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Practical Alchemy - An Introduction

Awani

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This is a Phoenix-thread from the old site.

Practical Alchemy is not really my field, but it does interest me although I have more questions in this area than answers. I will write a very short introduction and supply a couple of links, but I implore anyone that feels they can add to this introduction to do so.

In short practical alchemy is about transmuting lead into gold, by heating and refining the metal in various chemical processeses – and under certain astrological conditions.

It is an ancient art that was practiced both in Ancient Egypt and China. It arrived on the European shores in the 12th century. Some discoveries were made by the European alchemists such as mineral acids and alcohol, and of course it evolved into what is now known as chemistry.

Well that is as brief as I will be. Feel free to lengthen, revise and deepen this introduction to Practical Alchemy.

Some useful websites:
Alchymical survival - some notes on safety in alchemical experiments by Tom McRae
Alchemical processes
Dictionary of alchemical substances and processeses
Course on Practical Alchemy by John Reid
Practical Plant Alchemy - part 1 by Mark Stavish
Practical Plant Alchemy - part 2 by Mark Stavish
Practical Plant Alchemy - part 3 by Mark Stavish
Restorers of Alchemical Manuscripts Society (R.A.M.S.) Digital Library
Salts of Life, The by Karen Bartlett (PDF)

Jerry said:
I have somewhat a more limited definition of practical Alchemy.

I would state the objectives are as finding:

1. Aurum potabile. The "cure all" medicine which according to Fulcanelli as 'not having one atom of gold'.

2. The Carbuncule. The mystical glowing gem of the Ancients.

3. Stone of Transmutation. There may be more than one definition to this. It could be defined as the Stone which transmutes lead (Pb) or some other base metal into Gold (Au). Or perhaps this involves the transmutation of the Soul and the physical appearance of transmutation is secondary.

I also place limitations as what substance(s) to work on.

"Hence if you know our Art, extract our gold from our Mercury (this is the shorter way), and thus perform the whole operation with one substance (viz., Mercury); if you can do this, you will have attained to the perfection of philosophy. In this method, there is no superfluous trouble: the whole work, from beginning to end, is based upon one broad foundation -- whereas if you take common gold, you must operate on two substances, and both will have to be purified by an elaborate process." - Open Entrance, Philalethes.

I then place anything that doesn't fall into the above as particulars, examples, discoveries, or applications.

Jerry
deviadah said:
Jerry said:
I have somewhat a more limited definition of practical Alchemy.
Well there is no point in beating around the bush... keep it simple and quick. After all we live in an MTV generational world!

I missed that you joined and I hope you can add more to what you've already written. Especially on the Carbuncule.
 

Anders Hoveland

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I want to add my thoughts.

Alchemy is typically considered a grossly inferior "crack-pot" information subject by many chemical scientists. But I have found that there are several reactions in alchemy that are generally too complicated to understand using conventional chemistry perspectives, and there are several alchemical reactions that have never been properly explained in terms of modern chemistry. Although there is much overlap between the reactions in alchemy and those in chemistry, there are many reactions that can mostly only be understood from only one of the schools of thought. The types of reactions in alchemy tend to be different than those in chemistry. Alchemists use more common chemicals and complex natural substances in very complex mixtures, whereas chemists typically deal with a much wider array of chemicals, all containing known and definite compositions. Chemical scientists typically try to avoid conducting reactions where they are not sure what is happening.

Alchemy is the predecessor to modern chemistry. In many ways, the two are just different approaches to experimentation, and in a way, I think these two different methods can complement eachother productively.

The difference between the two methods can be compared to the difference between medical doctors and allopathic doctors.
 

chrysopoeia

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I also just want to add some thoughts.

Alchemy is generally misunderstood. It is certainly not 'crack-pot' information, nor is it inferior. It may seem to have much in common with modern chemistry. Perhaps it seems this way to those seeking to produce gold in test tubes. But it actually has more in common with medicine, psychology and psychiatry. Not to mention other fields. It is the missing link. If you have ever experienced the physical side to alchemy, you will know this to be true.
 

