An Alchemical Marriage of Health and Spirit: Salt

“Consume a small amount of salt before your meal”. ~ Prophet Muhammed (a.s)

The Prophet Muhammed (a.s) recommended to consume a small amount of salt before the actual meal. It seems to contradict modern medical wisdom, which stresses the harmful effects of excess salt consumption. However, a knowledge of the metabolism of the body illustrates the wisdom of this suggestion as well. Natural (not industrial) salt is composed of two key chemicals: sodium and chloride. The chlorides present in salt constitute the only readily available source of chlorides with which the body can manufacture hydrochloric acid, vital for proper digestion in the stomach. Thus, taking in a small amount of salt prior to the meal allows any deficiency of hydrochloric acid to be made up just before introducing new food. (Transmission after Chisthi)

The history of salt in Islamic social history is closely connected to trading and the expansion of the Islamic world. One of the greatest salt mines in the world is located in Pakistan. The Khwera Mines were discovered by the salt starved horses  of Alexander the Great’s army when they pushed into India. The commercial exploration of the mines and the trading with it’s salt started already during the Moghul period and can be considered a major economic pillar for the expansion of their Empire. The very same Khwera Mines nowadays produce the famous Himalaya Salt.

Mudun al-milh) became a kind of metaphor of the dependency of humans from natural resources and commodities.”

Other well known salt resources of the Islamic world, are the rock-salts of the Sahara. This salt is the residue of  inland seas which were once located in the region. It is extracted into large blocks under the blazing sun. These salt blocks were loaded on to camels for the journey South or North to the savannah regions of Africa. By the 16th century there are reports of salt caravans of 20,000 or more animals, stretching miles across the desert. Gold and slaves, were most valuable commodities offered in exchange for the salt. There were rumours about cities build of baked salt on the Arab peninsula, such as the City of Gerrha in Bahrain. The phrase “Cities Built of Salt” (Mudun al-milh) became a kind of metaphor of the dependency of humans from natural resources and commodities. Recently a book with the same title was published (Author: Abdelrahman Munif), describing the impact of the discovery of oil on life in the Middle East drawing a parallel to the role of salt in the region.

The Crystal, 2019

In Europe urban life only came into being as a result of the European salt trading routes that ran along rivers and the sea. Most of salt’s social meanings reflect its deepest functional value as a preservative and nutrient, it serves indeed as a preserving bond between zhe elements, humans and all living beings on multiple levels. From numerous alchemical and chemical sources describing the nature of salt, one arrives at the conclusion that salt’s effect extend way beyond the sensation on the tongue. Salt stimulates not only the appetite but desire in general – desire can be either explained as being plainly sexual or as an increase in life-force, expansion or “appetite for life” (Al Hayy). And just as salt keeps the integrity of plants and fresh meats intact, salt also creates desires and social bonds and spring started humanity’s social development. To this day Iranians associate friendships with salt (and bread) – to mark the eternal and divine value of human bonds. Whoever undermines friendship, this divine bond, “destroys the salt container”. And in 1930, Mahatma Gandhi led at least 100,000 people on the “Dandi March” or “Salt Satyagraha”, in which protesters made their own salt from the sea thus defying British rule and avoiding paying the hated, oppressive salt tax that forced the people of India to pay a hefty charge to the colonalists to use their own natural resource. The Dandi March inspired millions of common people, and propelled the Indian independence movement from an elitist movement to a national struggle – and it all started with salt.

“The many aspects of salt become central in alchemy, where salt acts as the earthly ligature between fire (sun),  and water (sea).”

Salt is coming from the earth and emerging through the sun and sea. It touches on many broader social, scientific, esoteric, political and cosmological issues. The many aspects of salt become central in alchemy, where salt acts as the earthly ligature between fire (sun),  and water (sea). An example of how this complex circle translates in minute detail, is for example that our blood has a similar salt composition as the sea. A further aspect of salt is it’s formation from alkaloids and acids in plants, which is particular relevant for healer plants and entheogenics. It means, that a plant’s natural alkaloids and acids form it’s very own unique salt. These plant salts can be seen as a form of “cristalized plant-spirit”. Some derwish orders, Sadus, Shamans from the Amazon and other initiates cut out common salt in their diet to experience this”spirit of the plants” aka a plant’s salts with more attention and intensity. Plants and salts have indeed many stories to tell. For example, in North Africa salt is won from wood-ashes. Wood are put into a pot, hot water is poured over and allowed to stand and dissolve out the salts they contain; the ley is then decanted into another pot, where it is evaporated. The plants in use are those of which the wetted ashes have a saline and not an alkaline taste, nor a soapy feel. Wood ash is also the source of potash. Potash acts like a multivitamin, helping fruit to stabilize sugars, vegetables to resist disease, and is a requirement for healthy plants. All of this because of a plant’s natural salts that conclude their life circle by giving it’s salt back to the earth. It reminds me very sweetly of Fatimah’s (a.s) Fireplace, her Alchemical Fire and her healing work with ash. Salt and the question of the eternal life circle is indeed an ancient and ongoing issue of debatte amongst alchemists, esotericists, chemists and other “material scientists”, and philosophers.

“Salt contains various essential aids for the body, such as minerals and vitamins and helps the body to digest food and keep it’s internal mineral system healthy.”

Unless you are a derwish or similar on an initiatic low or no salt diet –  for the human health is good quality salt  of vital importance. Salt contains various essential aids for the body, such as minerals and vitamins and helps the body to digest food and keep it’s internal mineral system healthy. Only natural salt should be consumed, coming either from the sea or the mountains (rock salt). Salt that has been raffinated too many times is actually useless for the human body. It has degraded into plain natrium chlorid. Natural salt contains next to Sodium, Kalium and Magnesium various essential acids such as Selen, Silicium, Zinc aso. Industrial natrium chlorid (common cooking salt) however has chemicals added to prevent it from clumping. Industrial salt is bad for health and can damage for example cells over time. When you suffer from mental health problems you should stop using natrium chloride salt and only use mineral rich natural salt. It is worth the investment. A change in your overall well being can be experienced within a few days.

I advise to always use natural salt (sea salt or salt from rocks) with no added chemicals for your daily cooking, but also for healthy cleansing treats like a Salt Bath. Sea salt such as Fleur de sel tends to be moist – you can dry it in the sun. It is said that best quality salt is the Himalaya salt from the ancient mines of Khwera in Pakistan.

Beautiful are home made herb salts with flowers for extra aroma and nutritional value. The herbs and flowers will add an extra portion of minerals (and their own salts) to your daily diet and taste wonderful. It will in particular benefit you when you eat some of it before the actual meal, just like the Prophet (a.s) recommends you to do.

For 100g of Herbal & Flower salt you need:
80g Sea Salt
5g Dried Rosemary
5g Dried Sage
5g Dried Lavender
5g Dried Oregano

Mix all the ingredients in a mortar and keep in a jar or similar. If the mix is too moist dry it for some time in the sun. You can be really creative and add all kinds of herbs and (eatible) flowers to create your own homebrand of healthy yummy salt.

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