completed projects:

The blood crystallisation picture of a patient with an inflammation of the colon. Radiating star forms (arrow) are characteristic for inflammations.

The Laboratory for Sensitive Crystallisation

Research on and with picture-forming methods has been a tradition in Dornach since the founding of the Research Institute. It is carried out in the Laboratory for Sensitive Crystallisation. Public interest in picture-forming methods has increased along with questions about quality in the areas of horticulture, animal husbandry, genetic engineering and food processing. Thanks to the pictorial character of the crystallisation images produced, we have a tool for training our faculty of perception and sense for connections. With it we can tackle the questions mentioned from a broader perspective.

Copper chloride crystallisation with human blood forms the focus of the work that we are commissioned to carry out. In collaboration with practising physicians, we endeavour to produce a pictorial understanding of functional disturbances in the context of anthroposophically orientated medicine. We regard the crystallisation method as a diagnostic aid which can give information on the constitution, organ malfunction and resistance to disease of patients.


Characterisation and control of parameters in sensitive crystallisation

View into the recently developed crystallisation chamber, which is in turn housed in a room that is mechanically and thermally isolated from the surroundings.

Jean-Georges Barth

Work on this project started in the Goetheanum Crystallisation Laboratory in 2006 and was undertaken at the initiative of the ARCADDI Association (Association pour la recherche sur la cristallisation avec additif). The aim was to discover the most important parameters for the process and to research them. This long and complicated research into a multiparametric system was temporarily halted in 2012. Summarising, this enabled formulation of some general guidelines on which to base the reproducible production of crystals in the presence of additives (sensitive crystallisation). 


Development of a better characterised crystallisation environment or chamber

The air conditions (temperature, humidity and flow rates) surrounding the crystallisation dishes of the same series must be completely identical.

To achieve this the crystallisation dishes with the crystallisation solutions that they contain are placed on a ring-shaped table which is located in a cylindrical chamber, so that the entire system is totally symmetrically arranged.

Passing through this chamber is an air stream of constant temperature and humidity whose flow rate has to be very accurately set and controlled.

The degree of dilution of each mixture to be crystallised must be accurately determined so that the picture-forming property of the additive under investigation can come optimally to expression.

If these preconditions are fulfilled, the climatic and crystallographic reproducibility is very satisfactory: the maximal humidity during the experiment is stable and reproducible, and likewise the time of appearance of the first crystal germs in the different dishes is the same and reproducible (variations below 3%). It should be particularly emphasised that the distribution of crystallographic and morphological results is very narrow, as 94% of the crystallisation pictures are correctly categorised. Our aim was therefore achieved.

Characterisation of the washing process for crystallisation dishes

In 2012, work was continued with the investigation of the glass from which the crystallisation dishes were manufactured. The aim was to find the simplest method for creating hydrophilic glass surfaces with the minimum input (i.e. with use of only a small amount of reagent and without danger to the laboratory workers or the environment). Two processes were tested. According to method A, the plates were immersed for 15 days in RBS solution (a laboratory cleaning reagent), then thoroughly rinsed in water and finally boiled in distilled water for 10 minutes. According to method B the plates were only boiled in two baths of distilled water for 10 and 20 minutes.

On all plates washed with both methods investigated, the mixture to be crystallised was distributed to the border of the dish without interruptions or gaps. But the drop-picture method (Institute for Flow Sciences, Herrischried) showed that there were residues of detergent on the plates washed by method A. Nevertheless, the crystallisation pictures differed only in details depending on the washing method, i.e. both washing methods were equally applicable, but method B had the advantage of being easier to carry out.

In relation to other washing methods, the washing of the plates by these two methods had a very favourable influence on the crystallographic reproducibility. The distribution of values was less than 2%.

This project was supported by ARCADDI, the Elbogen Foundation, the Goetheanum, Weleda AG, Software AG Foundation and private donors.


Two crystallisation pictures prepared with glycogen. Left picture: standard procedure.
Right picture: thin layer crystallisation with a very thin film of liquid (magnified 80x).

Quality investigations of plant oils

Gerard Hotho and Beatrix Waldburger

In this project, the method of copper chloride crystallisation was used to investigate various olive oils. Firstly we successfully managed to apply the method to oily substances. We included in the study 15 different olive oils which, as part of the International Olive Oil Award 2008, were tested analytically and sensorially. Besides the untreated oils, we also investigated heat-treated oils: the oils were held for an hour at three different temperatures (40°C, 60°C and 80°C). We had found that oils react differently to heat and that oil of higher quality reacts differently to heating compared with oil of lower quality.

