This interview with Sajah Popham covers a lot of ground on spagyrics, herbal alchemy, various forms of Western Herbalism and so much more.
- How the Scientific Worldview of Herbs is Incomplete
- Why Turmeric isn’t Great for Everyone
- What are Spagyrics and Herbal Alchemy?
- The Beginnings of the Human/Plant Relationship
- The Rich History of Traditional Western Herbalism
- How Paracelsus Revolutionized Medicine
- Thomsonian Herbalism and its Similarities to Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine
- The Importance of Following the Vital Force
- The Differences between Tinctures vs. Spagyric Tinctures
- How Herbs can Help You Physically, Mentally, Emotionally and even Spiritually
- And Much More
- Spagyrics by Manfred Julius
- Check out all the available Spagyrics Tinctures and Essences at Organic Unity.
- For those who wish to go deeper into herbalism check out the School of Evolutionary Herbalism. Lots of free audios and videos, as well as in-depth online and in person programs. I personally went through Year 1 and am about to start Year 2 of this program.
Click the link below to access the complete transcript.show
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Logan: Welcome to the Vital Way podcast. I’m Logan Christopher here and we have another exciting interview lined up for you today. Today on the call is Sajah Popham and he’s actually one of my teachers in herbalism. What I really like that he brings to the table, which we will be talking about today, is bringing all these different forms of herbalism and really tying them together in a way that gives you a good overview of how these different elements work together from the western approach, the eastern approaches, all sorts of different things and a lot of stuff that most people haven’t even heard of or thought about. So it’s a very interesting topic or a few topics that we’ll be getting in today. First off, I’d like to say welcome, Sajah.
Sajah: Thank you so much, Logan. I appreciate you having me on.
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. Can you give a little bit of a background of how you got into herbalism in the first place? I know that’s kind of a long story but just some of your background would be nice.
Sajah: Well, I originally got into herbalism really just looking for a natural approach to taking care for my own health issues that had arisen. I just became really interested in adopting overall a more of a natural lifestyle just for my own health and wellbeing. I was really called to help people. It’s usually called to a healing path and the plant world really kind of opened itself up to me and that seemed like a really good way to embark on my study.
So I enrolled at Bastyr University and did their herbal sciences program. From there, I studied anything from plant pharmacology to clinical herbalism, Western herbalism, Ayurveda, alchemy, astrology and kind of branched out into a lot of different areas of study, really looking for the universal principles behind different herbal traditions from around the world and how plants can be used not just for our physical health, vitality, rejuvenation and healing but also to really facilitate more of our spiritual growth and evolution on the full level as well.
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. The deeper I go into herbalism, the more I realize just how much is there.
Sajah: Yeah, it’s really vast. I remember when I first started, I kind of thought herbalism just seems like there are these kind of set principles and once you learned those then you’ve got it all under your belt and you’re good to go. But it’s so vast. There are so many different perspectives on plants and how they can be utilized and how they can be integrated into our lives in different ways. So yeah, it’s a really vast area of study and it took me in a lot of directions that I really wasn’t expecting to go originally.
Logan: Yeah, I can say the same thing. So could you touch upon the idea like I definitely the people listening to this, they have all sorts of different backgrounds. Some people have more of an eastern perspective or may have some experience with herbalism versus a lot of people in the west. We only have that scientific world view. Could you talk a little bit about the difference between that scientific world view of what herbs do like active as constituents versus some of these other philosophies?
Sajah: Yeah, absolutely. This is an area I’m really passionate about. For me, I spend a lot of time travelling around with my business, Organic Unity, and interact with a lot of people out in the world and interact with a lot of people in the supplement industry. I actually worked in the supplement industry for a number of years. I kind of like to think of the progression of herbalism, thinking about the way human beings have related to plants and kind of the first human to plant relationship up until now and in the past, there is really much more of a very different perspective on plants and how they function, from indigenous and folk models to more of what I call the energetic or vitalist traditions of herbalism, what you really see as the great herbalism of the world Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, traditional western herbalism, etc., and that has really progressed now into this modern perspective that I call allopathic herbalism or molecular herbalism.
