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Tue, 02 Mar 93
Subject: Alkaliod extraction
Subject: LSA extraction
Subject: Extracting alkaloids from Tricocereus cacti.
Subject: Re: Extracting alkaloids from Tricocereus cacti.
Subject: Re: Extracting alkaloids from Tricocereus cacti.
Subject: Extraction Refs
Subject: Extraction info
Subject: Extracting DMT from Acacia maidenii
Subject: Extracting alkaloids from Psilocybe
Subject: Myristicin and Safrol from Nutmeg / LSA from HBWR
Subject: Re: Extracting LSA from HBWR
Subject: Re: LSA
---------------------------------------------------------------------From: anonymous
Subject: Alkaliod extraction
The method I use is a general one - I copied it from one
used by some scientists to extract mescaline from peyote, but I
have since seen close variations used on many plants.
This procedure is followed, whenever a plant is studied for its
A few ingredients and bits of equipment are necessary.
I am a chemist, and have my own chemistry set. I have considered manufacture,
but I find that there are enough interesting things to do just
extracting natural compounds, which is much easier, indeed, possible
in the home.
You will need:
A few flasks, glass containers, etc. of suitable sizes, depending on how
large a volume you are playing with.
A separating funnel is almost essential - this could be tricky to get without
a little effort. If you don't know, it is an inverted conical flask with a
hole at the top to pour stuff in , and a tap at the bottom to let the stuff
out accurately . It is used for separating immiscible layers.
A vacuum filtration apparatus would be very useful; I did have a bodgy one
rigged up myself, but it was always difficult to use. Some kind of still,
though, is pretty important to have, although conceivably for a once off
you could get by without it, if you don't mind breathing in a lot of solvent.
As far as still goes it is to recover solvent, and leave goodness as a
residue at the bottom. I use a bit of quickfit I nicked: a round bottom
flask, short column, thermometer on top, and a small condenser... takes

for ever, but don't expect to follow this procedure in anything under a
Other bits and pieces:
A filtre of some sort is a necessity; preferably a good one, with a vacuum
pump if you are filtring gluggy stuff (cactus is the worst, sticky goo,
e.g., other things like seeds and bark are better). People have been
known to use such devices as coffee filtres, t-shirts, tins with holes
in the bottom (as a filtre press) and so on. Whatever you can scrounge.
A lab buchner funnel, sidearm flask, and venturi pump are ideal.
All this stuff is standard in any chemical lab, regardless of discipline.
(cont'd in part ii)
CTION part ii:
Chemicals necessary:
The paydirt (obviously)
Some solvents: methanol (lots), and a non polar solvent. Some people use
ether - this is dangerous and doesn't dissolve everything. Your best bet
is probably something chlorinated - I use dichloromethane, although
chloroform will do (don't breath too much - it is fun at first, but ends
up making you feel ill). Drycleaning fluid... petrol.... I don't know
what you have access to.
Dichloromethane is good because it is non-toxic, volatile, and a good
solvent. It has a major drawback: separation is often very difficult
once you have placed your gluggy plant muck in there. The shot is to
use large quantities of everything, and be patient.
You will also need an acid (Hydrogen chloride is good)
and a base/alkali (Sodium hydroxide is good - that way, if you stuff up,
you end up synthesizing salt instead of something nasty.)
Also useful: acid/base indicator paper, boiling chips (porcelain grains)
and activated charcoal - see local chemist.
The idea is this:
Most fun compounds (the only exception is maybe THC, and alcohol if you count
that) are basic - they contain nitrogen.
So: in general, if you react them with hydrochloric acid, the form a water
soluble chloride. If you react them with dilute base in the aqueous phase,
they go back to being a base, which is insoluble in water, but soluble in
organic non-polar solvents (like CH2Cl2). So, the theory is, that only
a base will go from water to solvent and back to water etc. when changed
from acidic to basic and back to acidic. This gives you a way of removing
all the other crap which is not alkaloid from a sample. That is the theory.
When I do this, if I can get down to some brown or green sludge that I can
throw down or smoke, I am happy with a good days work. Ideally, you should
end up with lovely white crystals, but I think that would require a lot
of time and effort, and indeed a considerable loss of product in the process.
Get your stuff.
Dry it as much as possible - this makes life easier later on. You will never
get all the water out, but too bad.
Chop it up as fine as possible: a blender comes in handy.
You may wish to chop then dry. A word of caution : try to avoid exposing
your stuff to excessive heat. I dry in low heat oven. Heat and air destroy
good compounds from upwards of 100 degs C. All this bit will depend on
exactly what you are extracting.
Once it is finely divided - powdered if possible, put it in a big container,
and cover it with methanol.
Alternatives to methanol here are ethanol (not as good) and acetone (good
solvent - rips the crap out of anything, but is more reactive - can react

with your actives).

Now, depending on what your stuff is, you have to let the methanol have time
to remove it all. This is best done by leaving in a quiet warm place for
a few days, even up to a week, and shaking it occasionally so it is mixed.
Some papers recommend solvent extraction (soxhlet apparatus) and refluxing
at the boiling point of the methanol (80 degs or so - I can't remember).
I usually just rely on time to get the good stuff out.
When you are ready (early in the morning), filtre the muck, to give you
methanol+dissolved brown gunk, and a residue soaked with methanol.
The residue still contains a lot of good stuff, so soak again for an hour,
and repeat, and do a third time if you are feeling generous (3 is the
magic number in extraction work).
When you are done, there is another thing you can do finally, if desired:
depending on what your stuff is, mix it up with dilute hydrochloric acid,
1M is appropriate. let stand for an hour, then filtre (this may be very
difficult) That will get the last of the alkaloids out of the substrate.
(continued in part iii)
You now have a methanol-plant stuff mixture, and a dilute HCL-plant stuff
mixture, if you bothered to do that part.
Evaporate the methanol, to leave a small amount of goo. This will contain
water, a bit of methanol, and all kinds of resins and muck, and if you
are lucky, the alkaloids.
If a very quick and crude extraction was all that was desired, then after
stripping the last of the methanol with vacuum if possible, this residue
could be smoked eaten or whathaveyou. I leave that to your discretion.
However, if a cleaner product is desired, the double layer extraction
will need to be performed.
Combine the evaporated methanol gunge with the hydrochloric acid filtrate
if you have any. If you don't then mix the methanol stuff with an excess
of dilute (1M) HCl. Feel free to filtre again at this point. Anything of
marginal solubility here is no good to you. Get the stuff as clean as
possible. Boiling with activated charcoal is another useful trick for
removing gunge. Just boil it up, and filter off the charcoal for a
cleaner brew.
You should now have an acid aqueous solution of alkaloids and water
solubles from the plant.
Take your acidic solution, and bassify. This is done by mixing in dilute
sodium hydroxide (I use up to 5M to save on total volume. Be careful with
conc NaOH - apart from eating skin, it eats alkaloids) As you mix in the
NaOH, you will see swirls of white precipitate form and redissolve.
Continue until the white swirls stay, and until the solution is quite
cloudy. Indicator paper is necessary to see that the solution is basic.
If you can't get indicator paper, you can make an indicator by boiling
up some purple flowers. The dyes in most flowers go bright red in acid,
and green in strong alkali. Just a drop of dye and a drop of mixture
should tell you what is acid or base.
The white precipitate is the alkaloids. The more the better.
Next, add equal volume of non-polar solvent (dichloromethane) to the mix.
Place in separating funnel, and shake. Separate. This may be very difficult
or slow. Adding more solvent, more basic water, etc. may help. Adding lots
of salt to the water layer will help break an emulsion. Ideally you want it
do this step 3 times - to extract as much as possible from the water layer
into the organic. I find this part very difficult, and you have to accept
that you will lose quite a lot of material here. It is, however probably
easier with some plants that others: cactus is very difficult, barks and

seeds would be easier. Use plenty of salt, and agitate to separate.

When you have finished extraction, chuck the basic water layer.
The solvent layer is kept, and can be backwashed with salty water for a
cleaner mixture.
The solvent can now be dried, (using salt or some dry powder, the filtred)
(I don't usually bother with this - the old hairdryer at the end can
remove some last solvent and water) then strip the solvent in a vacuum
to get your final product - some kind of syrup could be expected.
This is super concentrated, but may only be half the strength of the
original. e.g. put in enough for 10 doses of morning glory seeds, get
back 5 doses or more of concentrated alkaloids.
If it is desired to take the process still further, you can do the obvious
thing - mix your solvent layer with dilute acid again and extract back into
water. Acid layer could be evaporated under vacuum to give salts of
alkaloids. Alternatively, if the organic layer were scrupulously dry,
bases could be salted out with some organic acid - a tartrate, oxalate
could be formed. I have never bothered with such things - you would need
a lot of pure extract to be bothered.
The acid-base extraction process can be continued as many times as is
If a truly pure product is desired, the only way to go from here is
chromatography. I have never used this at home, and wouldn't think
it was worth the trouble, but there will be papers available on what
was used for a particular extraction case.
-----------------------------Date: 08 Aug 1992 17:53:37 -0500 (CDT)
From: mike@penguin.gatech.edu
Subject: LSA extraction
The method is very simple, requires nothing you can't buy easily and legally,
and it's not very expensive. There are refinements galore to this, and
I might try them in order to purify this stuff, but the chemicals aren't as
available, and it rewuires things like pH paper, which I don't know how to get.
Maybe I can get some anyway. I'll see.
First of all, you need either (a) a _lot_ of morning glory seeds or (b) some
hawiian baby woodrose seeds. You also need petroleum ether, which is
a petroleum refining byproduct, and some high proof drinkable ethanol.
I'll explain the theory as I understand it so that you can understand the
flexability in this recipe.
There are two kinds of solvents, polar and nonpolar. Generally, the good stuff
in seeds is polar soluable, and the bad stuff is nonpolar soluable.
So the idea is to first make a nonpolar solution, which of course means
that you take a nonpolar solvent and soak the ground up seeds in it. The
result is a solution of garbage from the seeds and the nonpolar solvent.
Petroleum is a nonpolar solvent, so it will function in this capacity.
The down side is that petroleum is poisonous, so you don't want to drink it.
The good news is that petroleum is extremely volatile, so it evaporates
quickly and cleanly. So the first stage is to soak the ground up seeds
in petroleum ether for a few days, and then filter the resulting cloudy
solution through some coffee filters, throw away the solution, and keep
the seed mush. The seed mush consists of nondisolved LSA's, fiber, and
the remaining solution that didn't drip through the filter. This part

