John Reid's Course on Practical Alchemy - II. Chapter 2.Back to main page of Course.
Chapter 2 Production of Spagyric Herbal Extracts
Our first task is to make an incubator for our laboratory. This piece of equipment will be one of the essential things that we use in the lab. To make an inexpensive incubator proceed as follows. Take one large Styrofoam container and spread a 1/2- inch layer of sand evenly on the container's bottom. On top of the sand place a large back heating pad that has a thermostat control. Cut a notch in the top corner of the Styrofoam container for the cord. In this way the top of the container will be flush with the edges when you close it. On top of the heating pad place a 1-inch layer of sand. You now have a simple incubator to use in your lab. It will maintain temperatures from 16 degrees C to 44 degrees C, depending on where you have set the thermostat. We are ready to begin making a simple spagyric extraction of our chosen herb.
Take any herb that you like and place it into a mason jar. Cover the herb with five times its volume of a good white wine or brandy. Seal the mason jar and place it in the incubator of about 30 degrees C, to digest for twentyone to fourtytwo days. At the end of this time you will have a very dark tincture. Decant the tincture from the herb and store it in another mason jar. Take the herb body out of the first mason jar and place it into a calcining dish or large pot. Take the pot with the herb body outside and incinerate it. After some time all of the moisture will be driven off from the herb. It will then start to roast and then incinerate.
Your task is accomplished when the herb body has turned to ash and obtained a light gray color. Take the ash out of the pot and weigh it. Grind the ash to be sure there are no solid parts in it. Place the ash onto a stove top and continue to heat until it is pure white. Turn off the stove and let cool. Take the ash out and weigh it, then grind it one more time.
Place the ash into the mason jar holding the herbal tincture. Seal the jar and place it back into the incubator of 30° C to digest for three more weeks, taking care to shake the jar three to five times a day. In this way the water-soluble salts are absorbed by the tincture. At the end of the three weeks decant the tincture from the herb and cast away the feces. Let the herb sit out for one week in a cool room so any impurities suspended in the tincture can settle at the bottom of the mason jar. If any sediment falls decant the liquid from it and caste away the feces. Repeat this work of sedimentation until no feces fall to the bottom of the container holding your tincture. When finished, you will have made a spagyric herbal extract.
Take one pound of any herb that you like. Take a half pound of the herb and grind it very fine in your mortar (one also can use a food processor). Place the herb into the 5000 ml round-bottom flask. Pour enough distilled water over the herb so the entire volume of the contents of the flask reaches two-thirds of its capacity.
To speed up the fermentation process add a little sugar and brewer's yeast to the mixture. Use a wine fermentation air lock in a cork to seal the flask. Put the flask into an incubator at 27° C. In a few days the fermentation of the herb will begin. This process is announced by the formation of gas bubbles in the liquid. In time the bubbles will stop and the matter will fall to the bottom of the container. This is a sign that the fermentation has stopped. In all, it will take about two weeks for the entire process to be completed.
Take the air lock out of the flask. Place the flask with all of its contents still in it into a large pot. Secure the flask to a stand using a clamp and then place enough water into the pot holding the flask so the water line is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches below the lip of the pot. Assemble the rest of the distillation train. Use a little stopcock grease to insure easy assembly and proper seal. Hook up the water supply to the condenser and turn on the heating element. In a few minutes the water in the pot will begin to boil. About ten minutes after that you will see the impure alcohol condensing and dripping into the receiver. The impure alcohol will come over at 85 to 90° C. When no more liquid will come over turn off the heat and water and let the apparatus cool.
Empty the contents of the distillation flask into a large pot. Take the pot outside and begin roasting the residue. While the feces roast we can return to work in our laboratory.
Pour the distillate in the receiver into a 2000 ml round bottom flask. Distill off all the liquid that will come over at 85 degrees C. Place the liquid left in the distillation flask into a mason jar for later use. By this time, our feces should have become a gray ash. Weigh the ash and place it into a mason jar 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 residue from the second distillation. This watery substance is known as phlegm. The distillate is poured back into the distillation flask anew each time (after the 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 are able to get an almost pure ethyl alcohol. Be sure to record the final volumes of your phlegm and alcohol.
Take the second half of your herb and grind it to a fine powder. Put it into the 5000 ml round-bottom flask, then pour the entire amount of the alcohol distillate over the herb. Add enough distilled water to the flask so the amount of alcohol in the mixture equals 10% to 20% by volume. Seal the jar adapter and allow its contents to digest in the incubator for fourteen to twentyone days at a temperature of 35 degree's C to 37 degree's C; in this way an extract of the plant is made. The presence of the purified alcohol keeps the new plant material from undergoing fermentation. Decant the darkly colored extract from the herb body and store it in another mason jar. Place the mason jar holding the extract back into the incubator to further amalgamate its separate principles. The herb body is taken outside, placed into a large pot and turned to ash. The ash of the maceration and ash of the fermentation are ground and mixed well. Place the combined ash into the thimble of the soxhlet extractor. The phlegm obtained from the purification of the alcohol is used to extract the alkaline water-soluble salts from the ash. Pour the phlegm containing the water-soluble salts into a crucible or pyrex dish and evaporate the water off overnight. The next morning scrape the salts out, grind, and weigh them. The salts are then placed back into the crucible or pyrex dish and put into the kiln and calcined to whiteness. The temperature of the kiln should not be over 600 degrees C. This process of extraction, evaporation, grinding, weighing, calcining, and weighing is done up to two more times. In the end, our salts are a pure white (sometimes a bluish tint can be seen). These salts are very alkaline as well as hygroscopic. This latter fact makes them very useful as a vehicle for cosmic forces. Finally grind the salts in a warm mortar and add them to the extract. Let them digest for a week or so with your extract, shaking the jar at least five times a day. Decant the extract off of any sediment that may have settled on the bottom of the mason jar. In this way, we now have a spagyric extract.