Estimates say that up to 90 percent of pharmaceutical drugs owe their origin to plant and herbal remedies that have been in use for millennia. Using reductionist science — the questionable skill of tearing apart natural substances to isolate what modern scientists call “active ingredients” — Big Pharma produces potent versions of medicines that often cause more harm than good. Disrespecting the holistic nature of healing, modern science extracts isolated chemicals that can be patented for profit. Yet there is a way to optimize the healing potential of natural substances without compromising their innate characteristics. That method is the ancient art of alchemy using the Spagyric process. Big Pharma doesn’t do it that way but you can make medicinal tinctures in your kitchen.

The word alchemy bears the burden of association with radical notions like transmutation or changing lead to gold. But in truth, alchemy is a very precise science that is a valid method of releasing the healing power of nature by honoring its inherent qualities. Alchemy is the precursor of modern chemistry. Like herbal remedies, acupuncture, meditation and yoga, alchemy has found its place in the healing arts community, much to our benefit.

On August 12, 1991, I traveled from my home in Burbank, down the I-5 to Los Feliz Blvd., my usual route to the Philosophical Research Society campus. Founded in 1934 by esoteric philosopher Manly P. Hall, the PRS remains a nexus of metaphysical activity with lectures, classes and events ongoing. I often enrolled in a class or lecture series if its calendar entry piqued my interest.

This particular visit marked the opening class of a four-week course of study on alchemy. I had no idea what to expect but the description had mentioned working with medicinal herbs so I was all in. The course was taught by Art Kunkin. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this column, now some 22 years later, that I discovered how famous Kunkin is. Suffice it to say that he is well-qualified to teach alchemy — among other things.

Use the whole enchilada. The acceptance of plant-based and herbal medicines by Americanized culture isn’t news. Since the 1960s, interest in holistic healing practices has renewed. Extracting active components from nature’s botanical medicines is not a difficult task. An individual can do it in the kitchen with a few supplies. But to do it right and facilitate exposure of all the healing energy of the substance requires proper knowledge.

If you look up “herbal extract” at Wikipedia, it provides you oversimplified information. It describes an extract as the active oils that are precipitated by exposing an herb or plant to alcohol then discarding the remains, the solid matter. But even in the 16th century, the iconic physician Paracelsus knew that there is more to it than that. The medicinal quality resides in the whole material, not just in an isolated few oils. Reductionist medicine is not what natural medicine is about.

Paracelsus knew, and simple chemistry tells us, that an herb or natural substance does indeed have alcohol-soluble components. But it also has water-soluble components. And finally, after those two components are released, there remains the mineral or solid component. Unless an extraction process accounts for all three, something is left on the table. The Spagyric extraction method leaves nothing on the table.

The term Spagyric is a portmanteau of two Greek words meaning “to tear open” (spao) and “to collect” (ageiro). It describes the process perfectly. Spagyric dismantles the components of the herb or botanical and then reassembles them. Included with other disciplines, it is part of the science of alchemy.

Noted. In reviewing my notes from that Kunkin-led class, I see that he was thorough. The course included a practicum and my experimental tincture was a powerful one. There is latitude for the novice in preparing tinctures using the Spagyric method. That is fortunate because alchemy is a profound and complicated discipline that can take years, if not decades, to master. Spagyric alchemical preparation of tinctures respects the holistic nature of the plant or substrate (known technically as the “marc”) and also invokes the holistic nature of life, incorporating prayer or consciousness along with other energies of the universe such as planetary alignments.

I was taught that using even the basics of Spagyric extraction would produce a far superior herbal tincture. Over the long term, an application of temporal alignments and observation of universal energies would be the proper use of Spagyric knowledge. In the short term, it appears that the steps of alcohol extraction followed by water extraction and finally calcination of the remaining marc fulfills the basics. The final step is the recombination of the three elements.

To acquire a vertically integrated medicine cabinet, prepare your own soil, grow your own medicine and extract your own tincture. An option exists. Having visited the facilities of an herbal supplement and homeopathics company called Energique, I can attest that the company indeed follows the ancient path of Spagyric extraction in producing their premium tinctures.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit for more information.

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