can be iterated to get more and more garbage out of the mush.
The final time, let the seed mush dry thoroughly so that the petroleum
evaporates so that you don't have any poison in there.
After the seed mush dries, the nest stage is to make a polar solution,
which separates the alkaloids (the LSA'a) from the fiber of the seeds.
This is done with alcohol. There are other polar solvents, but again,
the key is to have one which easily evaporates, one which will not destroy the
LSA's, and one which is not poisonous. Ethanol serves this purpose. Methanol
will also work, but methanol causes blindness, so if you use methanol,
make damn sure it's all evaporated before consuming the product.
In some states ethanol is illegal, and California is such a state.
In that case, using methanol is probably the way to go. Also keep in mind that
there is such thing as denatured ethanol, which is ethanol which has
been intentionally poisoned so that it is undrinkable. The reason for doing
this is that drinkable ethanol is taxable under the Tobacco Alcohol and
Firearms people, and denatured ethanol has uses in chemistry and cleaning.
The point is that you should under no circumstances use denatured ethanol
because it will make you sick or kill you or cause cancer or all three.
So, make an alcohol solution of the seeds. Then filter the solution
through filter paper, like before, except this time keep the liquid
in a jar. Repeat this step 3 or 4 times, always keeping the liquid. When
you've exhausted the seeds, throw them away. The liquid you have should
be yellow and smelly. Put this in a shallow flat tray or pan or
large bowl, and let it evaporate in a dark dry place for a day or two, or
until there is no liquid. The pan should have a yellowish scum residue.
That's the LSA gunk. Scrape that up with a razor blade or credit card
or whatever works. It'll be sticky and gummy, and once it's all scraped up
it will look dark brown.
That's pretty much all there is to it. You can take this several steps
further to get a more pure product. That would be to alternately
make an acid solution and base salts from the LSA's, which would eventually
leave you with a very pure white powder. This requires much more effort,
and wastes some of the product, and the only reason for doing it would be
to remove more garbage, but the amount of garbage left in the brown gunk
is insignificant.
Once you have this stuff as pure as you want it, you can ingest it in
your favorite form. You can either swallow it as a lump, put it into
a gelitain capsule, drink the ethanol solution, or dissolve it in some
cool-aid. I recommend either capsules or swallow the lump if you can
handle the taste.
Other notes: Petroleum ether is in Naptha, which is available in
hardware stores. That's what I've used, and it works fine. Other
petroleum solvents would work like ethyl ether, which evaporates
much more easily and is a better solvent, and something like
gasoline, which has additives and does not evaporate as cleanly as
naptha. If you can get petroleum ether from a chemical supplier,
try it instead of naptha. A rule of thumb is that after making a solution
with the nonpolar solvent, and after it dries, it should smell absolutely
nothing at all like petroleum, or whatever solvent you used. If you
use gasoline, you'll notice a strong gasoline smell, which means you're
screwed. I know first hand from repeated experience that naptha works.
Also, read the labels of whatever solvent you use. Make sure it contains
no benzene. Benzene is the most evil carcinogen known, and even in trace
amounts it can cause cancer. There is no safe amount of benzene.
On the other hand benzene is everywhere, and if some chemical engineer points
out to you that there is benzene in naptha even if it's not on the label

keep in mind that there is an enormous amount of benzene in automobile exhaust.

You're going to die anyway. If there is no mention of carcinogens or benzene
on the label of the naptha, then there isn't enough such that you should not
use it.
The finer details of this recipe I can give you another time, but I just
wanted to give you some theory and a general idea of what the procedure is.
I can give you some things I have from off the net pertaining to this.
-----------------------------Date: Tue, 4 Aug 92 12:55:44 EST
From: anonymous
Subject: Extracting alkaloids from Tricocereus cacti.
Instructions for purifying alkaloids from Tricocereus cacti.
This is a general method for concentrating alkaloids, with emphasis
on mescaline, but which may be adapted to other plants and alkaloids.
It requires that the alkaloids be relatively basic and that the
base form be less soluble in water. So it would work well for DMT,
but not psilocybin of caffeine for example.
The principle of alkaloid purification is to obtain from a plant only
that fraction which is basic. This is achieved by a double layer
extraction, relying on the principle that amines (as opposed to most
of the other compounds in a plant) are soluble in acidic (the salt form)
but insoluble in basic (the basic form) aqueous solution. However,
the basic form is soluble in non-polar organic solvents whereas the
acidic/salt form is not. Thus, by varying the pH, alkaloids can be
taken from aqueous solution to organic solution or vice-versa, leaving
behind other materials.
Some chemicals and equipment are important for successful extraction of
alkaloids from cactus. The chemicals include methanol, dichloromethane
or chloroform, sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid. The equipment
includes a distillation apparatus, a separating funnel, and various
beakers and containers, pH tester, and filter. Alternatives can
be found for each of these.
1) Slice and dry the cactus. I haven't worked out the best way to do this;
no matter how I do it, I am always afraid that I am destroying the
alkaloids. In general, what seems to work is to slice it thinly, and
run hot air over it overnight. The more water which can be removed from
the cactus at this stage, the easier the process will be.
2) Pulverise the dried cactus. I have tried using a blender, and it seems
to work moderately well. The cactus is tough so you will have to be
patient. The finer the grinding, the better the extraction.
3) Extract dried cactus with methanol. Ideally this is done hot using
solvent-extraction apparatus (soxhlet). Various makeshift methods
may suffice for a hot extraction, but I have generally merely soaked
the stuff for up to a week, cold. Ideally this step should be done
three times, and the extracts concentrated. I have done it once for
a week, and then washed out the absorbed methanol with fresh methanol
once or twice over an hour or two. What you should end up with, after
filtering out the bulk of the cactus, is a green methanol extract.
Ethanol or acetone could be substituted for methanol, but neither of

these is quite as effective. It is generally desirable to use several

times the weight of the dried cactus for the methanol extraction, or
at least enough to cover it well in a container.
4) Remove the methanol to leave just an extract residue. This is best
done using vacuum distillation, but can be done using atmospheric
distillation, to recover the solvent. If you don't mind losing several
litres of methanol, you can merely boil the stuff into the atmosphere;
just avoid starting a fire. ALWAYS no matter what use boiling chips
(porcelain) to promote even boiling. Methanol superboils easily, as
I have found :-(. Once most of the methanol is removed, you will be
left with a hundred ml or so of watery, methanoly, green slime.
If it weren't for the methanol and the bad taste, this could be
consumed at this point. In general, I would say that it may be worth
your while going to the next stage if you can manage it.
5) Add dilute hydrochloric acid. Sulfuric acid, etc. could be used instead,
but I like to use HCl and NaOH, because the product is NaCl, which is
of no consequence if it contaminates anything. HCl is not as oxidising
as H2SO4. The HCl should be less than 1M, but not weaker than 0.1M (pH 0-1).
Add a few times the reduced volume of liquid - e.g. take the stuff
to 400 ml from 100 ml, etc. One good idea is to let the bulk cactus
residue (post methanol) dry, and then soak it for a few hours in the
acid you are going to use to add at this point. This will extract the
last of the alkaloids. Unfortunately, cactus being what it is, will
swell enormously, and removing the HCl is tricky. I have resorted
to large quantities of HCl and a kind of press to squeeze out the
acid from the bulk residue. This acid should then be filtered, and
added to the methanol extract residue as above.
6) (optional) The stuff at this point will be a bit of a mess. Adding
activated charcoal and boiling gently for 10 minutes will help to congeal
the chlorophyll etc. which is gumming up the stuff. Do not add too much
charcoal - less than a gram should be plenty. Too much will adsorb
alkaloids. Don't use burnt wood, burnt toast, etc - get the proper stuff
from the local pharmacist. Performing this step will make the next stages
considerably easier.
7) Filter the HCl extract. This will remove a proportion of the gunge.
This will be easier if charcoal was used. The more gunge that can be
removed at this stage, the better. Washing the residue with fresh HCl
before discarding, and adding this to the rest will ensure no loss of
8) carefully basify the HCl solution with NaOH. I tend to use around a
5M solution for this, which is OK as long as you stir as it reacts.
Take it well above pH 7. You should get white clouds of alkaloids
forming in the solution, and the whole will become turbid as some of
the acid soluble components precipitate. Ammonia or KOH should work
for this purpose as well. I have had some difficulty with ammonia not
being quite basic enough in other systems.
9) Add dichloromethane (or chloroform); be generous with the quantities
if possible. Ideally, one would like to extract into CH2Cl2 3 times with
equal volumes, but the amount of solvents gets huge. Ether is not all
that good with mescaline extraction, I believe, even though it is
easier to separate from water. CH2Cl2 is handy because it has a very
low boiling point. It is at this point in the whole operation that the
most care and patience is necessary. A separating funnel is really a
must - one could plausibly separate the layers with a very tall thin

