A Comment on Alcohol
There has been a tremendous resurgence of puritanitis in the United States and a few other parts of the globe in the past 20 years or so. One object of attention of this spasming of the puritan reflex has been the evils of alcohol. Many on the Right and on the Left seem to think it is some sort of inherently evil substance that is going to destroy Western civilization or at least make God really, really mad.
Alcohol existed long before human beings emerged out of the ecological matrix of this planet. It is a highly natural substance, both inside and outside our bodies. All living things partake of it, including trees, bees, and elephants. All of them enjoy it. It facilitates the functioning of the body, enhances organ function in many respects, and reduces the incidence of many diseases. It is not an evil substance.
One of the continual queries about tinctures concerns the alcohol content. Many people are afraid to take tinctures because of the evil alcohol in them.
To be really specific : The amount of alcohol in tinctures is incredibly tiny. Less than you will get from eating a few pieces of bread (yes, bread does have alcohol in it, enough to produce a breathalyzer reading of 0.05 just by itself). If you are taking 20 drops of a 60 percent alcohol tincture every hour for an acute condition, you will get about 1/17 of an ounce of alcohol over the course of a day (less than 2 ml). If you are taking a general does (20 drops three times daily), you will be getting about 1/30 of an ounce every day. Again, this is less than you will get from eating two slices of bread.
If this is truly a problem for you, you can make infusions or use glycerinates - though the glycerinates aren't as effective and the water extractions won't extract some of the important alcohol-soluble constituents. Some people heat their tinctures to remove the alcohol; it doesn't work very well and I suspect the heat alters the quality of the tincture. I don't recommend it.
-Stephen Harrod Buhner
Alcohol Extracts vs CO2 Extracts
There are many differences between the extracts of carbon dioxide and alcohol involving polarity, bio-availability and ester formation. Carbon dioxide is a liquid gas and only extracts the non-polar chemicals of a plant. Alcohol is a solvent that is made due to plant fermentation and is a by product of plants themselves. It is a solvent made by the plants for the plants. Alcohol is also the only solvent that maintains the original chemical ratios contained in the plant. This is due to alcohol extracting both water soluble and oil soluble components.
The use of carbon dioxide results in a very limited extraction of the plant. Since the extracts of carbon dioxide are non-polar; carbon dioxide extracts are not water-soluble. This plays a vital role in bio-availability. Since our bodies are 70% water, oils must be digested by different acids and enzymes to become active. During this digestion process, the active ingredients of the oils are degraded.
Since alcohol is both non-polar and polar, it can dissolve a much wider range of molecules that includes almost all of the plants medicinal oils, polysaccharides, carboxylic acids and other beneficial chemicals. In other words, alcohol dissolves both water and oil soluble chemicals found in the plant while carbon dioxide can only dissolve the oil soluble chemicals. In terms of keeping the plant whole and together, alcohol is the only solvent for the job.
Taking Alcohol Extracts to The Next Level
Spagyrics is a method of transforming a plant's extracts using only the chemicals contained within the plant. It consists of recombining the oils and minerals of a plant in an alcohol solution. Alcohol is the only solvent that can dissolve both an oil and salt. The addition of purified mineral salts has a huge effect on the oils of the plant in alcohol. When an ester is formed it makes water. Water balances out the equation and a certain percentage of esters are formed and the rest of the acids/oils are left un-esterified. When the purified mineral salts of the plant are added back it catalyzes the reaction by pulling water out of solution. The result is that all the carboxylic acids of the plant are now esterified and neutralized. This turns all of the plants medicinal chemicals into a form that is more bio-available along with faster absorption times.. This form is best for effectively ingesting a plant’s natural chemicals and getting the most out of it.
Alcohol extracts are far superior to any other method of extraction. It extracts the most amount of the chemicals compared to any other solvent. To add, it also can esterify vitamins, oils and other medicinal chemicals making them more bioavailable and water soluble. Taking it a step further with the spagyric method, adding the purified minerals of the plant continues to make more esters and then neutralizes them. This method is far more advanced than any other patented method of extraction and purification and only involves using the plant's naturally contained chemicals. These products can easily be organically sourced.
-The Spagyric Apothecary