potassium carbonate salt and the exclusive mineral compounds of each plant.
It is not only the dissection of matter into these three elements that characterizes an alchemical or spagyric tincture, but the entire process: from the selection of ingredients, the times in which the various operations are carried out, the intention of the person who performs it. and, of course, the moment of the meeting of the three elements to create a new purified body. In this sense, the preparation of an alchemical tincture is not only a spiritual ritual for those who prepare it, but also carries that connotation for those who consume it.
In the case of herbal spagyric tinctures, the first step is to select the day and time to cut the part of the plant to be used: all plants have an astrological or magical signature according to their properties and each day of the week and hour of the day have their correspondence with each one of those spiritual signatures. Thus, for example, lavender flowers are harvested on Wednesday and rosemary plants on Sunday, the former at the specific hour governed by Mercury (Mg) and the latter at the hour of the Sun (Au).
In the alchemical tradition there is a correspondence between the 7 days of the week, the 7 ancient metals (gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin and lead), the 7 planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars , Jupiter and Saturn), the 7 energy centers of man (better known as Chakras), colors, musical notes and each of the operations of alchemy.
Kabbalah, astrology, magic and chemistry converge in the elaboration of the spagyric tincture, without a distinction between the material and the spiritual; we call that alchemy. The alchemist gives an intention to his work, he uses magical tools for harvesting his plants (in our case a copper sickle with a bone handle). The alchemist plans each of his operations based on the correspondences of the plant and its rulers, purifies its ingredients according to the procedures proposed by tradition and, finally, unites them again when the time is right.
Now, from a chemical point of view, the tincture of a plant is normally done by extracting the essential oil through drag distillation (done with steam), and fermenting the plant to obtain an alcohol that is rectified through of a process of several distillations and combining these two materials with the purified salt of the plant. In fact, this is the formula (with a more complex process) to obtain a vegetable stone, or what is known as the Minor Work of alchemy.
This whole process can be simplified if a cold extraction is made, allowing the plant to macerate in the purest alcohol possible, the chlorophyll (with its active ingredients) and also the essential oils (which are soluble in alcohol and not in water) are extracted. Once the result of this extraction has been filtered, it is mixed with the purified body of the plant (conjunction) and circulated: this is a process where the tincture is placed in a container that allows evaporation and condensation, for a certain time, which can range from a lunar cycle to months.
Regardless of the chemical process used, if the tincture was made under the alchemical procedure, with intention, discipline and patience, not only will it include the active ingredients of the plant, with the consequent medicinal effect, but it will also have an effect on the other bodies of the person, where subtlety is necessary and sometimes imperceptible.
Given the spiritual characteristics of spagyric tinctures, they are used as amplifiers or magical receptacles (see works by Franz Bardon) and also as tuners of the various energy centers. For example, a small dose of a different tincture is usually consumed each day of the week, according to the correspondence with the ruling planet of the day and the energy center, as well as the specific aspects that the alchemist wants to work on himself (Bach flower remedies are based on this concept, under a patented model).
From the beginning, the most obvious component and the most used intention of a spagyric tincture has been its medicinal effect on the physical body. Tinctures have always been prepared with plants (or other ingredients) whose medicinal properties are validated by the different herbal or medicinal traditions of the world; and also, the effect is superior to the consumption of these ingredients under other preparations and for a long time it was thought that it was simply because of the spiritual component.
However, a larger study has begun to yield very important conclusions that allow us to even speak of spagyric tinctures as the world's first nanotechnology.
For example, Dr. Daniel Wiseman of Secret Fire Apothecary wrote a very interesting and widely read article on how spagyric tinctures are broad-spectrum colloidal suspensions, which have more potent medicinal effects than their conventional counterparts.
What Wiseman states is the following: Salts obtained by the calcination of plants are composed predominantly of Potassium (Carbonate), probably the most important electrolyte in the human body. When this alkaline mineral carbonate is introduced into alcohol a variety of chemical reactions occur. These reactions include, but are not limited to, the following:
The sum of these reactions includes a marked increase in stability, improved bioavailability, decreased side effects, and therefore the need for a lower dose. It does not end there, let's see what happens in the body with its consumption.
First described by Warren Jī in “Evolved Alchemy”, the method of spagyric tinctures and their chemical reactions is summarized as follows:
1. The primary active ingredients of the plant, which are mainly composed of carboxylic acids, are extracted with an alcohol (ethanol in this case). When these organic acids combine with ethanol, esters begin to form, but this reaction is limited by the presence of water. This is certainly one of the reasons why a "rectified" spirit (alcohol) is recommended in both classical and modern texts. But even so-called "pure alcohol" is only 95-96% pure, so there is always some water involved, which inhibits the full potential for esterification.
2. Once the plant material has completely depleted its key components, the recrystallized alkali/carbonate mineral salts extracted from the calcined/leached residue are re-introduced into the alcohol (acid) extract, causing a catalytic acid-base reaction which creates new soap-like compounds. The reaction is further aided by the extremely hydrophilic nature of the salt, which removes the small amount of remaining water and allows the full esterification potential of the organic acids. In addition to the esters formed in the tincture, the carbonate salts in combination with the organic acids form what are known as carboxylic acid salts. Both carboxylic esters and salts are also known as carboxylates.
Interestingly, in today's modern pharmaceutical world, esters and carboxylate salts are synthesized to create some of the most effective and safest types of drugs, called prodrugs, which consist of an added compound, often made up of a surfactant such as an alkaline salt and a medicinal lipophilic acid. Sounds familiar? These are the same two ingredients found in spagyric extracts!
Inert until metabolized by the body, the lipophilic-active drug becomes water-soluble and is transported through the body's defense mechanisms, such as early digestion. Easily entering the blood and cells, the inert aggregate is activated by the cleavage of active acid and alkaline surfactant.
Literally, the active compound found in the living plant has been "infiltrated", reanimated by enzymatic metabolism in the body. Prodrugs also have the benefit of being used on demand by the body, similar to endogenous compounds, dramatically reducing side effects due to their targeted actions and reduced dosage due to their increased bioavailability and potency.
1. Albertus, Frater. (1974). Alchemist´s Handbook, Manual for Practical Laboratory Alchemy. Weiser Books.
2. Dubuis, Jean. (2019). Spagyrics, A Practical Course in Plant Alchemy. The Philosophers of Nature.
3. Hurley, Phillip. (1977). Herbal Alchemy. Maithuna Publications.
4. Junius, Manfred M. (1979). Spagyrics, The Alchemical Preparation of Medicinal Essences, Tinctures, and Elixirs. Healing Arts Press.
5. Mavéric, Jean. (1911). Hermetic Herbalism. The Art of Extracting Spagyric Essences. Inner Traditions.
6. Wiseman, Daniel (2019). Herbal Nanotechnology. How Spagyric Tincturing Methods Produce Full Spectrum Colloidal Suspensions of Natural Prodrugs.
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