Alcoolats, Fr.; Geiste, G.; Spirito, It.
Spirits, as the term is here used, are alcoholic solutions of volatile principles formerly in general procured by distillation, but now frequently prepared by simply dissolving the volatile principle in alcohol or diluted alcohol. The distilled spirits are prepared chiefly from aromatic vegetable substances, the essential oils of which rise with the vapor of alcohol and condense with it in the receiver. Some of the oils, however, will not rise at the temperature of boiling alcohol, but may be distilled with water. In this case it is necessary to employ diluted alcohol or proof spirit, with the water of which the oil comes over in the latter part of the process. As the proof spirit of commerce is often impregnated with foreign matters, which give it an unpleasant flavor, it is better to use alcohol which has been carefully rectified, and to dilute it with the due proportion of water, as directed by the U. S. Pharmacopoeia. In preparing the spirits, care should be taken to avoid the color and empyreumatic flavor arising from the decomposition of the vegetable matter by heat. Sufficient water must, therefore, be added to cover the vegetable matter after the alcohol shall have been distilled, and, as a rule, the heat should be applied by means of a water bath, or of steam. The aromatic should be macerated for some days with the alcohol before being submitted to distillation, as the oil, being thus dissolved, rises more readily with the spirituous vapor than when confined in the tissue.
The aromatic spirits are used chiefly to impart a pleasant odor and taste to mixtures, and to correct the nauseating and griping effects of other medicines. They serve also as carminatives in flatulent colic, and as agreeable stimulants in debility of the stomach.