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Spagyric Distillation

We recently completed a hydrosol distillation of Tulsi Basil or Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) and then continued the process for an additional product of a spagyric. What an amazing process of herbal alchemy!

A spagyric /spa-geric/ is an herbal medicine produced by alchemical procedures. The roots of the words refer first to the extraction or separation process and then to the recombining process to be used to make herbal extracts of great power and energetic force. [1]

Spagyric, as a word and process, was invented by Paracelsus, the great 16th century physician. Paracelsus repeatedly stressed the importance of working with all three levels of the plant’s being- the obvious physical of the Salt, the life force and intelligence of the Mercury, and the eternal core of the Sulfur. [2]

This process involves fermentation, distillation, and extraction of the mineral components from the ash of the plant. These processes were in used historically in herbal alchemy generally for the separation and purification of metals from ores, and salts from brines and other aqueous solutions.

Spagyric most commonly refers to a plant tincture to which has also been added the ash of the calcined plant. The original rationale behind these special herbal tinctures seems to have been that an extract using alcohol could not be expected to contain all the medicinal properties from a living plant, and so the ash or mineral component (as a result of the calcination process) of the calcined plant was prepared separately and then added back to 'augment' (increase) the alcoholic tincture.

The three primal alchemical properties and their correspondence in the spagyric remedy are:

  • Mercury = water element, representing the life essence of the plant, the very alcohol extract of the plant is the carrier of the life essence.

  • Salt = earth element, representing the vegetable salts extracted from calcined ashes of plant body.

  • Sulfur = fire element, virtue of plant, representing the volatile oil essence of the plant. [1]

These herbal tinctures are alleged to have superior medicinal properties to simple alcohol tinctures, perhaps due the formation of soap-like compounds from the essential oils and the basic salts contained within the ash. In theory, these spagyrics can also optionally include material from fermentation of the plant material and also any aromatic component such as might be obtained through distillation. The final spagyric is a re-blending of all such extracts into one 'essence'. [2]

From a chemical standpoint, the mineral salts neutralize the organic acids of the plant. This converts the acids of the plant to their ester form yielding soap-like compounds. What was once oil soluble, is now water soluble. This form is more bioavailable, making the plant's compounds more potent and effective. [3]





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