jar and a syringe, but this would be difficult. Ideally, the basic
solution and the CH2Cl2 will separate into 2 nice layers, the lower
one (organic) containing the alkaloids. Unfortunately, while this
is not difficult with most plants, it is very difficult with cactus
extracts because the cacti contain so much resinous junk and
natural surfactents (to retain water). The best way I have found
to separate the layers once you have shaken them together is to
add plenty of salt (NaCl) to the water/base layer. This is excellent
for breaking the emulsions which form. Be prepared to use large
quantities of salt.
10) Separate dichloromethane layer from mixture and put aside. Repeat
steps 9-10 a few times: once is insufficient, three is good, four
is excessive. Combine all the dichloromethane extracts together.
This should be a slightly green solution. It will contain a bit of
water, most likely.
11) Backwash the dichloromethane once with a solution of salt and
NaOH (dilute). This will clean up the last of the junk from the
organic solution. Separate the layers as before and discard all
aqueous material.
12) Distill off the dichloromethane (or allow to escape to the atmosphere
if you are rich and don't like the ozone layer). I have found that
once you are down to maybe 20 ml of residue, the best option is
to place the remainder in a petri dish (or some flat dish you are
going to store it on) and hitting it with a hairdryer to remove
any last CH2Cl2 and water. You should be left with a small quantity
of moderately pure alkaloids. This can be easily consumed by
dissolving in vodka, e.g., or should be stable for extended periods
if refrigerated, frozen, kept airtight and away from moisture.
Do not expect more than a 50% yield the first time you try this:
theoretically if everything is done properly, the yield should
approach 100%, but this is rarely the case.
-----------------------------From: anonymous #2
Subject: Re: Extracting alkaloids from Tricocereus cacti.
I've had a quick scan through that post, and it seems he's been pretty
complete in his description. I can add the following information:
- The initial extraction is very important. You only have as much alkaloid
to play with as you extract at this point. Similarly, the more gunk you
extract at this stage, the more you'll have to eliminate. Methanol is
used because it's not too polar or non-polar, and it penetrates cell
walls and membranes quite effectively. Acetone would be as effective, but
it seems to pull much more gunk out along with it, and for this reason
should probably be avoided. Also note that the better your mechanical
mulching process is, the more effective the extraction will be. Also, note
that a hot solvent extraction under reflux conditions, or using a soxhlet
would be more effective, but bear in mind that some alkaloids may decompose
with heat - it's probably worthwhile checking the physical characteristics
of the alkaloid in question in your handy Merck index or CRC handbook.
- With respect to the degree of acidity and basicity necessary for the
extraction, this can only really be found by trial and error. Insufficient
difference from neutrality will cause insufficient separation, extremes
of pH (particulary too basic) may cause alkaloids to be degraded or other

nasty things to happen. Also note that other compounds present may act as
buffers - be sure to stir well, and measure the pH using indicator paper
or somesuch.
- The final product is a free base. Usually it's unneccessary to go further
than this. Forming a salt can be tricky, and would also be wasteful. If
you're ingesting the product orally, then it'll salt adequately with the
HCl in your stomach. If you're concerned with oxidation by the air, well,
use your better judgement (are you really going to wait that long before
eating the stuff). Of course, if it's DMT and you're going to smoke it,
forming the salt is a waste of time.
Hope that's helpful.
-----------------------------From: anonymous #2
Subject: Re: Extracting alkaloids from Tricocereus cacti.
One other question though which is on "backwashing"... what
exactly is this procedure?
Once you've extracted the goodies into the solvent layer, you attempt to
remove any remaining non-alkaloid gunk that may have come along with it.
So you wash the extract with basified water, which forms another layer
which you discard. Jez describes this in the procedure. It's not always
necessary, but once you've got that far, it's usually not difficult to do
(i.e. you've got the layers to separate successfully once already)
-----------------------------From: anonymous #2
Subject: Extraction Refs
Here are the references for the extraction procedures. I don't have the
titles of the papers, but all are in readily available journals:
JACS 88 p4218 (1966)
Lloydia 29 p318 (1966)
DMT from acacias:
Aust. J. Chem 16 p246 (1963)
-----------------------------Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1992 16:30:46 EDT
From: anonymous
Subject: Extraction info
>do you know what the following are:
diethyl ether, commonly called ether. less polar than water or
alcohol, more polar than petroleum or toluene/benzene.
I don't use it; dichloromethane is much safer, and easier

to get, but is slightly more cosoluble with water.

/ \
| |
It is a cyclic ether, very similar to diethyl ether (obviously)
but is perhaps a stronger solvent, and is even more dangerous.
ispropanol. IPA could stand for anything, but this is a good
chance. I'd call it iPrOH in writing, myself. It's a common
alcohol - the next most commonly available after ethanol
and methanol (not counting sugar etc.). It is still miscible
with water. Butanol partly cosoluble with water. Higer
alkanols are not. iPrOH has a similar boiling point to
ethanol, and is quite volatile. It is less polar than ethanol,
but much more polar than ether.
Polarity and solubility is a nebulous concept. If you actually
look at what is dissolved by what, you can only find vague
general principles, and plenty of exceptions. Some authors
have tried to make 3 and 4 dimensional polarity or solubility
graphs, and put various solvents in various points as having
a combination of different types of solvent power.
>and how to do a distillation "at 2.0 mm/108-112 deg C, or at about 160
>deg C at the water pump"?
You need special apparatus for both. If I were pushed, I could
put together the latter (I have the necessary equipment
lying around.) I wouldn't attempt the former, except in
a lab, which is where I have done it. Both of them are,
of course, low pressure distillation.
At a low enough pressure, anything becomes gaseous. This
is of course because every substances has a vapour pressure
at a given temperature. By evaporating something under
vacuum, you can turn it into a gas at a temperature
lower than the temperature at which it oxidises or
spontaneously decomposes.
A water pump, or venturi pump, is a simple vacuum which can
be attached to a fast flowing water source. The
theoretical minimum pressure is the vapour pressure of
water at whatever temperature (e.g. 15 mmhg at 20 degs or
what have you), but in practive, this is never reached.
A water trap between the pump and the distillation

apparatus is essential, and if you wish to recover whatever

you are distilling, you will need a special collecting
vessel (often ice cooled) as well. A mechanical vacuum
pump is just the same, except it is large and heavy and
noisy and expensive and can achive a high vacuum, which
is often necessary for the distillation and purification
of organic compounds.
-----------------------------Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1992 16:31:22 EDT
From: anonymous
Subject: Extracting DMT from Acacia maidenii
The following events are as far divorced from reality as the experience
of the drug itself :-)
I discovered that a local plant, Acacia maidenii, was reported to contain
0.6% alkaloids in the bark, of which 1/3 was N-methyl tryptamine, and
2/3 was Dimethyl Tryptamine (DMT).
Alkaloids of The Australian Leguminosae - The Occurrence of
Methylated Tryptamines in Acacia maidenii F. Muell.
J.S. Fitzgerald and A.A. Sioumis
Australian Journal of Chemistry, 1965, 18 433-4
Some research of old botany books suggested a nearby location, and to
my surprise I found many hundred of the trees growing along creek gullys
in a nearby national park.
I took about half a kilo of vertical strips from a number of trees, trying
to cause as little as possible permanent damage. The bark was thick, red,
fibrous and resinous.
Smoking the bark directly gave a mild hallucinogenic effect, on the
limits of the detectable.
That evening, I shredded the bark by hand. This was difficult and
incomplete; mechanical milling would be far preferable.
I placed the shreds about 3.5 litres of analytical grade methanol from
Monday night until Friday afternoon. The methanol quickly took up colour
from the bark and turned a deep red colour.
As much as possible of the methanol was removed by filtering.
I evaporated off the methanol using a fractionating column, a condenser,
and a saucepan of boiling water as heating, for some hours, and recovered
much of the methanol. I placed this methanol back with the bark and
reextracted for some hours while evaporating the rest, then filtered
the bark again and combined the extracts, and stripped as much as
possible of the methanol, to leave a thick resinous brown liquid.
A portion of the extract was evaporated using a hair-drier to give a
thick brown resin. Attempts at smoking this using pipe and hot knife
proved unpleasant and gave minimal effect.
It was decided to perform further extraction.
To the extract was added dilute hydrochloric acid (about 20 ml 10M,
but well diluted). Immediately, a large amount of tar congealed and
was removed, leaving a watery brown aqueous mixture.
This was basified with NaOH, although on reflection, I would use NH3
next time as it is less likely to overbasify and react with any of the
compounds present. White precipitations were seen on basification, which
redissolved on stirring.
The aqueous phase was extracted twice into CH2Cl2, and the solvent

evaporated as before. The last stage of evaporation was accomplished

with a hair drier, to leave about a gram or so of pale yellow liquid.
On standing 24 hours, this liquid crystallised as circular arrangements
of needles.
Preliminary attempts at smoking small amounts of the alkaloids gave
varying mild effects, and a friend and I decided to try a larger dose.
He took a cone in one toke, and was immediately on the ground, making
strange sounds and looking odd. He hugged me and told me to meet him in
that place, and said it was very strong. I managed to finish a large
cone in 3 tokes, and was instantly blown apart as if by a large
brick through the head. I think I was temporarily blinded, and
found myself on the ground grasping my friend, and coughing for air,
as I watched all of my surroundings fragment into small pieces
divided by lightning bolts, and feeling all the air in the universe
escape through the holes. We were both totally astounded and scared
shitless. 2 minutes later, the intense part was over. We staggered
out into the open, and walked in the park until we calmed down.
Pleasant mild hallucinations continued for about half an hour, and
there were no after effects whatsoever. The experience was extemely
intense, and the smoke has an unpleasant taste. Several other people
have tried it since, and the most popular adjective is "wicked".
Effects have ranged from mild to intense, and some people say that
while it could not be described as "good" or "enjoyable", they would
be happy to try it again. My subsequent trips were more bearable,
as I was not under any anxiety about the duration or outcome of the trip.
Nevertheless, the trip is still extremely intense, and also physically
demanding: giving strong tactile hallucinations and stimulation.
On a second occasion, I took 1.7 kg of bark, and pulverised it as
best I could using a circular saw. The result was mostly a fibrous
powder. Some pieces had to be shredded by hand. Methanol extraction
was performed as before. Since the amount was larger on this occasion,
the quantities were somewhat unwieldy. Stripping the five litres of
solvent (aprx) took approximately 14 hours. On attempting to acidify,
filter, and basify, considerable difficulty was experienced; the
acidified residue seemed unfilterable, and when basified with NH3,
a thick pink gel was formed which was impossible to extract. By a
painful process of trial and error, I found that at very low pH,
most of the resins became dissolved or suspended. At slightly low
pH, the residue separated nicely into a tar and an aqueous phase.
At slightly high pH, the mixture became a thick gelatinous solid.
At very high pH, this solid redissolved. The result of this seems to
be that much of the tar can be separated by successive extraction
at moderately low pH (dilute HCl), and then that the addition of
strong hydroxide will leave the amphoteric resins in solution,
but make the alkaloids insoluble. These are then extracted into
dichloromethane as before, and the organic layer is back extracted
with salty NaOH solution to remove impurities. The dichloromethane
is then stripped as before, to leave the alkaloids which crystallise
in 24 hours or more.
Myself and a friend experimented with repeat doses of DMT at close
intervals. A base pipe was used for smoking the alkaloids. This pipe
allows minimum combustion and maximum vaporisation, and thus is the
most economical way to smoke DMT. Because there is little combustion,
the smoke does not taste quite as bad, and also the base pipe allows
more accurate metering of the dose. After the initial physical rush,
it was found that taking small tokes at intervals of a few minutes
was sufficient to maintain an extremely pleasant trip, not unlike