The more scientific approach to plants is really focused on reductionism, that a plant has its healing properties because of certain pharmacologically-reactive constituents that acts upon our biochemical systems of the body. While that’s a very valid perspective and obviously, it’s true because there are chemicals in plants that do things in our bodies and that have certain effects, it’s a really limited way of understanding plants in the sense that from a clinical perspective, it doesn’t really empower one to effectively practice herbalism from a clinical standpoint.
If someone comes to you asking for help, they’re not going to say, “I need help with my cyclooxygenase levels” or “I need this receptor to be bound to my brain.” No, it’s like, “I’m starting feel pain” or inflammation or depression or whatever the problem might be. One of the things with that reductionist model is that it reduces plants, kind of dissecting the plant down to look for these marker compounds or the singular active components.
What we’ve seen in the supplement industry often times is what we call standardized extracts. I always use turmeric as an example. It’s a really popular herb right now. There is this complex of flavonoids in turmeric called curcumin and most extracts that you will see on the market are standardized 95% curcumin. I always kind of say that 95% standardized extract is 5% away from being kind of like a drug in a way. What the allopathic model doesn’t do is really see like the synergy of all of the chemistry of the plant and how they all work together to have the net therapeutic effect of that plant and ultimately, when you separate a part from the whole, things start to function differently.
Now in traditional models of herbalism, they practice according to vitalism or what is called herbal energetics. A lot of people think this is just like some woo-woo, spiritual thing but it’s very pragmatic and it’s really based on how a plant is going to affect our own unique constitution, whether we tend to be really hot or really cold or really wet or dry. That turmeric example, turmeric is a very warming and a very drying plant. If you have someone that has a lot of inflammation where they’re like a fire type of constitution that already is hot and dry, that plant is disharmonious with their constitution. It’s going to actually drive their constitution more out of balance, whereas that turmeric would be better for someone that maybe has inflammation or pain and they may tend to be more kind of damp and cold and stagnant and sluggish and they need more of that stimulation in their circulatory system and their liver.
So it’s a really different model of looking at plants and looking at people that is truly holistic. You’re looking at the wholeness of the plant and how it acts on the wholeness of the person as opposed to just looking at a chemical and the plant and the symptoms that it’s going to alleviate in the person.
Logan: Absolutely. You brought up the traditional western herbalist approaches. When I first got into herbalism, I heard about these Chinese medicines and Ayurveda. I wasn’t even really aware of the various western approaches to herbalism and I feel like a lot of people out there aren’t as well. It’s just those are thousands of years old while ours are much less aged than that. So could you tell a little bit about the Western approaches because I know there are several different approaches if you go back in history?
Sajah: Absolutely. This is a really passionate area of mine because like you said, so many people when they think of traditional systems of medicine, our minds tend to immediately go to the East, to China, India, Ayurvedic medicine and Tibetan medicine. But really we have a very rich tradition here in the West that ultimately has its roots in Ancient Greece with the Galenic Humoral Model of medicine moving forward into paracelsian medicine, to the Swiss-born alchemist and physician who ultimately developed homeopathy. Homeopathy is a strictly Western tradition, a vitalist tradition of healing that is incredible. Homeopathy has helped so many hundreds of thousands to millions of people over the last number of hundred years.
But where I get really excited about things is looking at the North American traditions of herbalism. Without getting into too much of the history, we have a couple of primary traditions in that model that started with what’s called Thomsonianism. Samuel Thomson was what they called a root doctor. He was an herbalist and he learned from a lot of the traditional healers, the natives here of the land but also was a physician-level herbalist and healer. He ultimately developed a system of natural therapeutics that’s amazing actually when you compare it to Ayurvedic medicine, which is over a five thousand-year old tradition.
Samuel Thomson was talking about the same principles in his system of healing that they talk about in Ayurveda and he had no knowledge of that system. So he came to the same conclusions. Where I get really excited is when he sees different people in different parts of the world, different parts of history coming up with the same stuff. They see the same things. They come to the same fundamental principles.
