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Demystifying the Volatile Salt

 Metallic oils…or are they?


Demystifying the Volatile Salt

Demystifying the Volatile Salts produced via co-distillation of pure Sulphur (essential oil) and Salt (potassium carbonate) of the plant kingdom.

As described by various authors/laboratory alchemists such as Rubellus Petrinus, Jean Maveric, Starkey, Van Helmont, Steve Kalec, Guy Ogilvy, Heliophilus, and Michael Nottingham, there is said to be a secret method of sublimating the fixed/non-volatile potassium carbonate salts via co-distillation with the essential oils/volatile Sulphur of plants.

The theory proposed is that through proper preparation of the Salt and Sulphur, by purification and opposing hot/cold temperatures of the salt & oil when combining, that the normally fixed and fire-resistant potassium salt will fly over with the Sulphur/essential oil.

After having performed this operation successfully a number of times, I noticed that particular herbs work much better than others. The prime example is that of Rosemary, which is the plant highlighted by almost all of the above-listed authors on the subject. This made me wonder…why so easy with some plants and not others?

Being inquisitive with a healthy dose of skepticism, I started to look further into the potential chemistry that may be underlying this closely guarded secret. This led me to discover that the fixed potassium salt is in fact NOT flying over along with the essential oil/Sulphur as described in the above-mentioned references. That truly, these volatile salts are merely acidic salts that make up part of the essential oil/sulphur content found in plants such as Rosemary.

Unravelling the mystery of the Volatile Salt

How did I discover this fact? And how can I prove what I’m saying to be true? Unravelling the mystery and misunderstanding of this process started whilst contemplating the volatile Salts of Benzoin resin, also known as Benzoin Flowers. Described in Jean Maveric’s book Hermetic Herbalism, Benzoin resin readily provides a highly aromatic volatile salt known as Benzoic acid.

By simply applying heat to the resin within a sublimation device such as a blind alembic, beautiful needles of crystalline Benzoic acid grow as they condense on the cooled alembic head. This immediately raised the question: Is the secret oil & salt method doing the same thing, rather than volatilizing the potassium salts as described? And indeed yes…this is exactly what is happening.

The Reason behind the Result

The reason this method works so well with Rosemary, has nothing to do with adding the potassium salt body of the herb at all…it is due to the Camphor content, a volatile acidic salt found in the Sulphur (essential oil) of Rosemary. To prove out my theory, a test was run by simply dry distilling Rosemary oil with absolutely no potassium salt added at all…low and behold, it readily produced a sublimated salt within the retort, proving this theory to indeed be true.

The reason this salt isn’t detected during the initial steam or hydro-distillation is because the water/hydrosol washes it away before it crystallizes, returning to a dissolved liquid state in the collected oil layer in the receiver. Only by dry distillation without water or alcohol does this volatile salt of the essential oil/Sulphur show its face, with no water or alcohol washing it away.

Now… this does not mean that the fixed, fire-resistant salt can not be rendered volatile…it just shows that this one particular method has been at least partially misunderstood and does not yield the exact results as proposed. A volatile salt is produced yes, but it is not the heavy potassium-based body of the plant as hoped.

I do however feel that further investigation is warranted on this subject, specifically, that of comparative chemical analysis between the results of a distillate produced with and without the potassium salts added. Because it is already known that the potassium salts of plants combined with the acidic oils of plants do in fact create novel crystalline compounds, it is possible that some of these catalyzed salts may also be rendered volatile in the above-mentioned dry distillation method. Tests are underway at present and the results will be published as a follow up to this article.

Final Thoughts

In closing, I’d like to note that I mean no disrespect to the authors mentioned, nor am I discounting in totality the value of repeated distillations or the unique method of combining plant Salts and Sulphur. Rather, I am sharing this discovery so that we may all grow closer to the Truth of Nature, by correcting current and past misunderstandings of Our Art.

Special thanks to my brother and partner in this work Roger Lambert, who performed the first test of this theory.