John Reid's Course on Practical Alchemy - II. Chapter 3.Back to main page of Course.
Production of Spagyric Herbal Tinctures
Every good herbalist knows that the time of planting as well as harvesting is extremely important. For many persons the thought that celestial bodies millions of miles from earth can have any effect on terrestrial matter is absurd. Yet the forces or energies emitted by our distant neighbors does indeed affect all earth matter.
What this has to do with tinctures and extracts is this. The forces of nature are very sensitive to heat. They quickly break down in harvested plants at temperatures above 40 degrees C. Thus, by many products being concentrated (even under ultra-high vacuum) the most nutritious kernel or spark is destroyed. To preserve this spark the spagyracist and alchemist use only mild temperatures in their operations, that is, if one is out to create a superior product. A good analogy is to compare making an herbal extract in the orthodox with the act of boiling and egg. You can indeed eat and receive nutrition from a boiled egg. Though you will never be able to hatch a chicken from it.
In this respect the common alcohol one buys at a store, no matter how high its proof, is dead. This alcohol could be compared with the dark sterile mother of the qabbalist. It reminds me of the dirt my mother would dig up out of the ground and bake in the oven before placing it into her plant pots. She told me this was done to sterilize the earth of any unwanted bacterial or insect life. Once done, the earth could be refertilized (reanimated) with the proper organic substances so the seed planted in it would grow properly. To the modern scientist this talk of life in alcohol would seem to be nonsense. They point to the molecular configuration of ethyl alcohol, C2H5OH, and scream Ah ha! Your arguments of vitality in substance are ridiculous. This very same molecular configuration shows itself whether the substance is from a natural or synthetic source. To them, we must say that they are dealing with only an empty vehicle. A car cannot operate itself without the conscious direction of human will. Nor can a synthetic product engender its own kind.
Alcohol prepared by distilling wine lacks the celestial Fire contained in air. With the acquisition of this Fire, or more aptly put, individual consciousness, the alchemist animates the Mercury. The dead body is now enlivened and shaped by the intervention of a soul and spirit. This acquiring of cosmic spirit is not very hard to do but it does require precision. It all deals with the proper regulation of the heat. Alcohol's grip on the spirit is tenuous at best so great diligence is needed in the special operation of animating mercury.
Thus, an herbal extract that has been concentrated by distillation, and boast an increased efficacy because of a low alcohol content in direct response to this distillation, is in fact losing on two fronts, because its seed has been destroyed and its spirit driven off. Therefore, in the alchemic view tinctures prepared according to art are always much more stronger than any extract, because the tincture retains much more life-force. It must be stressed here that this life-force has nothing to do with the concentration of a substance or what many herbal companies call active ingredients in their extracts, as revealed by high pressure and gas chromatography. It is as far as I know only possible to show the presence of these forces by capillary dynamic studies. The patterns made by living substances and dead ones as a result of capillary studies leave no question of debate.
Press the liquid out of enough grapes to make a half gallon of juice. Pour the juice into the 5000 ml round-bottom flask, then add the skins. To determine the alcohol we are making to a specific herb add 1 or 2 ounces of dried herb (It is really best to use an herb picked by your own hand; in this way, you know what formative forces are locked up in the herb.) The entire volume of the contents should not exceed two-thirds of the flask's capacity. Our aim is now to cause a fermentation of the mixture. Add a little brewer's yeast and sugar and use a fermentation lock to close the flask. Put the flask into an incubator at 27 degree's C. In two to four days the formation of gas bubbles will announce the start of fermentation. In time the bubbles will stop and the matter will fall to the bottom of the container. This is a sign the fermentation has stopped. In all, it will take about two weeks for the entire process to be completed. Hook up the distillation train to the flask using a 2000 ml round bottom flask as the receiver. A water bath will be the best method for this distillation. Hook up the water supply to the condenser and then turn on the heating element. The impure alcohol will distill over at 80 degree C.to 90 degree C (you can add a few handfulls of sea salt and sandinto the water bath to encrease it's temperature). Distill the soup until no more will rise. Turn the heat off and let it cool. Put a cork into the flask and store it in a cool place until needed later.
Pour the distillate in the receiver into another 2000 ml round bottom flask. Distill off all liquid that will come over at 85 degreesC. Place the liquid left in the distillation flask into a mason jar and save it for later use.
Take the distillate that is in the receiver and distill it five more times using only a water bath. After each distillation take the residue left in the distillation flask and add it to the watery substance in the mason jar known as phlegm. The distillate is poured back into the distillation flask a-new each time (after removal of the phlegm) and distilled again. When making our last distillation the alcohol should come over at 76 degrees C. In this way we can get an almost pure ethyl alcohol. Be sure to record the final volumes of your phlegm and alcohol.
Pour this alcohol over the same type of herb used to determine the alcohol and let it digest for twenty-one to forty-two days. In the end, you will have a very dark tincture that smells strongly of the herb. Be careful as this tincture will stain your clothing as well as your hands. At this point the production of a normal tincture would end, but this is not so for the spagyric one. Decant and filter the tincture from the herb and store it in a mason jar, allowing it to digest in the incubator as you continue your work.
Place the sterile soup left in the 5000 ml flask and the herb body left in the mason jar into a large pot. Take the pot outdoors and boil off the liquid. When all the liquid is gone the herb body will begin to roast and then incinerate. When the herb body has obtained an ash gray color the incineration is done.
Grind and weigh this ash. Use a soxhlet extractor to extract its water-soluble salts from it, using the phlegm of wine as the extrac- ting medium. Pour the phlegm containing the salts into a crucible or pyrex dish and evaporate the water off the salts in an oven overnight. Scrape the salts out of the dish using a stainless steel knife or screwdriver. Grind the salts and weigh them. Place them back into the crucible or pyrex dish and calcine them in the kiln for one week at 600 degrees C. Turn the kiln off and let it cool. Take the salts out of the crucible and grind and weigh them. This process of extracting, evaporating, grinding, weighing, calcining, grinding, and weighing must be done at least two more times. To insure the proper pureness of our matter.
Once we have gotten our pure water-soluble salts grind them to an extremely fine powder in a warm mortar. Then add them to your tincture. Be sure to let the tincture cool down when you remove it from your incubator. To open it immediately would allow a lot of its volatile goodies to escape. Add the salts to the tincture, there will be a slight fizz upon their addition. Allow the mixture to digest for two weeks, taking care to shake the jar three to five times a day. At the end of two weeks allow the solution to rest in a cool room. Decant the tincture off of any sediment that falls to the bottom. Dry and save the sediment. Continue this work of clarification until no more sediment appears on the bottom of the mason jar. Place the tincture into an amber-colored bottle and store in a cool place. This is the simplest way that I know of making a really potent spagyric tincture.
Note well: The sediment of clarifications should all be mixed and thoroughly dried. This should then be calcined to a pure whiteness at 600 degrees C. Store these salts in a tightly sealed container. They can be redetermined at a later date and used in another tincture.