So in the west, we saw the Thomsonian tradition ultimately moving and transforming into what is called physiomedicalism. The physiomedicalists were a medical-level practice of herbalism and natural healing. They really were the first naturopaths. They primarily worked with plants, minerals, nutrition, hydrotherapy and natural therapeutics. It was really the physiomedicalists and the homeopaths that were more popular than doctors at that time. We’re talking 1800’s in North America. Ultimately, the doctors at that time were just doing a lot of purging, a lot of blood-letting. It was kind of the common thing was like if you want to get sick, go see a doctor. Their practice was pretty heroic and dangerous. It was an intense system of medicine at that time, thinking of modern kind of standard doctors and using a lot of mercury and a lot of very toxic compounds. So the physiomedicalist ultimately evolved into what was called the eclectics and the eclectics were another vitalist model of healing that ultimately has transformed into modern day naturopathy.
So it’s really neat to follow that golden thread throughout herbal history in the west and seeing that in fact we do have a western energetic model that is very akin to how Chinese medicine, Tibetan medicine and Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced for thousands of years.
Logan: Yes, it is a very fascinating thing when you look at why we’ve gone into such an allopathic model with what the American Medical Association did and all the rich history that’s in there. You mentioned Paracelsus who’s a fascinating character and some of the things that he did. It’s interesting because certain parts of our Western medical system came from him but so much else that he did is considered the woo-woo stuff that you mentioned before. Could you talk a little more about Paracelsus?
Sajah: Yeah, I’ll try to keep it brief. There’s a lot that can be said about Paracelsus. He’s a very interesting figurehead. Paracelsus was a Swiss-born physician, alchemist, astrologer and healer. In the late 1400s, he was born. Essentially until that point of medicine, we had seen I had mentioned Galenic medicine, the Greek model of herbalism and natural healing being practiced up until that point. That has become a very reductionistic model of practicing even though it was still based on energetics. Paracelsus was really kind of disgusted with the way medicine was being practiced and how people were really not getting better through that model. He actually was witnessing people getting sicker from that standard medical practice at that time.
He was a real revolutionary. Paracelsus was the first person to really think of the concept of sterile surgery. Gee, maybe when you cut someone open, you should sterilize the knife. He also invented the use of many concentrated mineral and metal compounds that he prepared through the art of alchemy. It was these very powerful compounds that was really the introduction of the concept of chemical-based medicine. In that way, Paracelsus was really the founder of what has now turned into modern pharmacology.
A lot of people are like Paracelsus was making these really concentrated toxic compounds that were basically like drugs and it’s true in a sense but yet because he was an alchemist, he had a foundation in what they called the philosophy of nature. This was his first pillar of medicine. It was Nature Sophia, the philosophy of nature in that in all of our work as healers, as herbalist, as physicians, to always have that anchor in a natural philosophy, that we’re always doing what is according to the principles of nature and the principles of what they call the vital force, following the vital intelligence of the body.
I think that’s where we start to see that allopathic mindset take root that’s gotten us into really the crazy situation that we see in the modern world with the medical system. They took many Paracelsian concepts but detached from that natural philosophy and that’s where we’re seeing so many issues in regards to iatrogenic disease, disease caused by drugs, the medicines themselves and just the state of our modern medical model.
So Paracelsus was also the founder of homeopathy. Even if most people think of Samuel Hahnemann as being the founder of homeopathy but really if you look at Samuel Hahnemann’s work, 99% of what he says in his foundational text came from Paracelsus. He’s a very interesting man. He’s a very pompous man but he was a genius and he was very ahead of his time. One of the things I really appreciate about him is his work with alchemy and work with astrology, using medical astrology as a means of diagnostics and therapeutics and just his rich association with what they would call the hermetic traditions and how all of that leads back into a very cohesive and comprehensive system of medicine.
Logan: All right. Let’s go there next. When most people hear the word “alchemy,” the only thing that comes to mind is turning lead into gold. It was a series of coincidences or synchronicities that kind of led me into your work and studying with you. Just one day out of the blue, the idea of alchemy pops up into my head so I’m researching it online. Later that day, my brother handed me a book titled Spagyric and I’d never even heard of this word before. So I start reading that book and I’m like there’s no way I could actually do this work unless I learn from someone hands-on. A couple more things happened but I ended up seeing you guys and the work that you’re doing. So can you talk about herbal alchemy and spagyrics and what that is?
