Alcohol differences to know for tincture making

NOTE: If you use 95% alcohol, treat it very carefully. It is a deadly poison. Use proper ventilation, and keep it locked up, especially if there are young people around. Inform everyone that if they drink it, they could slip into a coma, die, or, if they survive might lose their eyesight.

Actually, this is not true. 95% alcohol is only slightly more deadly or poisonous than vodka. 100% alcohol will burn the tissues of the throat if drunk straight and in quantity, but people have survived this - and there are stories of people who have done it with some regularity, just to prove something (the nitwits), as well as stories of people who guzzled too much plain beer or other mild alcohol and died (a guy a couple of years ahead of me in high school did that - he started downing beers, one after another, and died before he finished a six-pack - and it was not an "urban legend", either - my civics teacher made the announcement), but that is not normal or to be expected. Certainly people could slip into a coma if they drink _too much_ alcohol, on the order of fifteen or more drinks of hard liquor or more than fifteen beers (that is, if my memory serves that a blood alcohol of 0.3 is about the right amount to cause danger and that it goes up by 0.2 percent per drink and that it takes two hours to metabolize one drink - I am sure these figures are heavily rounded) - this amount would have to be drunk all at once to cause a serious problem.

However, no matter how drunk people get, even to the extent of being "blind drunk", they will _NOT_ loose their eyesight! Even isopropyl alcohol, which is much more toxic, will not cost people their eyesight - "wood" alcohol (methanol, a single-carbon alcohol derived from the destructive distillation of wood) is the alcohol which will destroy eyesight (isopropanol _can_ cause organ or gastric damage, though.) Certainly alcohol should be kept out of the reach of children and pets, as should anything even containing alcohol, but, even more importantly, children should be educated by a professional concerning the dangers of alcohol (at least, they should be educated by someone with a better head on their shoulders than my own parents - most of my current problems in life are based in the erroneous and purposely falsified information I was fed as a child ["if you look at the sun, you'll go blind" resulted in my having a burn across my retina from staring at the sun, since, once Earl Smith proved that it would not cause blindness by thus staring, I felt it important to find out what really did happen, and nobody had told me that it would cause any other kind of damage].) Ethyl alcohol (drinking alcohol) is extremely poisonous to cats, resulting in organ damage, so it is especially appropriate to keep it away from cats.

In case it helps to keep them straight: methanol is wood alcohol, with just one carbon atom; ethanol is grain alcohol (made from any kind of starch or sugar by fermentation, or chemically synthesized), and has two carbons in the chain. Besides carbon, there are only hydrogens attached except for one OH (oxygen hydrogen, or "hydroxyl" group). In fact, if this group were _not_ present, the molecule would be a gas - methane, ethane and propane correspond to the alcohol with a similar name. In the case of propane, the hydroxyl group can be attached in two different places - with the hydroxyl attached to the end carbon, it is called "propanol", but if attached to the center carbon, it is "isopropanol", or isopropyl alcohol (sometimes known as rubbing alcohol, if it is in a 70% solution with water - 70% is required for maximum germicidal action.) When the OH group is attached to the center carbon, the molecule is called an "isomer", which is why it is "iso"-propyl (-duh.)

I was going to explain how the solvent nature of these alcohols is affected by the different molecular configurations, but most people would probably rather see an end to this message.

Good luck.

Douglas Wiggins