Krisztian

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I want to add my thoughts.

Alchemy is typically considered a grossly inferior "crack-pot" information subject by many chemical scientists. But I have found that there are several reactions in alchemy that are generally too complicated to understand using conventional chemistry perspectives, and there are several alchemical reactions that have never been properly explained in terms of modern chemistry. Although there is much overlap between the reactions in alchemy and those in chemistry, there are many reactions that can mostly only be understood from only one of the schools of thought. The types of reactions in alchemy tend to be different than those in chemistry. Alchemists use more common chemicals and complex natural substances in very complex mixtures, whereas chemists typically deal with a much wider array of chemicals, all containing known and definite compositions. Chemical scientists typically try to avoid conducting reactions where they are not sure what is happening.

Alchemy is the predecessor to modern chemistry. In many ways, the two are just different approaches to experimentation, and in a way, I think these two different methods can complement eachother productively.
The difference between the two methods can be compared to the difference between medical doctors and allopathic doctors.

Gentlemen: For me alchemy is the science of the soul, the acknowledgement of the soul within matter. Chemistry, even for an open-minded chemist, would laugh at such claim.

The materials you're working with in alchemy 'pick up' the signature of the operator, the alchemist. That's why when two people work on making a Stone, having the same recipe, they will arrive at different destinations!

Anyone can be a chemist. They just need to follow a recipe, guidelines, etc. However, no atheist can be an alchemist! I haven't seen an old alchemical manuscript that doesn't refer to the helping hand of God.
 

chrysopoeia

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Yes, it is a science of the soul and the body, for they are inextricably linked. Mind and body are a sacred unity. I too think the recipe is slightly different depending on the person and that you need the helping hand of God.
 

Eshai

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Krisztian said:
no atheist can be an alchemist
God can be viewed in many ways. While someone may not take the same perspective of God as a "typical alchemist" (whatever that is), I do not think this excludes them from practicing the ways of alchemy.

I myself am an atheist, as well as a student of chemistry, and I enjoy learning about alchemy. Personally, I do not think any of these things are exclusive of one another.

Moreover, at what point does one become an alchemist? At what point does one become a scientist? Is alchemy a secret club, which is so egotistical in its presumption that only those who have been initiated are capable of "knowing"... or is it about a sincere and genuine desire to learn more about the universe and the self (if there is even a distinction)?

The path towards both of these arts, alchemy and science (chemistry), is philosophy. Philosophy is the beginning; a desire to know more. When a person takes his first step upon that path, they are on the path... if only at the beginning. But the journey is what counts, right?
 

Andro

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Eshai ~

People say all sorts of things, often stemming from the way they were brought up/indoctrinated/etc...

Some have actual experience with non-physical realms, but interpreting those experiences and translating them to conveyable concepts can be tricky as well.

My approach is to use what works for me, change what doesn't work, and listen to my inner guidance above everything someone else may say/declare/pontificate.

There is a documented tendency of various degrees of pontificating megalomania in alchemical circles, even if it's 'diplomatically' disguised. It's often accompanied by elusive blanket statements.

However -

I won't say it's not an initiatory path. But it's the same with college, army, corporations, Kindergarten, etc... (on different levels)

There's always that 'secret handshake', or that 'Hidden Hand' (in the case of Alchemy).

I would recommend reading some Hermetic literature. The concept of 'God' (Origin, Tao, etc...) is often not what it's cracked up to be.
 

Awani

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However, no atheist can be an alchemist!

Although I disagree with this statement for mainly ethical, open-minded and brotherly reasons... I do however agree with it.

I myself am an atheist, as well as a student of chemistry, and I enjoy learning about alchemy. Personally, I do not think any of these things are exclusive of one another.

You see it depends on what we class as god or non-atheism... and also what we class as alchemy.