Sajah: Yeah, absolutely. The word “alchemy” is such an interesting word, it’s used in so many different contexts in this world, especially in kind of more the New Age spirituality segment, everything from balancing the alchemy to balancing your checkbook to the alchemy of online marketing. There are so many different ways that word is used and it’s an interesting word. It really has to do with the principles and process of a transformation. Herbal alchemy or spagyrics, the word “spagyrics” was actually invented by Paracelsus. He was so far ahead of his time there weren’t even words for him to use, to talk about what he was coming up with so he created his own words.
So spagyrics is composed of two Greek words which means to separate and re-combine. Central to spagyric philosophy is that all things in life have a three-fold nature. They have body, they have spirit and they have soul. Everything from people, from plants to minerals, to animals, everything in creation has body, spirit and soul or what they call the salt, sulfur and mercury. Essentially the spagyric process is separating the salt, sulfur and mercury in plants and purifying them, exalting them and then re-combining them back together in what is considered a highly evolved state. The cool thing about spagyrics is that you’re able to create a very concentrated, very powerful form of herbal medicine that is not isolating a singular compound.
I was talking about earlier with the more allopathic molecular model that they’re really wanting these really concentrated extracts but in order for them to get them at that level of concentration, they’re kind of neglecting a lot of the other components in the herb. The beauty with spagyrics is that you’re able to get a very powerful, a very concentrated extract and yet you’re not throwing anything away.
One of the unique things about a spagyric extract is the presence of the mineral salts. One of the most standard ways people work with herbal medicines these days is your tinctures through an alcohol/water extract of the plant. 99.99% of herbal extracts, tinctures on the market would be considered an extract of the sulfur and the mercury of the plant or the intelligence of the herb through its chemistry and kind of the consciousness of the plant. But it’s missing that salt principle. It’s missing the mineral salts. So the unique thing about a spagyric is that those mineral salts are re-integrated back into the extract through a relatively in-depth process. Essentially, you burn plants down to an ash and then we’re either purifying that ash to crystals. They look like these little coarse crystals. You powder those and add those crystals back into the extract. Now you’re gaining all the nutritive components of the plants.
That salt principle, just like our bodies are the physical vessel through which our mind and our emotion and our consciousness works through, it’s the same way with the plants. So when you add those salts back into an herbal extract, it’s like you’re anchoring the intelligence of the herb back into its body. It has its vehicle, its delivery mechanism. And because the body of the plant is present, it works more efficiently and more effectively in our own body.
That’s one of the really neat things about spagyrics. That was like a huge breakthrough moment for me because I remember every time I’d be making a tincture or something and I would press it out and separate the plant material from the liquid extract then I’d have to throw the herb away or compost it, it just only bothered me. I always felt like there has to be something more there. I didn’t feel like the process was complete. When I first learned about the extraction of the mineral salts, it was this huge breakthrough moment that was really a confirmation that yes, there is more to it and there’s more refining of extracting plants to yield a very potent, concentrated form of herbal medicine.
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a fascinating process. You weren’t kidding when you said the bit of an involved one. I just went through and made my first pine pollen spagyric tincture and it took some time to be able to do that but I’m very happy I got through it. It is really a process and it’s interesting, that sort of parallel you are talking about, all the different ways that “alchemy” is used as a term but there’s that idea that as you’re working herbally with the alchemy, you’re transforming but it’s also doing the same sort of action within you, transforming your body, mind and soul in a similar sort of way. Can you talk a little bit more about what is, you mentioned it a little bit but the difference if you take like a normal extract or tincture or something versus some of the spagyric preparations?
Sajah: Yeah. Well, one of the primary things that I’ve noticed with working with the spagyrics over the last number of years is that they are much more potent so oftentimes spagyrics can be used in a much lower dose than a standard prepared tincture, primarily because of the presence of those mineral salts. Now there are many different types of spagyrics. There’s basic spagyric tinctures and spagyric essences and very advanced preparations. The most advanced preparation, they call the stone, the plant stone where you literally will take 20 to 30 to 40 to 50 pounds of plant material and reduce it down to small stone that just looks like a rock but you haven’t thrown anything away in the process and it’s just extremely powerful.