that of psilocin. There was minimum physical discomfort associated

with the cruise. However, while in this mild state, I took two
large tokes of the substance, and a few seconds later, without
warning, I was blown apart. I was walking, but staggered and
choked, gasping for air. The effects were totally overwhelming,
like being thrown out of the universe, and I watched my visual
sphere being pixelated at successively lower resolutions, until
I could see merely individual elements of colour. The intensity
was such as to make it very unpleasant.
A few more experiences should be related. It seems that the
response of various people to this extract varies greatly, and
even a single individual can have a variety of responses, from
no effect to total dissociation. One girl tried a single toke
for the first time, and was completely thrown out of the
universe (from her description). She was begging for it to
end; the duration was longer than usual: about 15 minutes of
heavy peak, and at the end of it she vomited while gasping for
air when beginning to return to some normality and bodliy control.
On one occasion, I first ate a whole bottle of the 4:1 extract
of Passiflora incarnata which is available over the counter in
Australia. Each tablet contains 500 mg of extract, and I ate
60 tablets. Supposedly a single tablet is supposed to be a herbal
sedative, but I was not sedated after consuming the 60. My
reason for doing this was that Passiflora incarnata is
supposed to contain a variety of beta-carbolines which are
mono-amine-oxidase inhibitors, which have been used to
potentiate the effects of DMT, and make it orally active.
About 40 minutes later, I smoked some DMT, the effects of
which were not greatly different from what I am used to.
I then had a slightly larger amount, and without warning,
felt an intense incredible rush of physical pleasure through
my body. Within seconds, I was riding on the most intense
unimaginable pure total body orgasm. I was unable to control
myself, and I was screaming at the top of my voice until
the effects subsided. The visual and auditory enhancement
were mild, but the physical hallucination is was by far the
most enjoyable thing I have ever experienced. Observers, who
were taken aback by my behaviour, claim that I was in this
state for about 10 minutes. Afterwards, I felt intensely
euphoric, and both very excited and very relaxed. I tried
eating a significant quantity of the DMT after this experience,
and found no effect. This would indicate that the Sedacalm
passionflower extract is insufficient to orally activate
DMT at these doses. It may be that higher doses would
have some effect, or that Sedacalm does not contain
appreciable quantities of beta-carbolines. Harman,
harmol, harmalol, harmaline, and harmine have all been
reported in Passiflora incarnata over the years, but one
paper claims that only harman, which is not particularly
active, is the only alkaloid present.
I intend to experiment further with this plant.
I am planning to attempt to side-step the methanol extraction,
simply by attempting to extract directly into hydrochloric acid.
Freezing and thawing the bark might serve to burst the vesicles
containing the alkaloids (if this is the case - I am not a
biologist). The advantage of doing this would be decreased cost,
easy availability of all raw materials, and decreased time

involved. The disadvantage would most likely be a reduction

in yield, but larger amounts could be processed. The acid
extract would have to be boiled down from several litres
to a few hundred mills, then filtered, and this process could
destroy the alkaloid. Comments on this method would be welcomed.
My references tell me that N-methyl tryptamine is most likely inactive
at these doses. Does anyone have any information regarding the
physical and psychological effects of this compound? Also any
information regarding the hazards of DMT use would be appreciated.
-----------------------------Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1992 16:35:29 EDT
From: anonymous
Subject: Extracting alkaloids from Psilocybe
Extraction Instructions for obtaining Psilocin and Psilocybin from
Psilocybe or Panaeolus.
I have not tried this method; it is taken from the classic volume
(in French) and based on that used by Albert Hofmann.
Le Genre Panaeolus: Essai taxinomique et physiologique
par Gyorgy Miklos OLA'H
Laboratoire De Cryptogamie du Museum National D'histoire Naturelle
12, rue de Buffon, Paris.
Memoire hors-series No 10, 1970.
Page 97.
Dry the mushrooms.
- This important step is most likely to cause the greatest
loss of yield depending on how it is done.
Crush or grind the dried carpophores or mycelium to a powder.
Shake and allow to stand (e.g. 30 mins) in chloroform. Use maybe
twice the dry weight in solvents at every step, or enough to
well cover the powder.
Filter and discard the chloroform.
SHake the reidue and allow to stand with acetone.
Filter and discard the acetone.
Shake residue and allow to stand with methanol.
Shake residue and allow to stand with methanol.
Shake residue and allow to stand with methanol.
Discard residue.
Combine methanol extracts.
Evaporate methanol to dryness, preferably in a vacuum, although
low heat will do.
This will yield a crude extract containing the active tryptamines,
suitable for most purposes.
This can be further chromatographed on cellulose etc. to give pure

psilocin and psilocybin. The recommended solvents are

n-Butanol saturated with water, and n-butanol:acetic acid:water
(24:10:10). Anyone wishing to do chromatography should check
the relevant texts for more detailed instructions.
Contact me if you want further information - I may even be able
to supply it.
-----------------------------Date: Tue, 01 Sep 1992 11:20:09 EDT
From: anonymous
Subject: Myristicin and Safrol from Nutmeg / LSA from HBWR
>can you use an acid-base extraction for getting myristicin from
>nutmeg or LSA from HBWR? (i.e. are either of those two chemicals both
>polar soluble and soluble in acidic solution but not basic and
>whatever the other condition was...)
Ok: the former I have tried. The latter I haven't but hope
to soon. Neither of these is really suitable for the kind
of alkaloid extraction I have discussed before. In the
former case, the allyl-benzenes are not alkaloids (as
you should have realised). In the latter, the compounds
are water soluble to some extent in the basic form, how
much so, I don't know. If you look at the method I
gave for psilocin, you will see it is different from
that for mescaline and DMT. I got the psilocin recipe
from an old book. II would have to go back to the original
literature to make a proper recipe for LSA extraction.
If you'd like to grab the reference for me (someone at
Leri is sure to know) then I will go back and check it out;
the Hoffmann stuff where they first tested obliquhui (sp?).
TO purify myrsiticin/elemicin/safrole from nutmeg, is
a tricky process, but not impossible. The shot would
be to soxhlet extract the oil from a few kilos of
nutmegs, strip the solvent (pref. under vacuum)
perhaps filter/press the oil at room temperature
to remove the nutmeg fats (myristic acid and glycerides)
Then fractionally distill at reduced pressure to obtain
the correct fraction. The boiling temperature of these
components might be a bit over a hundred degrees in
a strong vacuum. This you could calculate from the
Clapeyron equation (or a simplified Antione equation)
and a knowledge of the distillation pressure and the
boiling points of the compounds at two pressures either
side of your distillation pressure. I did this using data
from the Handbook of Physics and Chemistry. The equation
to use is of the form ln(P/P*) = A/T + B (T in Kelvin).
This process is quite a tricky one,
and one which I would not be confident of performing
succesfully myself. Double distilling would almost
certainly be necessary to remove the last of the
If I were to try to purify LSA from HBWR, my first
instinct would be to grind it, soak or soxhlet (since
the volume would be small enough to use the reflux
equipment I have) with methanol, filter, strip the methanol,

and consume. To go further, without accurate knowledge of

the substance and its pH/solubility behaviour, would
be tricky. Chromatography (e.g. TLC) may well be the
required next step.
-----------------------------Date: Sun, 06 Sep 1992 21:34:20 EDT
From: anonymous
Subject: Re: Extracting LSA from HBWR
Concerning the extraction and purification of LSA from HB**,
The alkaloids are more polar than e.g. DMT or mescaline, and are
probably water soluble to some extent. Thus, while a crude extraction
can be performed with methanol, the next stage of purification may
not be very good. Thus the general extraction method for alkaloids
is quite possibly not applicable here. That is why I want to have a look
at exactly what the original method was, although the journal seems
obscure to say the least. Another day in the Chem Abs section, I
-----------------------------From: aankrom@nyx.cs.du.edu (Anthony Ankrom)
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 92 15:41:10 GMT
Newsgroups: alt.drugs
Subject: Re: LSA
In article <1992Sep22.034310.22075@u.washington.edu> lamont@hyperreal.com
ington.edu (Lamont Granquist) writes:
>>[is] there ... a relatively straightforward proceedure to extract the
>>LSD and get it in a reasonably pure and consumable form?
>Yup. In a nutshell, you mix the HWBR powder in a nonpolar solvent, keep the
>resultant gunk(I) and throw away the solution. Then dissolve the gunk(I)
>into a polar solvent, throw away the new gunk(II) and evaporate the solution.
>The final gunk (III) that comes out of the solution has LSA in it.
> gunk(I) = gunk(II) + gunk(III)
> gunk(III) is the good stuff
> gunk(II) is not
> gunk(I+III) are therefore kept
>nonpolar solvent = petroleum ether
>polar solvent = alcohol (methanol is better, but is a smidgin poisinous
> so you've got to be damn sure its all evaporated).
>I don't have time to give a more detailed explanation than that right
For the layman: nonpolar solvent also = Zippo lighter fluid.
St. Anthony
-CH3 O

VX |
| A kinder gentler lobotomy...