In my case alchemy is an intentional evolution of the self towards a higher spirit/ideal... so far so good... nothing godly about that... but this higher spirit I speak of is a unity with the cosmos and the universe... and the ALL (everything incl. the universe) is alive... and is one BIG thing... one major red thread... this is what some people call God. I cannot achieve this unity, this divine connection if I believe in only reason.

I started out as an atheist and the more I researched the less convinced I became.

But the journey is what counts, right?

You are correct that the most important thing is the quest. And what is the greatest quest? Well it is the Quest for the Holy Grail... the Sacred Pilgrimage...

Anyway you can be whatever you want, and believe whatever you want... but remember atheism is as much a belief as non-atheism. The biggest joke of it all, in my opinion, is that those idiotic fundamentalist Christians in the Deep South of the US of A are probably right... there is Intelligent Design... maybe not how they think it operates, still something is operating...

When you form a personal relationship with the Divine you might notice that what you thought "God" was, was what it wasn't...

All this might sound like hippie mumbo-jumbo, and what the fuck does it have to do with practical alchemy? Well nature is a design... a program... and a program has always been programed. No computer runs on chance.

Conclusion: you can be an atheist and an alchemist at the same time, no problem... but if the purpose of alchemy is for you to reach a higher state of being / existence then you might save some time by throwing atheism out the window. Science knows nothing, and the more it knows the more it knows what it DOES NOT know. For every answer a thousand questions arise. The universe and the mechanics of it are so strange and peculiar that it would be far more logical to assume an intelligent design rather than a random occurrence. In my humble opinion.

“We are asked by science to believe that the entire universe sprang from nothingness, and at a single point and for no discernible reason. This notion is the limit case for credulity. In other words, if you can believe this, you can believe anything.”
― Terence McKenna

:cool:
 
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Ilos

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Hey guys,
I have seen many different definitions or thoughts about alchemy, somehow we all tend to define the art in the way as we interpret it but lets just hold on for a moment and think this rationally.

The word chemistry comes from the word Khemet, which was the old name of Egypt or the original name in Egyptian "Khemet" considering the root or the birth place of the art of transmutation and transformation of substances or the matter itself. Now at that time this seemed magical considering the fact that they lacked of insufficient technology to understand phenomenon in a deeper understanding.

For some reason, considering the way that history took place, I believe that the Egyptians tried to spread their knowledge to Persia and from Persia to Grees and than to Rome which they were well knows to posses powerful knowledge and considering the place that they were bringing it from "Khemet" they were probable called "The Khemets".

Now actually The Khemet doesn't mean just A Khemet meaning "THE" as an important Khemetian (Egyptian).

Later on things changed and languages changed and people that were trying to discover how thees things with the chemistry work were called Alchemists meaning; Al-Chemists (The-Chemists) and at that time people used to believe in celestial forces, religion at that time was still a big part in peoples lives and they tried to discover how thees two things actually interact with each other, the visible and the invisible forces and they actually had no doubt that they were apart from one another or that the celestial part doesn't exist I mean even our first teacher Thoth, wrote that as above so below In a way he made the E=mc2 clear for that time.

What I think that, now days, separates us from chemists it is particularly that the modern chemists stopped believing in the celestial forces, they consider the matter as a dead, concrete particle while on the other hand the ones that want to remain with the old teachings and believe in the celestial forces and want to differ, remained alchemists.

Now I know that someone likes to think that alchemy actually branches in different fields like, spirituality, psychology, philosophy, physiology, astrology, etc, etc but thees are just the branches that rained out of the roots, as an alchemist you have to look back in time or look into deep, start from that very first thing, start from the atom, nucleus, understand how thees forces work and how are they interacting with other forces than the branches will adapt in the mind.
 

Ghislain

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How much is too much?

To talk of a practical introduction to Alchemy and what Alchemy is, some want to say it is divine, other use the term rational, I want to use the term logical, but all of these may be correct together.

When an illusionist performs we see magic, but once we know what the illusionist did the magic disappears and we are left with the dissolution to boring logic...the reality.

