To many of you, knowing and supporting our work for so long, that may seem like a very basic and easy to answer question. If so, thanks for paying attention all this time! But, if you’re new to our work, or would just like a better understanding of what we do, this question is a great starting point which we’re happy to explore.
Spagyric processing was created by the 16th century Alchemist and healer, Paracelsus. The word comes from two root words: spao, meaning separate, and gyre, meaning recombine. That is the short version of what we do in our lab- separating the many physical aspects of a plant, purifying them, and then recombining them into a new whole, all while protecting the life force and subtle intelligence of the plant.
The full story of what Spagyrics are is more complex than that “nutshell” version, but that basic two part division is a good way to open our discussion.
Separation starts with herbal extraction processes which might already be familiar to you, such as alcohol and water extraction, as well as steam distillation of essential oils. These processes take the original plant matter- the ground up leaves, roots, seeds, flowers, and fruits- and breaks them down even further. The results of these extraction processes vary with each plant, but they generally include constituents such as alkaloids, polysaccharides, aromatic compounds, and all the other healing chemistry of medicinal plants.
That chemistry is important in Spagyric work, as it carries the physical nature of the plant from its green body to yours, and it creates an interface from its physicality to yours. We are physical beings, and so are plants, and our bodies are full of receptors that specifically reach out and grab these plant chemicals for use in our corporeal makeup.
Chemistry is not the only story of how plants affect us, and the reductionist tendency in modern herbalism troubles us with its focus on molecules and lack of interest in the whole plant or person. But, chemistry is an important story that illuminates the plant/person relationship, and leaving it out of an extract leaves out an important part of that plant’s being.
In our “nutshell” version, the opening phase of separation is followed by the collecting action of recombination. In the actual work of making Spagyrics, there is an important middle step, happening in overlapping ways in the other two actions, and on its own: purification.
The active chemistry of plants is wrapped in all kinds of matter that the plant created during its life in Nature: the initiatic alkaloids in a Shamanic plant are often carried in a matrix of somewhat toxic components; the tonic polysaccharides of Ginseng are bound up with starches in the root; the pure, light essential oil of Frankincense is locked in a thick resinous gum. All of these other constituents contributed to the whole of the plant as it grew in Nature, and they will contribute to the wholeness of the final medicine, but first, they are purified by processes unique to Spagyric work.
Some of these constituents are purified in the course of the regular extraction process, as fractions of them connect with the alcohol, and others are left behind. Others will be specifically refined into the salts of the plant, to be the Salt level and body of the Spagyric. This Salt level processing is one of the genius aspects of Paracelsus’ work, and it especially magnifies the healing properties of minerals and alkaloids, making them more accessible for our bodies’ use.
I think of the work of purification as a process of focus: not choosing one active constituent, isolating it, and discarding the rest, but rather, pulling them all together in a tighter focus on the best healing qualities of the original plant. We are purifying and refining the body of the plant so that it can be a more coherent vehicle for the plant’s original intelligence, and we are allowing that plant to communicate its intent with more clarity and force.
This purification happens on the subtle levels of work, as well, as the planetary energy the plant is ruled by comes into focus in the Spagyric through the timing and subtle work of the processing. The end result is a Spagyric that is the most intelligent vehicle possible for everything that plant brings through its existence: chemistry, energy, intelligence, healing, and connection to its planetary archetype.
After all the possible aspects of the plant’s being are separated and purified, they are recombined into a new whole. Let me emphasize two important points here: the Spagyric that is created from the plant is both new and whole.
It is new in the sense that it has a greater focus of intent and efficiency of action on the physical and energetic planes. This is the reason for the sometimes amazingly instant effects of our Spagyrics- the energy shifts and healing movement that happens as soon as the drops hit the tongue, long before any chemical changes are possible. As wonderful as raw, unchanged herbs are, they are not able to interface with our most subtle levels of being in that instant, pure way. Elevating them from their original state brings clarity of energy that our subtle bodies can connect with right away, building a relationship that will grow as the chemistry of a Spagyric works on you through later, sustained use.
At the same time, the Spagyric still represents the whole of the plant, everything it created and was as it grew in Nature, with nothing discarded as inactive or unnecessary. Spagyric work is not isolation in any way, whether chemical or energetic. Unlike pharmaceutical herbals, we do not isolate and concentrate for some mythical “active ingredient” that some expert has deemed to be the “important” part of a plant. And, unlike homeopathics, we do not remove the energy of the plant from its physical being through any kind of dilution or etheric isolation.
If you have tasted any of our Spagyrics, you know they are very concentrated, carrying colours, flavours, and physical complexity not found in isolated chemical or energetic preparations. You may even be surprised, tasting one of our Spagyrics, if your previous experience has been with European homeopathic “spagyrics”, which are created that way for regulatory and legal reasons, not because Paracelsus taught such methods, or because Hahnemann was a true follower of Paracelsus. Even one of homeopathy’s most-quoted lines from Paracelsus shows a deeper meaning when we examine it in its entirety:
“And this is the principle of the quintessence, which reduces, say 20 lbs. to a single ounce, and that ounce far exceeds the entire 20 lbs. in potency. Hence the less there is of body, the more in proportion is the virtue.” ~ from the Paragranum
The less the body, the more the virtue- this sounds like homeopathy, and is often promoted as such, but in the full context of the quote, we see that it is concentration that Paracelsus is describing. This is the creation of one ounce of medicine from 20 pounds of plant matter, which, though reduced in body, is greatly magnified in virtue. He speaks of concentration as refinement, which is Spagyric, and the result is both physical and energetic.
This aspect of our work can seem confusing, since in our culture, we are used to thinking of matter and energy as two different things- someone is either material, or spiritual; an herbal remedy is either physical/chemical, or energetic/homeopathic. We don’t seem to be very good at reconciling that duality into one nuanced whole which can encompass both. This is an unfortunate tendency of our culture, but Alchemy and its child, Spagyrics, shows us that it is not an inevitable mindset of the West. We can transcend the either/or and move into what many call both/and awareness, and plants are great teachers of this higher perspective.