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John Reid's Course on Practical Alchemy - II. Chapter 4.

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Chapter 4
Production of Spagyric Herbal Essences

Spagyric essences are much subtler than extracts or even tinctures. They contain only the most volatile constituents of the herb used. There are many ways of making such essences, I will give you two methods that are familiar to me.

Method One This method is very complicated because it involves the separation of all three of the spagyric essentials.

We will need to put our herb through a steam distillation first so we can obtain its volatile oils. Place a 5000 ml round-bottom flask into a sand bath. Pour 3000 ml of distilled water into the flask. Take a widemouthed double-jointed flask and place a small piece of filter paper inside the flask over the bottom joint. Add enough ground herb to the flask so it is half full. Next hook up the reduction head and the distillation adapter. Finally, use a 2000 ml flask as a receiver at the end of the apparatus.

Turn the heat on low. After some time you will see the steam clouding up the double-jointed flask as it passes through it. Our distillation adapter also will become fogged. At the end of the drip tip you will see water droplets forming. The drops will fall into the receiver. After a few milliliters have collected in the receiver you will notice that a colored oil is collecting on top of the water. When approximately 1500 ml of the water has been distilled over, turn off the heat. Let the apparatus cool and transfer the water and oil in the receiver into the oil separator.

Take the double jointed flask off the distillation flask. Pour 1000 ml of fresh distilled water into the distillation flask and hook back up the entire apparatus. This entire process should be done at least three times to insure that the majority of the volatile oils come out of the plant body. While our second separation of the volatile oils is under way we will gather the oils obtained from the first. To do this, simply open the stopcock at the end of the drain tube. Slowly drain off the water. When only a little water is left in the separator close the stopcock. After each subsequent extraction of the volatile oils from the plant body, take what is in the receiver and place it in the oil separator. Drain the water out of the separator leaving the oil behind. Reuse this water for all of your subsequent separations of oil from the body. By the time youe have extracted oil from 5 pounds of plant material you will have a few mililiters of pure volatile oil.

Take the essence-depleted bodyof the herb and place it into the widemouthed 5000 ml round-bottom flask. The water that was left from the separations of the volatile oils is now poured over the herb. Seal up the round-bottom flask with a fermentation lock and place it into an incubator at 27 degrees C. In about two weeks our plant body will have fermented and yielded up its spirit. Distill off the spirit as you have done before and rectify it seven times. Save the phlegm from the spirit for later use.

Empty the remaining liquid and plant body left in the 5000 ml flask into a large glass pot. Take the pot outdoors and boil off all the moisture. When the moisture is gone the herb body will begin to roast and then incinerate. When the body has obtained an ash gray color turn off the heat and let the pot cool. Grind and weigh the ash. Set up the soxhlet extraction apparatus and extract the water soluble salts from the ash. Evaporate the water off the salts in the oven overnight. Grind and weigh the salts then place them into the kiln to calcine at 600 degrees C for one week. At the end of the week turn the kiln off and let it cool. Grind and weigh the salts. Repeat the extraction, drying, grinding, weighing, calcining, grinding, and weighing two more times.

Once you have gotten your pure hygroscopic salt, pour your rectified spirit over the salts, then add your volatile oil. Allow the mixture to digest in an incubator at 30 degrees C for a week. Be sure to slightly shake the container three to five times a day. Decant the essence off the undissolved salts. It will be seen that the essence is now colored yellow and smells strongly of the herb you used. One drop in wine or distilled water will yield the full effects of the plant's medicinal nature. Save the remaining salts as you did with those left over from the manufacture of the tincture.

A word of caution here is in order. Because of the high concentration of essential plant oils in this product care must be taken when it is being used. One should in my opinion use this product as if they were using a pure essential oil. Literally, one drop will do you, and that drop should be properly diluted.

Method Two Our second way of making an essence is similar to the first method, except that it is not as potent. Thus, it can readily be used without fear of accidental misuse.

Place enough finely ground herb (approximately 1oz) into a 2000 ml round-bottom flask so only 1/8 to 1/4 of the flask capacity is taken up. Add enough distilled water to the flask so that 2/3 of the flask capacity is occupied. Place the flask into a 21 degree C incubator for three - five days. It is important to regulate the temperature of the flask perfectly or else our herb will begin to ferment. After three to five days take the flask out of the incubator. Place the flask into a water bath and hook up the distillation train. Create a vacuum and distill off most of the liquid.

Take the distillate and pour it back over the herb and repeat the process ten to twelve times. The water will now smell mildly of the herb. The essential oils contained in the plant are now in the water. After the last distillation let the apparatus cool.

Disassemble the distillation train. Add enough rectified spirits of wine to the receiver so its volume equals 7% to 12% of the total volume of liquid in the flask. Place a condenser onto the flask, cork the condenser and hook up the water supply. Using a sand bath and gentle heat ( 30 degrees C - 37 degrees C ) begin a rhythmic circulation of the matter. Heat the matter from 6 am in the morning until 6 pm in the evening. Then allow it to cool overnight and in the next morning begin the circulation again. This circulation should be done for fourteen days.

Take the plant residue left in the distillation flask and transfer it to a large glass pot. Incinerate the contents in the pot. Take the ash out of the pot and extract the water soluble salts from it. Evaporate the water from the salts overnight in the drying oven. Place the dried salts in the kiln and calcine for two weeks at 600 degrees C. At the end of two weeks turn the kiln off and let it cool. Take the salts out of the kiln and weigh them then grind the salts fine and place them into a glass petri dish (you can add a few grams of salt saved from the production of another tincture or essence). Take the dish outside at night, and leave it out all night. Be sure to elevate the petri dish at least six inches above ground on a piece of wood. At dawn take the petri dish inside.

Put the glass cover over the petri dish. Take off the condenser and pour the salt solution in the petri dish into the flask. Reattach the condenser and rhythmically circulate for another seven days. Let the apparatus cool and then pour it into a mason jar and seal it tightly. Allow the jar to stand in a dark cool place undisturbed for two weeks. At the end of this time decant the essence off of any sediment that may have fallen to the bottom of the mason jar. Let your essence sit another two weeks and if no more sediment shows itself, it is ready. If sediment appears on the bottom, continue the work of clarification.

Thus, you have completed the second way of making a spagyric herbal essence. A 1/4 teaspoon in a glass of wine or distilled water will lightly scent your beverage and give you a gentle herbal tonic.