To compare Alchemy to something else, let's say science, then one would have to have a full understanding of both alchemy and science; there are immense libraries of scientific studies, far too much for any one person to fully understand, and thus you have the different fields of speciality...in my brief encounter with alchemy I would say the same...one could spend all ones life studying the works of just one alchemist.

Could we say that Alchemy is one such field?

Why is it that a lot of "Alchemists" see science as a dirty word, after all, everything you use in the modern world is a direct or indirect result of some scientific understanding. So I would propose that even the divine has a scientific explanation.

When a scientist has that happy accident and makes a new discovery, might he not think that he was aided by the hand of some divine intervention?

So like Biology, Physics and Chemistry, I think that Alchemy is a branch of science, albeit a very much misunderstood branch.

Science knows nothing, and the more it knows the more it knows what it DOES NOT know. For every answer a thousand questions arise. The universe and the mechanics of it are so strange and peculiar that it would be far more logical to assume an intelligent design rather than a random occurrence. In my humble opinion.


In a video I posted in a thread called "Length of now", it states that all the matter we can see in the universe today accounts for only 4% of what there is perceived to be. We are only at they beginning of the journey; there is so much more to learn...might have to build some new libraries :)



Ghislain
 

Eshai

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Ghislain said:
So like Biology, Physics and Chemistry, I think that Alchemy is a branch of science, albeit a very much misunderstood branch.
Interesting. Chemistry, from my perspective, is less a branch of science in itself as other, well defined branches such as biology, physics, toxicology, geology, etc. Chemistry is sometimes regarded as the "central science," meaning that all endeavors of science utilize chemistry for their aims. It appears that alchemy is no different, as the chemistry employed in alchemy is a tool for a greater purpose.

if the purpose of alchemy is for you to reach a higher state of being / existence then you might save some time by throwing atheism out the window
Indeed, reaching a "higher" state of being is not my purpose.

I am one of the Profane.
 

Ghislain

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Big History

Eshai, there are many branches of scienceI just wanted to use a few to give the idea. We could look at life as a whole, like a cake, but this could be broken down into its component part such as eggs, flour, butter, sugar...etc...ect...; then further still into the chemical nutrients in the soil...etc..etc... I guess it depends on what point one would like to focus.

The video below is much like the cake...


Exploring the Universe: Big History 2

The Sun & The Earth: Big History 3

Life Begins: Big History 4

Note the similarity of Alchemical processes.


Ghislain
 
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Ghislain

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Well, I started so I guess I should finish...

The Evolutionary Epic: Big History 5

Human Evolution: Big History 6

Dev [Awani] in the vid' above you may be interested on the point made at 10:50 especially 12:26

Migrations and Intensification: Big History 7

The Modern Revolution: Big History 8

The Anthropocene and the Near Future: Big History 9

The Deep Future: Big History 10


And so ends the brief history to the beginning of Alchemy ;)

The next big question is, "What is Dark Matter/Energy and what can we do with it?"

Ghislain
 

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Can I ask what’s the difference between ‘practical alchemy’ to spagyrics? I mean I tried to learn it by following the steps in some books or sources such as ‘real alchemy’ and alchemist’s handbook but that is apparently seen as spagyrics, which is considered ‘alchemy’ for some reason in public perception.

If somebody can help explain thanks, I want to learn this path and do not necessarily want transmutation as a goal but mainly because alchemy can explore things that contemporary ‘science’ is limited from doing being one of them which is fascinating.
 

JDP

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Can I ask what’s the difference between ‘practical alchemy’ to spagyrics? I mean I tried to learn it by following the steps in some books or sources such as ‘real alchemy’ and alchemist’s handbook but that is apparently seen as spagyrics, which is considered ‘alchemy’ for some reason in public perception.

If somebody can help explain thanks, I want to learn this path and do not necessarily want transmutation as a goal but mainly because alchemy can explore things that contemporary ‘science’ is limited from doing being one of them which is fascinating.