-----------------------------From: pierre@media.mit.edu (Pierre St. Hilaire)

Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1993 19:53:02 GMT
>>Has anyone had a GOOD experience from moderate/large dosages of Syrian
>>Rue seeds? Was the nausea because of the harmaline, or due to other things in
>>the seeds?
>How did you prepare the seeds? Did you boil them and drink the extract?
O.K., for all the poor souls who had to ingest those horrible
seeds, here is an extraction than I think anyone on this newsgroup can
do in their kitchen without blowing themselves up.
From "The Alkaloids" Vol. II by Manske (p393). Printed without
"The crushed seeds of Peganum Harmala are covered with three times
their weight of water containing 30 g of acetic acid per liter of
water [white vinegar is about 50g / l or 5 %]. The seeds swell as they
absorb the liquid and form a thick dough which is pressed after 2-3
days. The pressed seeds are once more treated as above with twice
their weight of dilute acetic acid and, after maceration, the liquid is
again pressed out. To the combined liquors, sodium chloride [that's
table salt, man] (100g. / liter of liquid) is added to transform the
acetates of harmine and harmaline into the hydrochlorides which are
insoluble in cold sodium chloride solutions and are precipitated
during cooling. The supernatant liquid is siphoned off, the
crystalline residue filtered with suction and redissolved in hot
water. Addition of sodium chloride to the filtered solution causes the
precipitation of the hydrochlorides as a crystalline mush and this
process is repeated until the hydrochlorides have acquired a yellow
color (for the purposes of this newsgroup, once is enough). The final
product is then recovered by filtration."
The paper then goes on to describe the separation of harmine from
harmaline, but this procedure is slightly more complicated and not
necessary for most purposes.
Pierre St Hilaire
MIT Media Lab
P.S. While this procedure is legal in the U.S. (where harmine and
harmaline are currently unscheduled), it is illegal in Canada where
harmine and harmaline are Schedule I.
These are extremely potent alkaloids. Misuse of them can result in
serious, even fatal, consequences. Read the FAQ about MAO inhibitors.
End of ftp.u.washington.edu:/public/alt.drugs/chemistry-extracting


This file is a part of the 1999 Hyperreal Drug Archives Snapshot.

This snapshot is hosted by Erowid and will not be updated after
October 1999. The information in these files may be out of date.
See Erowid's Psychoactive Vaults for more current info.
This is version 1.00 of the OTC Solvents FAQ. It was preceded by two
draft versions, one of which has been widely distributed. This
version has been significantly updated, expanded, and corrected
Please destroy any earlier drafts of this document, as the
corrections and clarifications in this version may help avert
potential disasters which could result if the older information is
relied upon.
Significant effort has gone into the preparation of this FAQ, but it
is still lacking in a few areas. I need help with improving the
"solvents" section, especially what these solvents will and will not
dissolve. Some of the solvents listed are missing information on how
polar they are. It would also be nice to know which are the best
solvents for various substances.
Also, I would like to expand the "other substances" section,
specifically adding information on what will and will not dissolve
various interesting substances (or substances contained in) including
but not limited to: cinnamon, cannabinoids, citrus oils, DMT and
relatives, hot peppers, psilocybin/psilocin, aromatic oriental
mushrooms, LAA, garlic, opiates, ginko biloba, coca/cocaine, ephedra,
pseudoephedrine, ginsen, kava, and anything else you have information
on. (Information on any controlled substances would be just for the
purpose of satisfying curiosity; not to do anything illegal, of
I only took about 1 year of general chemistry in college, so I am not
exactly an expert on organic chemistry. It would be wonderful if
someone who is more knowledgable would suggest massive improvements
to the FAQ, or, better yet, if they would take over maintenance of
this FAQ altogether. Just keep in mind that the intended audience is
the not-too-much-above-average kitchen chemist. (Sometimes, it seems
that the more knowledgable people get a little too impatient with the
less knowledgable ones. Please don't be arrogant.) It wouldn't
hurt, however, to add extra information that would be useful to more
experienced chemists.
Please post any comments/additions/corrections to alt.drugs.chemistry
(or e-mail them to me by replying to the anonymous remailer if you
can figure out how to do it). Unfortunately, my news feed sucks, so
I may not see the comments posted to the alt.drugs.chemistry. If you
feel your comments have not been addressed within a week or two,
please post again so I will have a greater chance of seeing it. All
additions to this FAQ derived from comments, etc. will remain
anonymous unless otherwise requested.
Many thanks to those who have already contributed to this work.
========================= OTC* Solvents FAQ =========================
* OTC = over-the-counter
First draft: by "The Goose" on September 29, 1994
Draft version 0.1: by "The Goose" on October 25, 1994

Version 1.00: by "The Goose", last updated on May 19, 1995

PURPOSE: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
This document is intended to provide information on solvents and
other substances to people who have less than an expert knowledge of
chemistry. This information can be used as an aid and a reference by
kitchen chemists, etc. who desire to do relatively simple organic
extractions (e.g. THC from pot, DMT from whatever, LAA from morning
glory, psilocybin/psilocin from shrooms, etc. for those who don't
mind breaking the law. Mint oil, citrus oils, and essences from
various herbs, for those like myself who would rather stay legal.)
Recipes for organic extractions are not provided here. There is an
extensive file on organic extractions at hyperreal.com (in
DISCLAIMER/WARNING: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I do not advocate breaking the law. References to illegal substances
are included, however, for informational purposes only (just to
satisfy everyone's curiosity). The authors of this document assume
no responsibility for the actions or consequences of what anyone may
do with this information. Even though efforts have been made to
assure accuracy, the information presented here is not guaranteed to
be accurate or complete. The use of any information contained in this
document constitutes an agreement to release the authors from any and
all liability for the said use of this information no matter what the
outcome of that use may be.
Most of the substances discussed in this FAQ are toxic to one degree
or another. Usually, after sufficient evaporation/separation/etc.,
such small quantities remain, that there is not a great risk of
poisoning, but you still need to watch out for contaminants. Many of
these substances contain contaminants of unknown toxicity. DO NOT
ingest unless you know what you are doing! You have been warned!
Also, it is not a good idea to breath the fumes from most of these
substances. You could get poisoned that way too. When evaporating
or boiling off solvents, make sure there is adequate ventilation.
Most of these solvents are flammable (or explosive). When working
with flamable solvents, avoid sparks (e.g. from electrical switches)
and open flames (e.g. from gas stoves). Using a hot plate with an
extension cord to get it away from the house is a good idea. Good
ventilation is the key to preventing both poisoning by inhalation,
and explosions resulting from the build-up of flamable fumes.
ALWAYS read the label of the products before you purchase them to
make sure they contain what you are looking for, and are not mixed
with a lot of other unwanted things. (See section on PURITY)
P.S. This information is incomplete, Never assume that something is
safe just because the information is not there!
P.P.S. Only you are responsible for your own actions!!
P.P.P.S. Use your head, damn it!!!
---------------- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions ----------------

1) What is petroleum ether?

A: Petroleum ether refers generically to the lower boiling fractions
of petroleum. Analytical grades may be quite pure, containing
only hexane and/or pentane, and having a boiling point no higher
than 69 degrees centigrade. The lower boiling fractions are most
useful when the solvent is to be evaporated or boiled off. The
petroleum ethers most often mentioned on the 'net usually consist
of somewhat higher boiling fractions of petroleum (e.g. 100 to
175 degrees centigrade). These are more useful when the solvent
is to be separated and discarded (e.g. when removing oil soluble
contaminants from water soluble extracts).
2) Are ether and petroleum ether the same?
A: No! Petroleum ether is a petroleum product. "Real" ether is
more commonly known as diethyl ether or ethyl ether. Its chemical
formula is C2H5-O-C2H5, and it is not a petroleum product.
Diethy ether is the "ether" that was traditionally used as an
anesthetic the early 1900's. Petroleum ether is sometimes
referred to as "ether" because its solvent properties are similar
to that of diethyl ether (i.e. it dissolves similar types of
substances and has a low boiling point). Often (but not always),
petroleum ether and diethyl ether can be used interchangeably.
It is usually easier for the layman to obtain petroleum ether.
3) Where can I get petroleum ether?
A: Chemical supply houses usually can provide petroleum ether. Ask
for it by boiling fraction or specific component (e.g. hexane,
pentane, etc.). It is best to have a reasonable knowledge of
chemistry when purchasing chemicals or solvents from professional
establishments. Many substances are controlled to some extent.
Often they will ask you to show identification, and sign a
statement explaining what your intended use is. This information
can be provided to government agencies such as the DEA. Since
most laymen would have a difficult time bluffing their way in a
chem supply shop, they probably would be tempted to use an
industrial grade which may be more easily obtained from local
retailers. These may take the forms of mineral spirits,
petroleum spirits, naptha, automobile starter fluid, etc. See
the SOLVENTS section below for more information on these products
and where to obtain them.
4) Where can I get solvent <X>?
A: Most solvents can be obtained from chemical supply houses. Just
keep in mind the precautions mentioned in #3 above. Many solvents
may be obtained from local retail establishments in industrial
grades either semi-pure or mixed with other (possibly useful)
solvents. For over-the-counter sources, see the SOLVENTS section
5) What are polar and non-polar solvents?
A: The easy answer: Polar solvents dissolve substances that are

water soluble, but do not dissolve oily substances. Non-Polar

solvents dissolve oily substances, but do not dissolve water
soluble substances. Moderately polar solvents have a tendency to
dissolve both types of substances. Petroleum distillates are
non-polar, alcohols are moderately polar, and water is polar.
The better (but not necessarily more helpful) answer: Polarity
is a somewhat vague notion which gives a general idea of what
will dissolve what. The chemistry-extracting file at hyperreal
states the following:
Polarity and solubility is a nebulous concept. If you actually
look at what is dissolved by what, you can only find vague
general principles, and plenty of exceptions. Some authors
have tried to make 3 and 4 dimensional polarity or solubility
graphs, and put various solvents in various points as having
a combination of different types of solvent power.
See the SOLVENTS section below for more information on the polarity
of specific solvents.
6) What is the advantage of using a polar (or non-polar) solvent?
A: The advantage is that you are able to dissolve what you are
after, leaving behind the things you don't want. (e.g. petroleum
ether will dissolve cannabinoids but leave behind chlorophyll and
sugars. Alcohols and acetone will dissolve cannabinoids,
chlorophyll and sugars.)
7) What type of solvent should I use for extracting substance <X>?
A: Don't ask me. This FAQ was never intended to be a compilation of
recipes. Look at the various extraction techniques which have
been posted on the 'net or look in the chemistry-extracting file
at hyperreal.com. (hint: oily substances dissolve in non-polar
solvents, most other useful substances will dissolve in water.)
8) What is an acid-base extraction?
A: This is a technique in which alkaloids are extracted by taking
advantage of common solubility properties of most alkaloids. In
general, alkaloids are soluble in an acidic water solution, and
become insoluble when the solution is made basic. The solubility
rules for alkaloids are reversed for non-polar organic solvents.
The basic form (precipitate) is soluble in non-polar solvents,
and the acidic form is insoluble in non-polar solvents. Most
other materials in plants do not have these same solubility
properties. This allows for the isolation of alkaloids from most
of the other unwanted junk. For more information on specific
extractions, see the various extraction techniques on the 'net or
look at the chemistry-extracting file at hyperreal.com.
9) Why does my extracted material still smell like solvent?
A: Your extract may still smell like solvent because it still has
some solvent left in it or because some of the aromatic

