Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood: What’s the difference between Alchemy and Alkahestry?

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Mei using Alkahestry

In the world of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, the metaphysical science of manipulating and altering matter is split into two main disciplines – Alchemy, as practiced in Amestris, and Alkahestry, used in the country of Xing.

While the two share the same fundamental principles, sometimes fans might confuse one for the other. What’s the difference between Alchemy and Alkahestry? Let’s find out.

Alchemy vs Alkahestry

How Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood portrays god
How Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood portrays god (Image via Bones Studio)

Alchemy focuses on breaking down and reconstructing matter into new forms. It follows the law of equivalent exchange – to gain something, the alchemist must offer something of equal value. This is represented by the symbolic triangle law: comprehension, deconstruction, and reconstruction.

  • Alchemists directly manipulate an object’s physical composition. This is often considered to a scientific process rather than a mystical one.
  • In contrast, Alkahestry originated from Alchemy but developed independently in Xing.
  • Instead of breaking down matter, it revolves around reading and harnessing the Earth’s natural energy or “Chi” to supplement Alchemical reactions.
  • Purification circles draw this energy from tectonic shifts and etheric flows beneath the ground.

Source of Transmuatation

While Amestrian Alchemy relies on scientific knowledge and precise construction, Alkahestry recognizes the intrinsic Chi within objects and uses that energy to enhance transmutations. Alkahestric circles can utilize the power within living things as well. This philosophy is called the ‘Dragon’s Pulse’ in the land of Xing.

  • Another major difference is the directions of the transmutation circles. Amestrian circles are drawn pointing outwards with energy flowing from the center.
  • But Alkahestric circles point inwards, drawing power into the focal point. This exemplifies Alkahestry’s reliance on external energy.

Origins of Alchemy and Alkahestry

Gate of truth in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Gate of truth in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood (Image via Bones Studio)

The origins of Alkahestry also differ from Alchemy. Based on the evidence in Xerxes, Alphonse deduces that Alchemy was created from the intrinsic energy of tectonic shifts and lay lines within the Earth itself. However, Alkahestry likely descended from medical and spiritual practices aimed at healing and prolonging life. This is reflected in its emphasis on reading and harnessing Chi. Alkahestry’s focus on reading Chi energy grants it unique abilities as well.

  • By reading the ebb and flow of the Earth’s energy, skilled Alchemists (Alkahestrists?) can perform medical diagnoses and analyze crop flows.
  • This grants Alkahestry more subtle spiritual applications compared to Alchemy’s focus on science and construction.
  • Both disciplines share the goal of understanding the Truth to improve human life.
  • But Alchemists employ scientific rigor while Alkahestrists incorporate intrinsic spirituality.
  • This alchemic-alkahestric dichotomy between science and faith highlights a central theme of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.


While originating from the same source, the divergent paths of Alchemy and Alkahestry reflect differences in cultural philosophy while exemplifying equivalent means of seeking reality.

Both offer valuable lessons about the balanced ties between science, nature, spirituality, and mankind. As a part of one of the best power systems in fiction, both Alchemy and Alkahestry play a vital role in the overall of lore and narrative of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.

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