Re-ignited in Europe by Paracelsus, an early 16th century physician and father of modern toxicology, a new branch of Alchemy sprouted up through what he titled Spagyrics.
Spagyrics draws from the framework and practices of both laboratory and philosophical Alchemy. It forged a methodology of holistic medicine-making based upon a concept known as the Tria Prima; Salt, Sulphur, and Mercury. Otherwise known as the Body, Soul, and Spirit, these are the three “primes” of all things in the manifest world.
The title Spagyric, is derived from the ancient Greek words spao (to draw out) and agerio (to gather). The word highlights the basic techniques underlying the many forms of Spagyric medicines.
In regards to plants and fungi the three essential principles to be separated, purified and recombined include the:
One of the primary differences with a Spagyric extract is its addition of the Salt principle; the mineral salt profile of the plant. A small amount of soluble salts are obtained with a conventional extract using at least some water and/or vinegar. However, the vast majority of a plant’s salts are left behind in what’s called the marc.
This is the pressed out herb mass after macerating in alcohol, water, vinegar, glycerine etc. These “trapped” salts so to speak are still confined by organic materials, unreachable no matter how long you macerate for.
The Salt principle can be viewed as the grounding and “fixed” corporeal aspect of a Spagyric preparation. There are two steps in order to free these salts for their recombining with the Mercury (alcohol) and Sulphur (essential oil+active compounds).
First, the marc must first be completely incinerated to ash, and then the ash must be further subjected to steady high heat. This process is called calcination. When calcination is completed, the salts are then leached out of the ashes and purified/recrystallized.
This purification and recrystallization process uses distilled water or sometimes the plant’s hydrosol. They are then ready to be recombined in a variety of different ways with their counterparts of Sulphur and Mercury… and this is where the real magic of Spagyria begins!
The salts obtained via calcination from plant sources are predominantly composed of Potassium, arguably the most important electrolyte for the human body. When this alkaline carbonate form of the mineral is re-introduced to the alcohol, essential oils and other active compounds, a variety of chemical reactions start to occur. These reactions include but are not limited to:
As mentioned before, there is still much to discover and rediscover concerning the art of Spagyria. However, these points alone serve as a solid modern scientific understanding and reasoning for the tremendous additional benefits of utilizing this extraction technique in favour of conventional methods.
The Alchemical axioms of “fixing the volatile” and “volatilizing the fixed” provide much insight in regards to the re-introduction of the Salt and additional works to transform and evolve it.
For example, when organic acids such as essential oils are neutralized by the alkaline salt, it forms a carboxylic acid salt. The non-water soluble “volatile” oil has now been “fixed” so to speak, creating a more bioavailable, deeper penetrating, specified and longer lasting effect.
On the other end of the spectrum, the “fixed” salts of the plant can be volatilized through sublimation (turned into a gas, and then recrystallized) by unique distillation processes, or through acetylation using vinegar/acetic acid.
These techniques enable substances that normally do not mix (such as oil and water or alcohol and salt) to reform into a single homogenous extract. The substances are readily available (“bioavailable”) to the body to use on demand. Alchemically speaking, it allows for the combining and balancing of the normally incompatible and opposite Solar and Lunar principles, creating what’s known as the Alchemical Child.