components of the solvent are overstaying their welcome. Some

solvents have a high boiling point which makes it difficult to
separate it from your extract by boiling it off. Even if most of
the solvent solution boils off at a lower temperature, there may
have been a portion of it that has a higher boiling point. One
way to reduce the amount of excess solvent is to heat up the
extract even more. Be careful because higher heat may destroy
some extracts. Another way to lessen the smell is to to let the
excess solvent evaporate on its own by leaving your extract
exposed to the air for an extended period of time (anywhere from
overnight to several days). The down side of this is that the
longer your extract is exposed to air, the more it can be
destroyed by oxidation. Warmer temperatures encourage both
evaporation and oxidation while cooler temperatures do the
opposite. Room temperature is probably ok for most purposes. It
may well be next to impossible to get all of the residue out,
however. Picking a good solvent from the start can help you
avoid these problems to a large extent.
10) How dangerous are over-the-counter solvents?
A: It is always best to acquire reagent grade solvents, but since
this IS an over-the-counter solvents FAQ . . .
Some solvents are very dangerous by themselves while others are
almost harmless. Some contaminants in industrial grade solvents
could be quite dangerous (poisonous, carcinogenic, flammable,
etc.), while others are not. Most contaminants are not highly
toxic, and the government imposes some regulations on
manufacturers to prevent highly hazardous contaminants from being
distributed, so one could assume that the risks posed by
contaminants is fairly low. However, if you choose to use an
industrial grade, you always run some risk. Research and common
sense can help reduce this risk. See the section on PURITY below
for a more lengthy discussion on this topic. See the SOLVENTS
section below for information on the hazards of specific
solvents. See the OTHER SUBSTANCES section below for information
on the hazards of other miscellaneous substances.
------------------- REFERENCE & GENERAL INFORMATION ------------------TERMS: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"bp" = boiling point (or boiling fraction in some cases)
note: boiling points are slightly lower at high altitudes
"C" = degrees centigrade
"dens" = density (in grams per ml unless otherwise specified)
"dis:" = what it dissolves
"F" = degrees Fahrenheit
"LD50" = (lethal dose 50%) dosage at which 50% of test subjects
(rats, dogs, etc.) died.
"mis" = miscible with
"mp" = melting point
"otc:" = (over-the-counter) where to find it, etc.
"pol:" = polarity ( > = more polar than, < = less polar than )
"prop:" = physical properties
"sol:" = what it is soluble in
"tox:" = data on toxicity. if not listed, DON'T assume it is safe!
"uses:" = common uses. this is nice to know when you are asking a

store clerk to help you find it.

SOLVENTS: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
ACETONE (dimethyl ketone, ketone propanone, propanone)
prop: mp -94.6 C, bp 56.48 C, dens 0.80
dis: water solubles, oils; mis: water, alcohols, chloroform, oils
pol: polar?/moderately polar?
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 9750 mg/kg
otc: hardware stores (acetone)
uses: thinning fiberglass resins, dissolving 2 part epoxies,
cleaning brushes and tools used with resins or epoxies,
cleaning greasy stuff
otc: some drug stores (pure, small quantities, expensive)
uses: dissolving fats, waxes, etc.
caution: flamable, reacts with some solvents
note: acetone is also used in fingernail polish remover, but
it is mixed with water, fragrance, etc.
note: may react with some alkaloids, may extract more organic
compounds than is desirable
ALCOHOL see ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol
BENZENE (C6H6, benzol, phenyl hydride, coal naptha)
(included for comparison and cautions)
prop: mp 5.51 C, bp 80.1 C, dens 0.8794
dis: oils; mis: alcohols, chloroform, ether, acetone
sol: slightly soluble in water (1 part per 1403 parts H2O)
pol: non-polar
tox: 3000 ppm vapor considered high concentration, toxic via
inhalation or skin absorption as well as oral ingestion,
prolonged inhalation of low concentrations also toxic
otc: none known (you wouldn't want it anyway)
note: do not confuse with benzine which is a petroleum distillate
caution: a recognized leukemogen (causes leukemia)!
caution: highly flamable
caution: can react vigorously with oxidizing materials
BUTANE (C4H10, n-butane, methylethyl methane, butyl hydride)
prop: bp -0.5 C
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
sol: ether, alcohol, water
otc: anywhere (butane cigarette lighters)
uses: lighter fuel, butane torches, curling irons (yes, really)
caution: extremely flamable
note: if you use this, you will have to work with sub-freezing
temperatures or at least higher pressures like a small jar
with a tight lid (higher pressures tend to raise boiling
points thus improving solvent capabilities). the advantage
is that you could boil it off at room temperature!
CHLOROFORM (CHCL3, trichloromethane)
(included for comparison and cautions)
prop: mp -63.5 C, bp 62.26 C, dens 1.498
dis: oils, fats, rubber, alkaloids, waxes, resins
sol: 1mL in 200mL water; mis: alcohols, ether, petroleum ether
pol: non-polar
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 800 mg/kg, prolonged inhalation can cause

unconsciousness and poisoning (or even death)

otc: none known
note: non-flamable
caution: reacts violently with acetone + base, methyl alcohol +
sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide
DICHLOROMETHANE see methylene chloride
DIESEL FUEL (fuel oil #2)
composed of heavier hydrocarbons than gasoline
prop: bp higher than gasoline
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: recognized carcinogen, see also petroleum distillates
a minor component of kerosene, may be a minor component of gasoline
prop: mp aprox -29 C, bp aprox 174 C
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: see petroleum distillates
otc: see kerosene, gasoline
caution: flamable
DIETHYL ETHER (C2H5-O-C2H5, ether, ethyl ether, anesthesia ether,
ethyl oxide)
prop: bp 35 C
dis: oils, etc.
pol: moderately polar ( < water, alcohols; > petroleum
distillates and toluene )
tox: moderate oral toxicity, low inhalation toxicity, oral LD50
(rat) 1700 mg/kg, oral LD50 (human) 420 mg/kg
otc: found in automobile starter fluid
caution: very flamable, can form explosive peroxides with
prolonged exposure to air
note: this is the ether that was used extensively as an
anesthetic a few years back
ETHANOL see ethyl alcohol
ETHYL ALCOHOL (ethanol, methyl corbinol, spirit of wine, grain
prop: bp 78.32 C, dens 0.79
dis: water solubles, oils; mis water
pol: polar? / moderately polar? ( < water; > isopropanol )
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 21,000 mg/kg
otc: liquor store (Everclear, 95%)
uses: party, party, party!
caution: flamable, could get you drunk :-)
note: there have been reports of people using denatured alcohol as
a solvent. this may be ok if it is denatured only with
something that will be eliminated when the solvent is boiled
off (e.g. with methyl alcohol). if you don't think you can
eliminate the denaturant, then don't use denatured alcohol!
FUEL OIL (fuel oil #1 through fuel oil #6)
increasingly viscous petroleum distillates, generally with increasing
boiling fractions.
dis: oils
pol: non-polar

tox: see petroleum distillates

caution: flamable
note: fuel oil #1 is kerosene, fuel oil #2 is diesel oil
note: there are not many applications that could benefit from
using fuel oils as solvents
GASOLINE (petrol, gas, white gas)
composed of octanes, some heavier hydrocarbons (nonanes, etc.),
and some lighter hydrocarbons (heptanes, etc.)
prop: bp aprox 35-180 C (depending on what it contains)
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: see petroleum distillates
otc: gas stations
uses: automobile, etc. fuel
caution: very flamable
note: gasoline for automobiles contains additives, better to use
white gas.
KEROSENE (fuel oil #1, ultrasene)
composed mostly of heavier hydrocarbons than gasoline (10 to 16 carbon
atoms per chain)
prop: bp 175-325
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: oral LD50 (rat, rabbit) 28,000 mg/kg, oral toxicity is low,
see also petroleum distillates
otc: fuel distributors, hardware stores
caution: flamable
uses: stoves, heaters, lamps
note: ultrasene is deodorized kerosene
a component of starter fluid, gasoline, and some petroleum ethers
prop: bp aprox 98 C
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: see petroleum distillates
otc: found in starting fluid and some napthas
caution: highly flamable
a component of starter fluid, and some petroleum ethers
prop: bp aprox 69 C
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: see petroleum distillates
otc: found in automobile starting fluid and some napthas
caution: highly flamable
ISOPROPANOL se isopropyl alcohol
ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL (dimethyl alcohol, sec-propyl alcohol, isopropanol)
prop: mp -89 C, bp 80.3 C, dens 0.79
dis: water solubles, oils; mis water
pol: polar? (hydrogen bonded?), ( < ethanol; >> diethyl ether )
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 5,840 mg/kg
otc: automotive stores (fuel dryer, 99.9%)
caution: flamable
note: rubbing alcohol is usually only 70% alcohol, and 30% water

