The Ancient Art of Spagyric Tinctures
Spagyric tinctures are becoming widely accepted as an effective and viable plant medicine, but the power of spagyric preparations reaches far beyond the material realm and physical alchemical processes. The mystical art of alchemy and spagyrics lie on the foundation of the Three Essentials or the Three Philosophical Principles—the holy trinity that is present in all living things. Once familiar with how the Three Essentials are manifested and brought to life through the physical extraction process, only then will you be able to fully understand the true power of spagyric tinctures.
The Three Essentials
In traditional spagyrics, there are the Three Essentials or Three Philosophical Principles: Sulfur, Mercury and Salt which equate to the Soul, Spirit and Body. These alchemical terms do not mean the same as the common materials we associate them with, such as table salt or mercury found in thermometers. Rather, these terms refer to elements found in the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdom and represent the physical, spiritual and energetic constituents that are separated, purified and recombined during the spagyric extraction process. The meanings of each principle are described as follows:
Alchemical Sulfur |The Soul|
Sulfur represents the Soul and acts as the consciousness and character of a thing. The Soul is unique to each living thing and, in spagyrics, resides in the essential oils of the plant.
Alchemical Mercury |The Spirit|
Mercury represents the Spirit of a living thing. In spagyrics, Mercury resides in the alcohol of the plant.
Alchemical Salt |The Body|
Salt represents the Body or vehicle of a living thing. This Principle provides a medium for Sulfur and Mercury to manifest and interact. In the spagyric philosophy, the Salt resides in the white ash of the plant.
Through alchemical processes, these principles are separated, purified and brought back together to create a true full-spectrum herbal medicine.
The Spagyric Extraction Process |Traditional vs Modern Method|
With a good understanding of the Three Essentials, the physical extraction process to make spagyric tinctures is straightforward. The process of spagyrics consists of three main steps: separation (of the Three Essentials), purification and cohobation (recombining). First, I think it is important to discuss a more traditional spagyric extraction process, as I believe it will serve as a good basis for understanding the separation and purification of the Three Principles.
In traditional spagyrics, the alchemical Sulfur is the first principle that is separated. Once the chosen herb or herbs are finely chopped, the plant material is put in a flask and soaked in water to make a paste. Once the herbal paste has been sitting for several weeks, spagyrists use a steam distillation to evaporate the water off, which will leave only the essential oils of the plant (the Soul). The already mushy plant material is then left to soak in the water until it ferments and then distilled to make volatile alcohol (the Spirit). The Three Essentials are now entirely separated with the Salt still residing in the plant material.
The next step of the process is the purification of the Three Essentials. The Sulfur and Mercury are redistilled several times until they are highly refined in a physical sense, but also elevated in a spiritual manner. To extract the Salt, the plant material is burned to a white ash, dissolved in water, filtered, and then evaporated—leaving only purified crystalline salts. The final step is the cohobation or recombining of the now purified Principles. The finely powdered Salt is saturated with the Sulfur and Mercury in which the spagyric tincture is finally complete.
While there are various alchemical methods to execute the separation and purification of the Three Essentials, the modern-day spagyric process usually begins by soaking the desired plants or herbs with high-proof alcohol which can be found at any local liquor store. Since the Mercury within a kingdom is universal, modern day spagyrists can use any alcohol that is distilled from plants such as grain or fruit alcohol. This process is known as the maceration. Once the herbs have been soaked for several weeks, you will see that the alcohol has become deeply colored. This alcohol extract contains the combined Mercury and Sulfur of the plant (Spirit and Soul).
Although it is customary in traditional spagyrics to leave the alcohol in the final product, some manufacturers evaporate some or most of the alcohol off before combining the mineral salts back into the tincture, allowing for a more potent and flavorful oil-like tincture. The same exact steps as above are taken to purify the alchemical Salt in which the Essentials are then recombined to make the final product.
Spagyrics is so much more than an extraction method and may as well be a figment of the imagination without these Principles. Not only is the physical extraction process of spagyrics intimately connected to the Three Essentials, but other philosophical principles such as the Hermetic Principles and astrology also play a major role in the energetics of creating perfect spagyric tinctures—but that’s another blog for another time. Until then, please enjoy this short excerpt from none other than the father of spagyrics himself, Paracelsus:
“There are hundreds of different kinds of salt, sulphur, and mercury in the universe and in the human system, and the greatest arcana (potencies) are contained in them. All things are hidden in them in the same sense as a pear is hidden in a pear-tree and grapes in a vine. The superficial observer sees only that which exists for his senses, but the interior sight discovers the things of the future. A gardener knows that a vine will produce no pears, and a pear-tree no grapes. The ignorant speak of heat and cold, of dryness and moisture, of sweetness and acidity, of bitterness and astringency, without knowing the cause that produces such qualities; but the wise recognize in them the qualities of the stars.”
Bartlett, Robert Allen. Real Alchemy: a Primer of Practical Alchemy. Ibis Press, 2009.
Hartmann, Franz. “Life of Paracelsus.” 8 Alchemy and Astrology, selfdefinition.org/magic/paracelsus/hartmann-life-of-paracelsus/08-alchemy-and-astronomy.htm#sulphur-mercury-salt.