As you said, one of the primary principles of alchemy is “as above, so below” which also means “as within, so without” that all of life is a unity and that when we’re doing something in the laboratory, preparing a medicine, there’s also an internal part of that process. So everything that is done externally also has its internal reflections within our own kind of body, spirit and soul complex. One of the things with spagyrics is that while on one side they’re very potent on a physiological level, they are also very potent in more of a psychological, emotional and spiritual level, too. So one of the premises of alchemy is that it’s not just a system of medicine but it’s also a system of psychology and very refined methods for kind of activating and accelerating your personal growth, your spiritual growth.
One of the ways in which they’re prepared is through using astrological tools to essentially magnify these celestial forces into that extract, which kind of activates what they call the astral body. That’s what the alchemist called it. That can be akin to the acupuncture meridians, the chakras. It’s very interesting that there is seven chakras in the human kind of energetic field, which correspond directly to the seven plants of astrology.
So the spagyrics are on the one hand, working physically in the body but they’re also working on the subtle energetic influences that determine the state of the physical body. So they take it a step further by working more through the psychological and emotional dynamics that are kind of the precursor to physical symptoms. So in that way, they are really, truly holistic because they are working on all levels of our being as opposed to just the physical level. That really speeds up the healing process by working more on those subtle territories and in that way, ultimately facilitate in our personal growth and our personal transformation.
That’s really inner part of alchemy. It’s that it’s helping us to learn more about ourselves, helping us to be more aware of ourselves, helping us to let go of those limiting belief systems, those conditioned patterns and to ultimately kind of whittle us down to our true essential nature that is in our heart and to really come into contact that truth in our heart and realize what our path is, what are purpose is and what we were put here to do that is unique to our own self, what our contribution is to the world and in bringing in a greater level of consciousness to the planet at this time.
So I’m really passionate about this. This is why I love with spagyrics because I really see them helping people not just to feel better in your body but helping them work through some of the kind of bigger schematic challenges in their lives and coming into contact with something essential in the self. That essential part of the self is attached to a greater purpose of making a difference in the world. So I think there’s a larger picture to the overall healing process of the human being and how when we engage in that conscious healing process that we really reach a new level of empowerment, of clarity and just doing something positive in the world here at this time when we really need it. So yeah, that’s just a little bit of my thoughts on the spagyrics there.
Logan: Yeah, I really like that because definitely with healing, people tend to just think about the physical but for best results and in most cases, if you don’t deal with that mental, emotional and spiritual side then you can’t fix a lot of problems because the issues tend to be more on those levels than just the physical. So if you can take herbs that help with not just the physical but with these other levels as well which different herbs certainly impact on these other levels but also the different preparations like the spagyric preparations, they certainly activate these more, then you can as you said have a much more holistic type of healing system.
Logan: So we can go on and on. I know there are so many subjects I’d love to have you on at future calls as well so we can dive a bit more detail on this. But for now, where can people go to find more information? This is a great thing. Like you said, it’s a bit of work to prepare these spagyric tinctures and essences but Sajah does it all for you and this is awesome stuff. Of course, I take the various Superman Herbs we have but addition to that I also take a lot of Sajah’s stuff from Organic Unity. So can you tell people about where to go to find more information and get some of those to try out?
Sajah: Sure, you can go to Organic-Unity.com and we’ve got a very large materia medica of western herbs, eastern herbs that we prepare. In spagyric tinctures, we have a pretty comprehensive line of spagyric essences as well which are much more refined types of extracts as well as a lot of different formulas and things like that. You can head over to Organic-Unity.com and check out everything we have going there.
I also do a lot more in-depth teachings around these types of subjects. If you’re interested in learning a little bit more about these things, you can head over to EvolutionaryHerbalism.com or AstrologicalHerbalism.com where I’ve got some videos up there. You’re more than welcome to head on over there and just pop your name and email on there and I’ll send you some free videos and some more in-depth training in some of these subjects.
Logan: All right, well thank you so much for joining us today, Sajah. I think people very much enjoy this information because there’s not a whole lot of it out there.
Sajah: Well thank you so much for having me on, Logan. I really appreciate it.
Logan: All right, well thanks everyone for listening and we’ll be back next week with another great podcast for you.