METHANOL see methyl alcohol

METHYL ALCOHOL (methanol, wood alcohol)
prop: bp 64.8 C, dens 0.79
dis: water solubles, oils; mis water
pol: moderately polar? (hydrogen bonded), ( < water, > diethyl
ether )
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 13,000 mg/kg, eliminates slowly and can
build up with repeated exposure/ingestion. toxic metabolites
include formaldehyde and formic acid. damages optic nerve.
otc: automotive stores
uses: fuel dryer
otc: hardware and paint stores
uses: shellac thinner, alcohol stove fuel
caution: flamable
note: often mixed with paint removers or varnish removers
note: good at penetrating cell walls and membranes
METHYLENE CHLORIDE (CH2Cl2, dichloromethane)
prop: bp 39.8
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 2136 mg/kg, VERY dangerous to eyes,
produces highly toxic fumes when heated to decomposition
(e.g. by open flames, etc.), may be carcinogenic in rats
otc: paint and hardware stores (mixed with methyl alcohol, etc.)
uses: paint and varnish remover
note: fire hazard is low (by itself)
MINERAL SPIRITS see petroleum spirits
NAPTHA (see below for types)
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: see petroleum distillates
otc: hardware and paint stores
uses: paint thinner, some lighter fluids, some spot removers
note: boiling fractions are similar to gasoline
NAPTHA (coal
prop: bp
tox: see

tar, naptha solvent)

149-216 C, dens 0.86-0.89
petroleum distillates

prop: bp
tox: see
note: do

& P. (benzine, 76 degree naptha)

100-140 C, dens 0.67-0.80, flash point 20 F.
petroleum distillates
not confuse with benzene
flamable, autoignite 450 F

prop: bp
tox: see

& P., 50 degree flash

115-143 C, flash point 50 F
petroleum distillates

prop: bp
tox: see

& P., high flash

138-165 C, flash point 50 F
petroleum distillates

NONANE (C9H20, n-nonane)

a component of gasoline, a component of some napthas
prop: mp aprox -54 C, bp aprox 151 C
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: see petroleum distillates
otc: see naptha, white gas, gasoline
caution: flamable
a major component of gasoline
prop: bp aprox 126 C
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: see petroleum distillates
otc: hardware and paint stores (some napthas)
otc: sporting goods stores (white gas)
caution: highly flamable
PAINT THINNER see petroleum spirits, turpentine
usually composed of methylene chloride and methyl alcohol. may also
contain toluene and other solvents. see individual components for
more information
PENTANE (C5H12, n-pentane)
a component of some light petroleum ethers
prop: bp aprox 36 C
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: see petroleum distillates
otc: see petroleum spirits
caution: highly flamable
PETROLEUM DISTILLATES (gasoline, naptha, petroleum ether, mineral
spirits, petroleum spirits, fuel oils, xylene, etc.)
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: generally low to moderate toxicity, laboratory experiments
show a slight carcinogenic potential for most petroleum
distillates. higher boiling fractions may be more
caution: flamable to highly flamable
note: petroleum distillates do not dissolve most water-solubles
note: petroleum distillates include everything from pentane to
heavy tars
PETROLEUM ETHER see petroleum spirits, naptha, starter fluid
note: generally (but not always) refers to the lower boiling
fractions of petroleum distillates
PETROLEUM SPIRITS (petroleum benzine, petroleum naptha, light
ligroin, petroleum ether, mineral spirits)
prop: bp 35-180 C, dens .64-.66
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: see petroleum distillates
otc: hardware and paint stores

uses: paint thinner

caution: flamable
note: "petroleum spirits" often refers to the lower boiling
fractions of petroleum distillates. However, one "odorless
paint thinner" claiming 100% mineral spirits had a boiling
point of 175 C.
note: do not confuse with benzene
composed of hexane, diethyl ether, and heptane. see individual
components for more information.
otc: automotive stores
uses: starting stubborn automobiles on cold days
caution: very flamable
note: some starter fluids may contain heavier lubricants
alpha-TRICHLOROETHANE (CH3CCl3, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, methyl
prop: bp 74.1 C, dens 1.3492
dis: oils, etc.?
pol: non-polar?/moderately polar? (insoluble in water)
tox: oral LD50 (dog) 750 mg/kg, avoid fumes
otc: super markets, hardware stores, etc.
uses: spot remover (brand name: "Energine"), industrial uses
include cleaning of metal parts and metal molds
caution: can react violently with acetone
note: non-flamable!
TETRAHYDROFURAN (OCH2CH2CH2CH2, diethylene oxide, cyclotetramethylene
oxide-1,4-epoxy butane)
(included for comparison and cautions)
dis: oils, etc.; mis: water, alcohols, ethers, hydrocarbons
pol: moderately polar
otc: none known
note: peroxides may be removed by treating with strong ferrous
sulfate solution made slightly acidic with sodium bisulfate
caution: same as diethyl ether (slightly more dangerous)
TOLUENE (C6H5CH3, methylbenzene, phenylmethane, toluol)
prop: mp -95 C to -94.5 C, bp 110.4 C
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 5000 mg/kg, oral toxicity is moderate,
inhalation of 100 ppm can cause psychotropic effects, 200 ppm
can produce CNS effects
otc: paint and hardware stores (mixed with methyl alcohol, etc.)
uses: furniture refinisher, liquid sandpaper, paint remover
note: low fire hazard (by itself)
TURPENTINE (spirit of turpentine, turpentine gum, turpentine oil)
prop: bp 154-170 C
dis: oils ?, etc.?
pol: non-polar? (insoluble in water)
sol: alcohols, chloroform, ether, glacial acetic acid
tox: aspiration causes pheumonitis, oral ingestion causes damage
to GI tract and kidneys, inhalation toxicity is high
otc: paint and hardware stores
uses: thinning varnish, paint, & enamel; cleaning brushes
caution: moderately flamable

prop: mp 0 C (32 F), bp 100 C (212 F), dens .99999 @ 4 C
dis: anything that is water soluble
pol: polar
tox: non-toxic unless contaminated with a toxic substance
otc: your kitchen sink (contains chlorine, etc.)
otc: grocery store (distilled water or purified water)
uses: drinking, washing, etc.
note: distilled water is better for most things (and it's cheap).
water is ofter used with petroleum ether to separate watersolubles from non-water-solubles. i.e. combine and shake
vigorously until your arm falls off, then separate.
WHITE GAS (petrol, gasoline)
prop: see gasoline
dis:, pol:, and tox: see petroleum distillates
otc: sporting goods stores
uses: fuel for camp stoves and camp heaters
caution: flamable
prop: (m-xylene) mp -47.9 C, bp 139 C
(o-xylene) bp 144.4 C
(p-xylene) bp 138.3 C
dis: oils
pol: non-polar
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 5000 mg/kg, see also petroleum distillates
otc: super markets, hardware stores
uses: some cleaners (e.g. for dissolving chewing gum,
brand name: "Goof-off"), some lighter fluids
caution: flamable
OTHER SUBSTANCES: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
ACETIC ACID (CH3COOH, vinegar acid, methane carboxylic acid, ethanoic
prop: mp 16.7 C, bp 118.1 C
sol: water
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 3310 mg/kg
otc: grocery stores (vinegar)
uses: cooking, cleaning
caution: dangerous in contact with: chromic acid, sodium peroxide,
nitric acid, potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, xylene,
oleum. decomposition (at high temp.) evolves toxic fumes
note: normal vinegar is 5% acetic acid, vinegar concentrate is 18%
acetic acid
note: can be used for extracting some alkaloids from plant material
AMMONIUM HYDROXIDE (NH4OH, ammonia, aqua ammonium, water of ammonia,
ammonium hydrate)
prop: mp -77 C
sol: water
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 350 mg/kg, oral LDlo (human) 43 mg/kg,
inhale LClo (human) 5000 ppm
otc: grocery & hardware stores
uses: household cleaning ammonia
note: ammonia is a gas at room temperature. it is sold otc

dissolved in water (much as is done with hydrochloric acid).

note: a weak base. can be used to precipitate some alkaloids
from slightly acidic solutions.
found in marijuana, organicly converted to THC, can be isomerized
into THC by refluxing with dilute acid
prop: mp 66-67 C, bp 187-190 C @ 2mm Hg
sol: acetone, petroleum distillates, alcohols, etc.
note: this is an oily substance, not water soluble
found in marijuana, a degradation product of THC
prop: mp 76-77 C, bp 185 C @ .05mm Hg
sol: acetone, petroleum distillates, alcohols, aqueous alkaline
note: this is an oily substance, not water soluble
ethyl]benzyl alcohol hydrochloride)
prop: mp 187-188 C
sol: water (1gm/4ml), (insoluble in diethyl ether)
tox: oral LD50 (mouse) 400 mg/kg
otc: truck stops (Mini Thins, MaxAlert, etc.)
uses: bronchiodialator (for asthma)
caution: decomposes into toxic fumes at higher temperatures
note: pure ephedrine is no longer available otc in the U.S. current
otc varieties usually have guiafenesin
note: slightly stronger that ephedrine sulfate
note: pure ephedrine can be converted into methcathinone
note: now a controlled substance in the US
EPHEDRINE SULFATE ((C6H5CHOHCH(CH3)NHCH3)2 H2SO4, 1-phenyl-2(methylamino)propanol sulfite)
prop: mp 247 C
sol: water (1gm/20ml), alcohol (1gm/0.2ml)
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 600 mg/kg
otc: same as for ephedrine hydrochloride?
caution: decomposes into toxic fumes at higher temperatures
note: slightly weaker than ephedrine HCl
note: pure ephedrine can be converted into methcathinone
note: now a controlled substance in the US
HYDROCHLORIC ACID (HCl, muriatic acid, chlorohydric acid, hydrogen
prop: mp -114.3 C, bp -84.8 C, dens 1.639 g/liter gas @ 0 C
tox: oral LD50 (rabbit) 900 mg/kg
otc: hardware stores (muriatic acid)
uses: cleaning calcium or lime deposits from cement, brick,
swimming pools, and ceramic tile.
caution: caustic
note: useful in isomerizing CBD to THC. useful in extracting
some alkaloids from plant material. HCl is found naturally in
low concentrations in the digestive juices of your stomach.
an herbicide used by Latin-American drug enforcers to kill marijuana
crops in bulk
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 57 mg/kg, dermal LD50 (rat) 80 mg/kg, can

cause severe damage to lungs (nasty stuff!)

