When it comes to the value of an herbal supplement, it’s not just about what you ingest…it’s about what you absorb and utilize! Many supplements end up as “expensive pee” with a large amount of the active ingredients passing through the body without absorption. Poor quality herbs and inefficient and deleterious extraction methods also contribute to low quality, low potency supplements with little to no benefit.
So how do we overcome these issues?
Top Quality Organic Herbs and Mushrooms
Our process starts with only the best of raw ingredients. We spare no expense in sourcing only the highest quality, fresh and certified organic herbs and mushrooms. For quality assurance, our suppliers lab test for heavy metals, microbial content and chemical contaminants such as herbicides and pesticides.
Because the active compounds of herbs and mushrooms start to fade rather quickly, it is paramount to start with the freshest of raw ingredients to ensure a high yield of beneficial compounds. Likewise, choosing organically cultivated ingredients ensures vibrant and potent crops with elevated active and nutritional compounds.
Thorough and Gentle Extraction Techniques
The next step of our process is the extraction of our raw ingredients in a manner that is exhaustive but gentle. The aim is to yield the full spectrum of beneficial compounds, without compromising sensitive elements. We utilize two primary methods of solvent extraction to achieve this:
- Soxhlet extraction: this is a method of distillation, which continuously flushes fresh solvent through the dried plants or mushrooms. By using vacuum, the pressure is greatly reduced which allows for the solvent to boil at significantly lower temperatures. This ensures that the targeted active and nutritional compounds are not compromised by heat but are efficiently extracted.
- Maceration: with this method herbs and mushrooms are soaked in a large amount of solvent, to ensure that there is more than enough liquid to extract and dissolve all the targeted compounds. We also perform this with gentle heat and vacuum, to extract quickly and efficiently.
Bioavailability and First Pass Digestion
In the plant kingdom, therapeutically active constituents are predominantly comprised of carboxylic acids (terpenes, polyphenols etc.). These acids share the issue of limited bioavailability, as they are commonly broken down, denatured and deflected by the body’s natural defense systems such as first pass digestion or the blood brain barrier.
A clear example of this is with THC, the primary psychoactive found in Cannabis. With fresh and even freshly dried Cannabis, THC presents mostly as THC acid (THCA), which has little to no psychoactivity/bioavailability unless decarboxylated (generally by heating) into THC. Although thermal decarboxylation does an efficient job of rendering THC available to the body, the heat required can both destroy or denature the volatile and heat sensitive compounds such as terpenes, which are highly medicinal and well worth preserving.
So how can you increase the bioavailability of the valuable active and nutritional compounds of plants and mushrooms? And how can you do so without compromising the full spectrum of benefits? With Spagyrics!
The Organic Chemistry of Spagyrics
Using the Spagyric method, the primary actives of plants and mushrooms are first extracted with pure alcohol (and sometimes later with water). When these organic acids are combined with alcohol, esters start to form, but this reaction is limited by water. This is why a “sharpened” or “rectified” spirit (meaning highly purified) is recommended in both the classic and modern texts on Spagyrics. But even with pure alcohol and dried plants or mushrooms, there is always some residual water, inhibiting the full potential of esterification. Esterification is important because it increases both solubility and bioavailability.
Once the plant or mushroom biomass has been fully exhausted of its targeted constituents, it is incinerated and its mineral salt content is extracted. The alkali mineral salts are reintroduced to the acidic alcohol extract causing an acid-base reaction that creates novel soap-like compounds. The reaction is further aided by the water-loving nature of the minerals, which removes the remaining traces of water. This allows for the full potential of esterification of the organic acids.
In addition to the esters formed in the tincture, the minerals in combination with the organic acids form what’s known as carboxylic acid salts. Both carboxylic esters and salts are otherwise known as carboxylates.
Spagyric Carboxylates; Natural ProdrugsInterestingly, in today’s modern pharmaceutical world carboxylates are synthesized to create some of the most efficacious and safe types of medications called prodrugs. Prodrugs consist of an aggregate compound, sometimes comprised of a surfactant such as a water-soluble salt and and a medicinal lipophilic acid. Sounding familiar? These are the same two ingredients found in Spagyric extracts!
