Mythical medicine in magnificent comeback

2023-02-27

When UU Innovation presented the 2022 Attractive Innovation Project Awards, quite a few eyebrows were raised. Among the winners were two scientists recreating a 17th-century miracle elixir. Today, Hjärne's Testament is a highly desirable bitter that will soon enjoy pleasant company in the liquor cabinet.

Hjärne's Testament. Anno 2023.
Hjärne's Testament. Anno 2023.

In the late 17th century, Swedish alchemist Urban Hjärne has grand plans: He intend to find the Philosopher's Stone. The substance that will give gold and cure all disease. Unexpectedly, the search is not completely fruitless. Along the way, he creates the origin of the mythical universal medicine that will go down in history as Hjärne's Testament. Word of its miraculous abilities spreads quickly far beyond Sweden's borders and the recipe eventually ends up in the possession of Franz Joseph I of Austria. A story that today, more than three centuries later, has taken yet another unexpected turn as two Swedish researchers have recreated the elixir as a digestif – and connoisseurs are giving two thumbs up!

“In autumn 2022, we launched Hjärne's Testament, and both a Swedish Master Blender and a hockey legend were very positive. When Carl-Jan Granqvist also praised our product on Swedish national radio, sales really took off. Before we knew it we had sold our entire stock, but now we have replenished and hope to sell another 2000 bottles this year. One challenge is that many people become so enamored with the packaging that they leave it sealed. On the other hand, I suppose this is positive from a health perspective,” says Nils-Otto Ahnfelt, researcher at the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Nils-Otto Ahnfelt (left) and historian Hjalmar Fors
Nils-Otto Ahnfelt (left) and historian Hjalmar Fors

He defines the beverage, which recently reached the shelves of Systembolaget, as a modern reconstruction of Hjärne's creation. Meticulous scriptural interpretations and sensory analysis suggest traces of both opium and viper meat, next to impossible spices in our time that have been replaced with, among many things, Chinese rhubarb root. The extract is produced by hand at Tevsjö distillery in northern Sweden and the result moves in the borderland between Liqueur, Whiskey and Underberg.

“A slight sweetness, pleasant aftertaste and a sting of bitter, or as Linné said: otherwise it is no medicine. In short, we're exceptionally satisfied, and it is an exciting journey to experience. Suddenly we are entrepreneurs with an award-winning product that arouses great interest. We are already sketching on a new product with an equally fascinating history, and if everything goes according to plan, Hjärne's Testament will enjoy pleasant company as early as 2024.”

FACTS

  • Urban Hjärne (1641-1724) was one of the most famous Swedes of his time. He was a royal physician, a distinguished scientist and, not least, an alchemist.
  • Hjärne’s Testament was created around the turn of the 18’th century and was traditionally sold in small bottles whose contents were dripped into alcohol or tea.
  • Today's version of Hjärne’s Testament contains roughly 70 selected ingredients from the plant kingdom.

LEARN MORE

CONTACT

Nils-Otto Ahnfelt, Visiting researcherNils-Otto Ahnfelt, Visiting researcher
Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences
Nils-Otto.Ahnfelt@farmbio.uu.se

Text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Antidotarium, private

More news

Last modified: 2024-04-04