note: avoid all marijuana that looks like it has any dye on it.
unfortunately, not all paraquat is used with dye.
found in marijuana, the psychoactive stuff
prop: bp 200 C @ 0.02mm Hg (other cannabinoids may have bp's
lower than 185 C)
sol: polar solvents, acetone, alcohols, etc.
note: this is an oily substance, not water soluble
SODIUM HYDROXIDE (NaOH, caustic soda, sodium hydrate, lye, white caustic)
prop: mp 318.4 C, bp 1390 C, dens 2.120
tox: oral LDlo (rabbit) 500 mg/kg
otc: hardware stores, etc. (Red Devil Lye, etc.)
uses: unclogging drains
caution: highly corrosive to body tissue
caution: can react violently with acetic acid or tetrahydrofuran
note: useful in precipitating some alkaloids from acid solutions
by product of isomerization of CBD to THC when sulfuric acid is
neutralized with baking soda
sol: water
note: insoluble in alcohol
note: can be removed by dissolving resin in petroleum ether
and shaking with water
SULFURIC ACID (H2SO4, oil of vitriol, dipping acid)
prop: mp 10.49 C, bp 330 C, dens 1.83
tox: oral LD50 (rat) 2,140 mg/kg
otc: plumming supply stores (plummers' sulfuric acid)
uses: unclogging drains
otc: automotive supply stores (battery acid)
caution: battery acid may have lead in it
caution: caustic, use care when mixing with water as it heats
rapidly when dissolved and causes spattering (add slowly to
water drop by drop)
note: useful in isomerizing CBD to THC
VINEGAR see acetic acid
SUBSTITUTIONS: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It is not always easy to come up with the exact solvent discussed in
any particular recipe. Consequently, it may be advantageous to
consider substituting an over-the-counter solvent for a hard-to-get
one. This can often be done successfully if you keep a few things in
mind. The main thing to look for is what the solvent dissolves.
If you are trying to dissolve an oily substance (such as cannabinoids
from pot or oil from lemon peels), look for solvents that will
dissolve oils (e.g. polar solvents, etc.). Be aware that some
solvents may dissolve more than you bargained for. Alcohols and
acetone will dissolve things that petroleum distillates won't, like
sugars and chlorophyll. Another thing to look for is boiling point.
Naptha solvent (coal tar naptha) has a boiling point so high that you
wouldn't be able to boil it off to separate it from THC (the THC
would boil off with it). Solvents with lower boiling points are
much easier to boil off, and usually leave less residual solvent.

Petroleum distillates are usually a mixture of various hydrocarbons

with a variety of boiling points. The boiling fraction of any
particular petroleum distillate refers to the range of boiling points
of its components.
PURITY: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
There are basically two ways that impurities can get into solvents,
etc. The first way is inherent in the manufacturing process. Very
few products are pure at the time of manufacture. The general idea
is to produce a product that meets certain minimum purity
requirements. The product is refined to remove contaminants until
the minimum purity level is reached. Most manufacturing methods
favor low cost production over purity of product. Industrial grade
products are used in applications that require only marginal purity.
With reagent grade chemicals, however, a high degree of purity is
required. Reagent grades are refined until they are ridiculously
pure (e.g. something like 99.999% pure). This additional refining is
costly, and as a result, reagent grades are usually many times the
price of industrial grades. Industrial grades are used in a lot of
commercial products, and are often available at hardware stores, etc.
Reagent grades are generally only available at chemical supply
stores. Unfortunately, most kitchen chemists would have a difficult
time bluffing their way in a chem shop without arousing suspicion.
Additionally, many reagent grade products are watched closely by
certain government agencies, where the industrial grades are not.
(e.g. acetone)
The other way impurities can be introduced is when the manufacturer
intentionally places additives into a product to enhance its
performance (or appearance) or to dilute an expensive component.
Since the performance enhancing additives usually cost more, the
expensive, big brand names are the ones most likely to use them.
When performance enhancing additives are present, the product labels
often boast a lot of features. The less expensive, more generic
looking products are less likely to add performance enhancers but are
more likely to dilute their product. Some additives may actually be
useful, however. e.g. Paint and varnish removers often combine
methylene chloride with methyl alcohol, and furniture refinishers
often have toluene combined with methyl alcohol.
When dealing with industrial grades, always read the label carefully
to determine if it contains things you don't want. Unfortunately,
not all products list every component on their labels. Try calling
the emergency accidental poisoning numbers listed on the labels.
Tell them your dog ingested some of their product, and that the vet
asked you to call the number. Try to get as much information from
them as you can about what the product contains. Work up a likely
story (including symptoms) before you place the call. One crude
method of testing for contaminants in solvents would be to place a
few drops on some clean glass, and let it evaporate. The amount of
residue remaining gives a very rough idea of how much other crud is
in the solvent. Feed a generous amount of this residue to the
neighbor's cat, and if it dies, the product may be too toxic. :-)
Actually, the likelyhood that contaminants in an industrial grade
product are highly toxic or carcinogenic is probably much lower than
most people think. Relatively few substances are highly toxic and/or
significantly carcinogenic. Many things in our everyday environment

are carcinogenic if you are exposed to massive quantities, but potent

carcinogens are not all that common. Due to government regulations,
many (if not most) industrial grade products are not allowed to
contain significant amounts of dangerous substances, anyway. (Who
wants a cleaner or solvent that will leave a highly hazardous
residue?) Even with all of these assurances, there is always a
certain amount of risk associated with the use of industrial grade
In order to reduce the risks associated with contaminants, the
following precautions are in order:
1) use reagent grades when possible
2) if reagent grades cannot be obtained, then make every effort
to acquire the purest product available (read labels, study
manufacturing methods, etc.)
3) purify the product (if you can) before using it
4) use minimal amounts of these products (a liter of solvent
boiled down to a few cc's may still contain a liter's worth
of contaminants)
Some people recommend purifying petroleum distillates by adding
water, shaking vigorously for a long time, and then discarding the
water. This will only help remove water soluble contaminants. A
better way to purify most liquids is to distill them. Unfortunately,
this is not always easy to do if you don't have the right equipment.
One thing I have been intending to try is to shake paint stripper
(containing methyl alcohol and methylene chloride) with a generous
quantity of water to see if I can separate the methylene chloride.
If anyone has comments on whether this will work, please let me know.
USEFUL HINTS: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Boiling off solvents with low boiling points (less than 100 C):
Place the solvent into a small pan or shallow, wide mouth jar.
Shallow containers with wide openings aid in allowing the vapors to
escape quickly. Place the container with the solvent into a larger
pan of simmering water. Don't allow the water to come to a full
boil. Boiling water is really no hotter than simmering water.
Rapidly boiling water can splash into your solvent, or cause the
solvent container to tip over. Watch the level of the solvent as it
boils away so that the container won't get too light, and tip over.
If the level of the solvent is too low (i.e. 1 cm below the level of
the water), then remove some of the water. Anchoring the solvent
container in place may help. Use hot pads to avoid burning yourself.
Remember to use good ventilation to avoid the build-up of toxic or
flamable fumes. If the boiling point of your solvent is too close to
100 C, you can add sugar or automobile antifreeze to the simmering
water to raise it's boiling point a little, or use the method below
for higher boiling point solvents.
Boiling off solvents with higher boiling points (greater than 100 C):
Follow the method and precautions for lower boiling point solvents
with the following differences: Use melted shortening (or vegetable
oil if you don't have shortening) instead of simmering water. If

your solvent container is glass, place it in the shortening as soon

as it is melted, and then heat it up from there. This will help keep
the jar from cracking. Elevate the solvent container slightly from
the bottom of the larger pan to aid in even heating. A few nails in
the bottom of the shortening works for me. Place a candy thermometer
in the shortening to measure it's temperature. Heat the shortening
until it is 20 or 30 degrees centigrade hotter than the highest
boiling point of your solvent or until the solvent begins to boil at
a comfortable rate. Always keep the temperature of the shortening
well below the boiling point of the dissolved product you are trying
to recover, or you may loose significant amounts of it to
evaporation. Be careful to not let solvent or water splash into the
hot shortening or you may get some spattering of hot grease. If your
solvent container is glass, allow it to cool slowly when you are done
to keep it from cracking. If you are extracting cannabinoids or
other oils of similar or higher boiling points, you may want to raise
the temperature of the shortening to about 160 C for a minute or two
to help eliminate solvent residue. (It can be tough to get rid of
all of it, though.)
Preventing boil-overs:
Some solvents may have a tendency to boil over quite easily. This
can waste valuable product as well as pose fire hazards, etc. By
making sure that the solvent level is well below the top of its
container, many boil-overs may be avoided. It is common practice in
chemistry to use boiling chips to control excessive boiling. Glass
marbles can serve the same purpose, and they are easy to get. Put as
many marbles into your solvent as needed to control the boiling.
Marbles may be removed a few at a time as the solvent level drops.
Remember that valuable extract may coat the surface of the marbles.
Wash them with a very small quantity of solvent and add this to the
rest of the solvent when it is mostly boiled off.
Refluxing in the kitchen:
Find a pan with a lid that can be put on upside down, and still
remain stable with a reasonable fit. Place your solvent, etc. into
the pan, and put the lid on upside down. Place ice in the lid. Heat
the solvent until it begins to boil gently. The heat may be applied
directly, or for better temperature control, you may use a method
similar to the ones listed above for boiling off solvents. If you
use hot shortening to apply heat, be careful to not let water from
melting ice or solvent condensing on the sides drip into the hot
grease. Tying a rag around the top of the solvent pan can help. As
the ice melts, scoop out the water and add more ice.
Getting rid of water in oil extracts:
Sometimes water can get into an oil extract when it is purified by
dissolving in petroleum ether, and shaking with water. As the last
of the solvent boils off, the water forms beads in the bottom of the
extract. These beads of water begin to spatter when the extract gets
too hot. By adding a small amount of acetone or alcohol, the water
will tend to evaporate off as the alcohol or acetone is boiled off.
Make sure that the alcohol or acetone is not contaminated with large
amounts of water or this may be counterproductive. This process may
be repeated until all of the water is gone.

REFERENCES: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
- Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials, Litton Educational
Publishing, Inc. (got a lot of good information here)
- CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics
- The Merck Index
- Some dictionary of technical and scientific terms
- Labels from numerous OTC products
- Comments from people on the 'net (many thanks to contributors)
- The chemistry-extracting file at hyperreal.com
- Things I remembered, but don't know where I read them
- My own ingenuity and experience (nothing illegal, of course!)
The Goose
-May I borrow a light for my .sig?

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