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Why Alcohol in Alchemy?

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Forums -> Herbalism -> Why Alcohol in Alchemy?

Why Alcohol in Alchemy?
By:
Post # 1
I'm new to Alchemy. I've been studying The Alchemist Handbook by Frater Albertus and have reached a spot of bother. So far all factors of the process make sense to me except the use of alcohol. It seems to be very important to the work but no explanation is given as to why alcohol specifically. My concerns are both that I am under the legal drinking age and that I fear any experience gained by consuming the created quintessence would only be caused by intoxication.
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Re: Why Alcohol in Alchemy?
By:
Post # 2
I'm wondering if there are any alternatives to alcohol in the process and what is the significance of the use of spirits if there is.
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Re: Why Alcohol in Alchemy?
By:
Post # 3
By my experience, grain Alcohol is used in making herb tinctures or other extracts/quintessence because it is very effective in taking on the properties of whatever you soak into it, without damaging the effective properties. It also plays a double role as preservative, so once a tincture is made all you need to do is keep the product out of the sun because UV rays tend to break things down. Amber or dark blue bottles also help.

As far as the concern of intoxication goes the typical dosage of any extract is far too low to cause any sort of intoxication, as herbal tinctures are typically measured in drops or Milliliters. A tablespoon of 30% alcohol is going to have minimal if any effect on anyone older then a toddler. Still. If you are working with herbs always be mindful of any dosage, and always do extra research into possible negative interactions with other herbal or medical remedies. Always treat any use of alchemically made herbs/minerals as medicine. Because it is.

As for alternatives, that part I am not sure. As far as I know the best way is through a grain alcohol. Vodka tends to be the most recommended because it is very neutral in most respects After all Potatoes don't have much of a medical/herbal quality to influence things. Any grain alcohol can usually be used though. The most important part is being careful about matching the alcohol content with the recommended level in the book. Books I have read usually call for between 20% and 30% alcohol rating. I suppose a possible alternative for herbs/plant matter would be boiling water as it has a similar effect. (IE; make some tea)

The main concern is not knowing how it would affect the effective quality what you are trying to gain from the herbs. Any change to the method as described could cause dosing problems making it either ineffectively weak, or over strong and risking overdose. You need to have a thorough understanding of the purpose behind the ingredients, their proportions, and also need to understand how the change would affect the quality/potency of the ingredients.
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Re: Why Alcohol in Alchemy?
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 4
The chemical side of alchemy developed the distillation of alcohol. Since alcohol has observably different properties from water, it was considered special in its own right.

There are substances which will not dissolve in water, which will dissolve in alcohol. This led to the development of tinctures, and reinforced the idea that there is something 'more' about alcohol.

Mixing equal volumes of water and alcohol does not combine to double the volume, but slightly less.

Drinking alcohol, of course, affects people's moods. Finally there was an understanding of the reason people get drunk.

Soaking a plant in water and soaking the same plant in alcohol will have different results. Certain benefits of herbs and those certain minerals are transferred to the alcohol. This plus its intoxicating nature (taking a generous swig of a high-proof concoction can have some mild effects) lent their use in medicine. Of course, alcohol itself -- typically presented in a more palatable form such as brandy or whisky -- was considered itself medicinal into the early Twentieth Century.

Alcohol is a preservative, and can be used much like formaldehyde. Something not known until much more recently is that using alcohol in stead of formaldehyde preserved the DNA, where formaldehyde will degrade genetic material. Regarding its preservative properties, there was a time that corpses of important people transported over seas back home were stored in barrels of booze to keep them from decomposing.

Unlike water, alcohol is flammable. Seeing this in terms of the basic elements, it is a combination of fire and water at a very base level -- something not seen in almost anything else.

Of course the list goes on and on.

The apparent transmutative properties of alcohol are abundant.
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Re: Why Alcohol in Alchemy?
By:
Post # 5
Thank you both for your responses you both seem very knowledgeable about this which leads me to another question. What are some good sources of literature on the subject? I've been told many alchemical texts are frauds and its difficult to tell the truth from the falsehoods especially for someone such as myself.
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Re: Why Alcohol in Alchemy?
By:
Post # 6
Unfortunately i don't know very much about traditional alchemy, and only a few smatterings of herbal/holistic/wholistic medicine. So I shall leave it to prsona's expertise for reference materials. ^_^
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Re: Why Alcohol in Alchemy?
By:
Post # 7
Well this taught me something
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