For all its operations alchemy relies on a secret solvent that, so far, only the alchemists have discovered how to prepare and has remained unknown to all other branches of empirical science, and which allows for preparing transmuting "tinctures" (i.e. substances that when projected over much larger amounts of molten metals cause them to change into silver or gold.) Spagyrics uses a wide variety of solvents for its operations, and it cannot produce any transmuting "tinctures" (not that it was ever its objective to begin with.) "Spagyrics" = medicinal "chymistry" (notice the archaic spelling of this last word, not "chemistry".)
 

KnowledgeSeeker

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For all its operations alchemy relies on a secret solvent that, so far, only the alchemists have discovered how to prepare and has remained unknown to all other branches of empirical science, and which allows for preparing transmuting "tinctures" (i.e. substances that when projected over much larger amounts of molten metals cause them to change into silver or gold.) Spagyrics uses a wide variety of solvents for its operations, and it cannot produce any transmuting "tinctures" (not that it was ever its objective to begin with.) "Spagyrics" = medicinal "chymistry" (notice the archaic spelling of this last word, not "chemistry".)
Is the objective of people who called themselves alchemists then to find the solvent?

Also if it was so widely used until chemistry replaced it then where would the records of how it was made most likely kept or is it dead until somebody finds it again?
 

JDP

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Is the objective of people who called themselves alchemists then to find the solvent?

Yes, because without it there is no way of making the Stone.

Also if it was so widely used until chemistry replaced it then where would the records of how it was made most likely kept or is it dead until somebody finds it again?

Who says that chemistry "replaced" alchemy? That's the fairy tale that chemists tell themselves and the rest of the world. How can you "replace" an EMPIRICAL FACT???

As for the "records": that's what alchemy books are about: this "water" or solvent, but they never explain how to make it in a 100% clear manner that even simpletons could replicate it. That's the whole point of studying and trying to "crack" alchemical texts. To learn this secret and then apply it to making the Stone or some other alchemical "tincture".
 

z0 K

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In addition to what JDP said Spagyric practices actually discard the key Elements to make the Secret Solvent for the Vegetable Stone by burning the matter into smoke that is allowed to escape into the air.
 

Florius Frammel

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In addition to what JDP said Spagyric practices actually discard the key Elements to make the Secret Solvent for the Vegetable Stone by burning the matter into smoke that is allowed to escape into the air.

One should add that z 0k got this very interesting interpretation by studying the works of the two Hollandus and Ripleius. There are quite some hints about this practice in Junius' book too. I couldn't find any backing up of this theory in the works of other alchemists like Basil Valentine however.

Edit: Sorry! All is good! z 0k wrote about the vegetable stone. I read his lines too quick and thought he was talking about "the" stone.
 
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Kiorionis

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What’s the difference, FF?
 

Florius Frammel

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What’s the difference, FF?

At this current point of my knowledge, I'd say at least there is one difference in the making. But having neither made the one nor the other, I don't really know.
I know what z 0k is doing though, because I bought his book ;)
 

z0 K

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At this current point of my knowledge, I'd say at least there is one difference in the making. But having neither made the one nor the other, I don't really know.
I know what z 0k is doing though, because I bought his book ;)

Thanks FF.

I would say the difference between the Vegetable Stone and the Elixir (or Transmutation Stone) is that the One Matter Only premise is literally valid for the Vegetable Stone. The Secret Solvent for the Vegetable Stone is compounded from the Elements extracted from the herb of choice or combination of herbs.

The Starting Matter premise for the Transmutation Stone is not so simple. The Secret Solvent in one approach is still derived from the Elements received and reduced in the destructive distillation of vegetable matter. The Secret Solvent is made from the Water and Air received which has a very small amount of Fire in it after purification because you cannot ever completely separate out Fire from Water or Air from Water or Fire. When the purified Earth is dissolved into that Secret Solvent then digested and later incubated the Vegetable Quintessence is produced if done right.

Following this premise for the Transmutation Stone the Secret Solvent is further compounded by adding the Fire of the herb extracted from the Elements received in the dry distillation. This Secret Solvent with the Fire in it is not for human consumption.

