BHASMA – THE ANCIENT NANOMEDICINE
Bhasma is often used to indicate final product after the process of Marana (incineration to convert metals/minerals into nanosized bio adaptable forms). The meaning of the word Bhasma is Ash. Plant material when subjected to heat is converted to ash, from which original substance cannot be regained. In a similar way, Marana process consists of applying severe heat to minerals and they are converted into irreversible form and therefore termed as Bhasma.
Steps involved in Marana or Bhasmikarana
- Bhavana (Mixing of liquid substances for assimilation)
- Controlled heating
- Amritikarana (This is not necessary for all Marana)
The purified substance is converted into fine powder. Instruments ranging from simple mortar and pestle to electrical pulverizes can be used for this purpose according to the quantity of the substance. This process helps to reduce particle size. Reduction in particle size creates more available surface area for conversion process. It also enhances absorption from the G.I. tract. The purpose of this process is to obtain fine, uniform powder.
Mixing of liquid substance
This process is termed as Bhavana, where the powdered substance is taken in a stone mortar and suitable liquid substance is added till it completely covers the powdered substance and then the mixture is gradually and slowly triturated using adequate force. This is continued till the entire liquid substance is absorbed into the original substance. This completes one Bhavana. Many such Bhavanas are usually done. The binding action of the liquid agent will be incorporated in the final product.
Now the semisolid substance obtained at the end of Bhavana is ready for heating. The semisolid substance is made into chakrikas (pellets) and dried. These dried pellets are placed inside a closed vessel and heated for definite number of times usually but in few cases the semisolid mixture after Bhavana process is heated in open air. As there is abundant supply of air, conversion occurring is in the form of oxides. Since heat is given in a particular way, the original metallic and mineral substances are converted into such a form that it gets easily absorbed in the G.I tract when administered internally and is effective in small dosage.
Some substances like Sulphur, Arsenic oxide, Allum etc are not subjected to Bhasma process because if heat is applied to them, they may get evaporated or destroyed. They can be administered internally directly after purification process. Substances of plant or animal origin (which are organic in nature) require simple Shodhana and Marana process as compared with purely metallic substances because conversion of organic matter into absorbable form occurs quicker.
This process is carried out after the long process of Marana. If it is found that the prepared Bhasma when used on patients show untoward effects then this process is carried out. The ill effects of Bhasmas can be removed by this process. Generally, the ill effects of Bhasma are due to its increased Pitta activity. In this process, Bhasma is roasted on fire with little amount of ghee to remove the ill effects of Bhasma and to increase its effectiveness.
The nano particle size of Ayurvedic Bhasma has been confirmed in a study where it is proposed that the nano particles are responsible for its fast and targeted action. Drug delivery of the Bhasma is through rapid cellular internalization. The branch of Ayurveda, Rasa Shastra explains the manufacturing methods of Bhasma which is similar to the manufacturing of nanoparticles of present day. The safety studies, which have been carried out, are definitely an assurance for victims of Lifestyle Diseases who are on conventional medication and are in search of a better alternative. These are safe in therapeutic doses and hence can be used in management of lifestyle disorders in this present era.
Analysis for Quality control
Varna (Colour) – A specific colour is mentioned for each Bhasma. If there is variation in colour, it suggests that the it is not prepared properly.
Nischandratva (Lustreless) – After proper incineration, lustre should not remain. A pinch of Bhasma should be taken and observed under bright sunlight. There should be no shining particles in the Bhasma.
Rekhapurnata – This is to test the fineness of Bhasma for proper absorption and assimilation in the body. When a pinch of Bhasma is rubbed in-between thumb and index fingers, it should enter the furrows of fingers.
Slakshnatva (Softness) – It is the tactile sensation produced by simple touch with finger tips. Properly incinerated bhasma attain this quality or softness. Slakshna Bhasma will be absorbed and assimilated without irritating the gastric mucosa.
Varitara (Surface tension test) – Bhasma, being light and fine has a floating character. Clean water should be taken in a glass and allowed to standstill. Now it should be sprinkled slowly on the surface of water. Properly incinerated Bhasma will float on the surface of water.
Unama (Floating grain test) – Further to the Varitara test, a grain is placed on the floating layer of Bhasma. If grain floats (remains on the layer of Bhasma) then Bhasma is excellent quality.
Nisvadutvam (Tastelessness) – Bhasmas are tasteless in small amount. A pinch of Bhasma should be placed on tongue and its taste should perceive to be tasteless.
Amla Pariksha (Mixing with sour substance) – A pinch of Bhasma should be mixed in little amount of curd in a clean and dry dish and observed for colour change. No change is colour of curd should be observed.
Bhasma increases cellular metabolism. It acts as a catalyst as well. Nanoparticles are biodegradable, biocompatible and non-antigenic in nature. They can be used to provide selective/targeted delivery of drugs to specific site of action in the body even across blood – brain barrier and reduce side effects of drugs also.