To assess the crystallisation pictures we developed a method that used both morphological and empathic criteria. On the whole the results with our method agree well with those of Zurich University of Applied Sciences (Wädenswil). However, we are interested in what we can add to their findings. Thus the morphological-empathic method was developed further. Firstly olive oils of 2007 and 2008 harvests were obtained from various producers in Italy, Spain and Greece. Parameters of the oils include shelf life, the climatological conditions during growth of the olives, and the production process.

We found that additional centrifugation of the oils after decanting them led to a distinct diminution of quality. Regarding the factor "influence of the year of harvesting" we found that the difference between the years of harvesting the producers' oils (same location, identical production process) is smaller than the difference between the reference oils (different location and production process) in the same year of harvesting. By combining the factors "influence of the date of harvest and the year of harvest" for a single producer from Apulien we found that for the year of harvest 2008/2009, which had relatively poor climatic conditions, the oil quality decreased quite rapidly from the beginning of November to the beginning of December and then remained constant until the beginning of January. In the good harvest year of 2007/2008 the oil quality remained high for two harvests, one at the end of November and the other in the middle of January.

With these recent results we were able to extend the reference values from 2008 as regards the phenomenon of "individual characteristics". Individual characteristics are those which express themselves at each stage of the temperature profile and are considered as specific for the oil of a given producer (same location, identical production process). With the group of reference oils we worked out characteristics which occurred with the majority of oils for each level of temperature. In comparison with characteristics of other natural substances these characteristics were designated as oil-specific and, depending how they expressed themselves, were used in quality assessment of the oils. On this broadened base, with the oils from the producers the evaluation method had to be modified, or could be supplemented. This process of adaptation has always to be considered with new oils. With it, the range of reference values and experience gained increase with each oil.


The influence of species-appropriate cattle breeding on constitution, animal health and milk quality

Haijo Knijpenga, Beatrix Waldburger and Uwe Geier

Anet Spengler and Jürg Spranger from the Swiss Federal Institute of Organic Agriculture (FIBL) at Frick have for years been trying to develop understanding of a species-appropriate "constitution" of the cow, and a formulation of the corresponding complementary breeding targets and breeding methods. Against this background we were commissioned to investigate the important "body fluids" of the cow – blood and milk – with picture-forming methods (with the method of copper chloride crystallisation according to Pfeiffer, the steigbild method according to WALA and the chroma method according to Pfeiffer).

Influences of processing on the quality of milk are well known. But demonstrating with picture-forming methods the conditions of husbandry, feeding, constitution and cow health means breaking new ground. In this project we came up against further questions regarding the influence on milk quality of fat and protein contents, milk yield, mastitis and dehorning. We can provisionally say that the crystallisation pictures, the steigbild pictures and the circular chromatograms (chromas) all agree that a high milk yield produces a drop in quality.

It was necessary to redevelop the method and assessment criteria when investigating cow blood. In contrast to crystallisation with human blood the pictures with cow blood show, for example, fewer individually typical properties. In the context of further animal blood investigations (of dogs and rats) we have tried to place this area of research on a new footing. 


Fundamentals of a qualitative evaluation of picture-forming methods

Uwe Geier

Picture-forming methods were developed in the 1920s at the suggestion of Rudolf Steiner. Their aim was to make visible the life forces. At the present time, these methods are used in food quality research and for medical diagnosis. To this day they have not attracted much interest outside anthroposophical circles. Yet at the same time there has been an increase in the need for comprehensive, holistic assessments of food quality. Here picture-forming methods show great potential. This project dealt with a question which hitherto has also stood in the way of recognition of picture-forming methods in the academic sciences: how do we get from the picture to a judgement?

This project, supported since mid-2002, had as its goal to illustrate fundamental concepts of picture evaluation in picture-forming methods (steigbild according to WALA, copper chloride crystallisation and circular paper chromatography according to Pfeiffer). To this end, in experimental studies of plants the picture phenomena connected with organs and important life processes (inter alia ripening, dying) were described. In addition, fundamental concepts were developed, such as form intensity and differentiation.

In the project year 2003, the focus was on the investigation of the organs (root, leaf, flower, fruit and seed) of various plants. This involved studying whether certain picture types can be discovered for the respective organs, how the three methods used differed in this respect, and whether rules for the deviation from the particular "standard" picture type can be found.

The interim results were discussed in working groups and at conferences with specialist colleagues.


Copper chloride crystallisation of various plant organs of dandelion: (A) Leaf: poor plate covering and clumping, thin needle traces, little co-ordination.
(B) Seed: very dense plate covering, curved needle traces, large hollow form in the centre.
(C) Root: needle traces slightly curved, wide angle, needles short and pointed.
(D) Flower: curved needle traces, narrow angle, long needles.