A common example of a pharmaceutical prodrug is ibuprofen, whose ingredient list as a free-acid and potassium salt: the exact same mineral that dominates the water-soluble salt content of land-based plants!
Inert until metabolized by the body, prodrugs are transported past the body’s defense mechanisms of first pass digestion. Easily making its way into the target sites of the body, the inert drug is metabolized and activated. In the case of Spagyic extracts, the active compounds found in the living plant or mushroom are “snuck in” so to speak, reanimated by enzymatic metabolism in the body. Prodrugs also have the benefit of having reduced side effects due to their specified actions, increased bioavailability and subsequent reduced dosage.
Further improving upon the synthetic and isolate prodrug model, Spagyric extracts contain the plant or mushroom’s full spectrum of active compounds, therefore creating naturally buffered and ratioed complexes of “natural prodrugs”.
Natural Nanotechnology: Big Things in Small Packages
In addition to creating natural carboxylates, the Spagyric method acts as a form of nanotechnology. By combining the mineral salts and active compounds of plants and mushrooms, microscopic particles called micelles (and reverse micelles) are created. In the case of liquid Spagyric extracts, alcohol further stabilizes the micelles as a co-surfactant.
Micelles can be explained as nanoparticle aggregates which form colloidal emulsions rather than solutions. This means these particles stay suspended in solutions as a microscopic dispersion rather than dissolving. As explained earlier, these pairs of water-soluble and insoluble natural compounds can bypass the body’s usual defense mechanisms. The active but water-insoluble compounds hitch a ride into the blood/cells with the water-soluble compounds (mineral salts). Once inside the body, the aggregate compounds are separated by enzymes in the blood and cells.
To review, Spagyric extracts include colloidal emulsions of:
- Water-soluble mineral salts (surfactant)
- Non-water-soluble compounds (active compound)
- Ethanol (co-surfactant in liquid extracts)
- Surfactants can be explained as substances which reduces the surface tension of a liquid. When the concentration of surfactants is high, it allows for micelles to form, which stay suspended in the liquid rather than precipitating.
The Tyndall Effect: A Simple Testing Method for Detecting Colloidal Suspensions
So how can we easily tell if our extracts contain colloidal/microemulsions? Thankfully there is an easy technique that can be performed without expensive analytic laboratory testing! By shining a laser through our extracts, we can test whether a liquid is a true solution or a colloidal microemulsion. With fully dissolved particles, the path of the laser is not visible, but with colloidal emulsions, the light refracts off the suspended particles revealing the laser passing through! This is known as the Tyndall effect.
Combining Traditional Wisdom with Modern ScienceA core driving concept behind our supplements is holism. This is why we utilize both traditional concepts of natural medicine alongside the best of modern research to guide our formulation. Both views have their unique benefits and deficits, and we believe that they support one another, creating new perspectives and systems of truly cutting edge, holistic and natural health care.
Modern science helps us target health and performance goals and to understand the intricate biological effects of herbs and mushrooms. It helps us to better determine the safety profiles of herbs, and to communicate in a way that today’s world can understand. It gives us a view into an invisible world, not detectable to our basic five senses.
We also firmly believe that the modern scientific understanding of natural and holistic medicine has a long way to go. It benefits greatly from the millennia of knowledge and understanding provided by the traditional medicine systems practiced across the globe.
A particular aspect of of traditional medicine that we heavily rely on, is that of energetics. Energetics provides us with a language and system of understanding that can drastically simplify the complexity of human biology, health and well-being. Energetics uses simple concepts of polarity such as hot-cold, wet-dry, deficient-excess, tonic-atonic to describe all that exists in our physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and sexual health.
While modern science may identify an herb or mushroom to have a beneficial action such as an anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving effect, traditional energetic models further classify the nature of this action. For example, a person may have inflamed joints, which are congested with fluids and sensitive to cold. In this case, the best type of anti-inflammatory herb would be one that is warming and drying, to counteract the unique presentation of inflammation.
Because we formulate with a wide audience in mind, we use traditional energetics to craft well balanced formulas that avoid the extremes of energetics. This reduces the chance of unwanted side effects which can be created by energetic incompatibilities with the unique constitution of everyone who uses our supplements.
As this is a subject with quite a bit of depth and nuance, we will expand on the concept of energetics in an upcoming blog post of its own - stay tuned!