Then it gets more complicated. Either Au or Ag are prepared into a calx which is dissolved into the Secret Solvent which is then "cooked" into a dry red powder that would be the Transmutation Stone. Or Au or Ag is dissolved into the Secret Solvent without any previous processing. Loads of experimental possibilities have to be explored in the lab to get it right. To get there one must know how to fish out the Air from the Water (Mercury), and the Fire from the (Sulfur) tar and purify them. Many ways are given by the philosophers. Hollandus Work of the Vine is the best example for the Secret Solvent and Au with Vegetable Mercury starting at chapter 41.

Personally, I don't see how one could get the Secret Solvent as described by the alchemists from any minerals other than mineralized biomass. If someone has I would like to hear about it.
 

Florius Frammel

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BTW z 0K,

do you think it's possible to do some kind of microscale version of your experiments? One needs huge amounts of 'biomass" to follow your instructions which look like to be a huge load of work and time (and money) too. Respect for this alone!
 

JDP

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In addition to what JDP said Spagyric practices actually discard the key Elements to make the Secret Solvent for the Vegetable Stone by burning the matter into smoke that is allowed to escape into the air.

But those spagyric practices are in fact derived/inspired from those of alchemy: it is the alchemists themselves who keep directing to gradually increase the fire until the distilling vessel is very hot and their compound (which is not really any "one thing only" in the real, literal sense, but a mixture/composite of several things that will end up forming "one thing" in the operations; I think you know this well but don't want to fully admit it) fully decomposes. A typical, standard example of such descriptions by the alchemists (taken from Ripley's "Book of Accurtations"):

Take the Green Lyon without dissolution in Vinegar (as sometime the Custom is) put in a large Earthen Retort, which can endure the Fire, and distil it the same way as you distil Aqua fortis, putting a Receiver under it, and luting the joint well, that it may not respire; then distil first with a gentle Fire, till you see white fumes appear, then change the Receiver, stopping it well and distil with a great Fire so as Aqua fortis is distilled, thus continuing twenty-four hours, and if you continue the Fire the space of eight Days, you will see the Receiver always full of white fumes, and so you will have the Blood of the Green Lyon, which we call Secret Water, and Acetum accerimum, by which all Bodies are reduced to their first Matter, and the Body of Man preserved from all infirmities.

Anyone who has distilled "aqua fortis" knows very well what Ripley is plainly referring to and describing. You gradually increase the heat until at the end the retort/cucurbit/alembic is glowing hot and everything in such mixtures that produce this acid has been decomposed by the violent fire and have given off all the volatile products/byproducts. So, no, the spagyrists and chymists were not doing something that the alchemists weren't doing themselves when it comes to this general modus operandi. They in fact totally adopted these methods from the alchemists. The reason why "spagyrics" never discovered the secret solvent is because its practitioners never hit upon the right combinations for it to be able to be prepared (not that they were really looking for it in the first place, though, since their objectives were different; they were interested in confecting all kinds of medicines, not transmuting "tinctures"), and if any of them did, they certainly kept it quiet and took advantage of the discovery (in other words, these fortunate "spagyrists" became "alchemists".)
 
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z0 K

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BTW z 0K,

do you think it's possible to do some kind of microscale version of your experiments? One needs huge amounts of 'biomass" to follow your instructions which look like to be a huge load of work and time (and money) too. Respect for this alone!

It is a huge load of work and time and money. The lab says "Feed me!" If you do not start with enough biomass you will not get much Quintessence in the end. Some herbs yield better than others. People have had good results with Lemon Balsam, Celandine, and vegetable peppers. The best yield I've found so far is with Cannabis. You don't have to grow your own. You can buy quality organic herbs on line. Wood soot from a good chimney gives the most Sal Armoniac but you have to burn tons of wood to get the soot. Since taking the Quintessence for over two years now I'm off blood pressure meds, prostate meds and in the process of reducing thyroid meds to zero. You can't get those results with anything else I know of.