Nanotechnology and Ayurveda
The science of nanotechnology covers the diverse area of matters at dimensions between approximately 1-100 nanometers. It has immense applications in the drug delivery field as nano delivery systems can reduce the drug consumption and side effects by lowering the deposition of active agent in the non targeted sites.
But, the concept prevailing the use of nano-particles is known to Indians since the time of Master Charak. Ayurveda is thousands of years old holistic system of medicine in which various herbs, metals and non-metals preparation are used as medicine. Ayurvedic bhasmas which contain iron, copper or sulphur, particle size is reduced significantly which may facilitate the absorption and assimilation of the drug into the body. They have a nano size of 25-50 nm.This concept is similar to the present concept of nanotechnology.
For example, for a metallic preparation of Lauhadi Rasayana, iron is heated up until it becomes red hot and then quenched in some liquid media until flakes of iron become in fine powder form. The properties of Bhasmas are comparable with the action of nanoparticles in the body which are also biodegradable, biocompatible and antigenic in nature.
Rasa-Shastra is one of the branches of Ayurveda which deals with the formulations of herbo-mineral, metals, non-metals preparations known as Bhasams.
Bhasmas are biologically produced nano-particles. Some of their qualities are:
- Yogavahi (ability to target drugs to their site) and Rasayana (immunomodulation and anti-ageing quality) are the characteristics of a properly made herbo-mineral, metals and non-metals preparation.
- The Bhasmas are non-toxic, gently absorbable, digestible and adaptable in the body.
How Bhasmas are Prepared?
The Bhasmas preparation have been known to Indians since 7th century A.D. and these are widely recommended for the treatment of various diseases.
The manufacturing process of bhasmas is very elaborate and systematic known as "Bhasmikarana".
- During this process, metals or minerals are subjected to various processes of incineration and purification before internal administration which is aimed to reduce the particle size.
- In this process, the metal from its zerovalent state is converted to a form with higher oxidation state.
- This process also eliminates the toxic nature of metal and its oxide while rendering the oxide of metal with high medicinal value.
What are the Characteristics of Bhasma?
- Varna (Colour): The colour of the bhasma primarily depends on the parent material. Every bhasma has a specific colour.
- Varitara (Lightness and Fineness): The property of pure bhasam preparation is that it floats on stagnant water surface. This property is based on law of surface tension.
- Particle Size: The bhasma should be in powdered form. In Ayurvedic texts, it is mentioned that particle of bhasma should be like the size of pollen grains of the flower Pondanus odoratissimus (kewra) flower.
- Nishchandratvam (Lusterless): Before therapeutic application, bhasma must be lusterless.
This test can be done under bright sunlight in which bhasma is tested for the luster. If luster is still present, then it means that if further needs incineration.
What are the Chemical Characteristics of Bhasmas?
- Inability to regain original metallic form: This property of bhasma is known as apunarbhavata in Ayurveda. According to this property, pure bhasam is not able to regain its original form.
- Rekhapurnatvam: This characteristic of bhasma means that when it is spread between thumb and index finger, it should be so fine that should easily get into the crevices and lines of fingers and should not be washed out from the lines of fingers.
- Varitaratavam: This property of bhasma means that when a small quantity of bhasma is spread on the still and cold water, then it should float on the surface.
List of Some Ayurvedic Bhasmas
Swaran (Gold) Bhasma
The preparation of Swaran Bhasma involves the three processes: shodhana, dravana and marana. It is prepared from gold. This bhasma is used in the Ayurvedic treatment of asthma, tissue wasting, infertility and it acts as a natural aphrodisiac, immune booster and cardiac tonic.
(Reference: Ashtanga Hridya, Sutrasthana,7th chapter, shlok no. 28)
Meaning: According to this shloka, the person who has been give swaran bhasma for a long time, the poison cannot do any harm to him, quite similar to the water drop that cannot touch the leaf of a lotus. The person gains long life. The same treatment is followed in Gara Visha (chronic poisoning) cases also.
This bhasma is also known as Kapardika Bhasma which is prepared from cowries. It is used for the treatment of indigestion, boils, bronchitis, eye diseases etc.
It is an Ayurvedic medicine prepared from pearl oyster and useful in abdominal colic, hyperacidity, cardiac disorders, urinary calculi etc.
Mandura (Iron) Bhasma
Mandur Bhasma is prepared from iron oxide which is used in the treatment of anemia, jaundice, inflammatory conditions, improves strength and immunity.
Naga Bhasma is prepared from lead which is used in the Ayurvedic treatment of diabetes, liver disorders, skin disorders, asthma, whooping cough, bronchitis etc.
Copper (Tamra) Bhasma
This Ayurvedic medicine is prepared from copper and useful in the treatment of skin diseases, piles, obesity, asthma etc.
Abhrak Bhasma is an Ayurvedic medicine prepared from mica which is used in the Ayurvedic treatment for skin disorders, urinary disorders, asthma etc.
Yashad BhasmaYashad Bhasma is an Ayurvedic medicine prepared from zinc. It is used in the Ayurvedic treatment of anemia, diabetes, cough, eye disorders etc.
Shankh bhasma is prepared from conch shell and used in Ayurvedic treatment of gastritis, malabsorption syndrome, abdominal pain etc.
Heera bhasma is an Ayurvedic medicine prepared from diamond. It is also known as Vajra bhasma and useful in the treatment of inflammatory conditions, anemia, good for heart, rejuvenative and acts as a catalyst when used with other Ayurvedic medicines.
(Reference: Rasratnasamuchaya, Chapter 4, Shlok No. 33)
Meaning: In this shloka, qualities of purified diamond are explained. Heera is known as Vajra in Ayurveda. It acts as rejuvenator, aphrodiasic, immediately increases the quality of life, subsides all the aggravated doshas, has the property to treat all the diseases, increases agni and has the quality to defeat death or which delays death.
These Ayurvedic bhasmas should only be taken under strict medical supervision as self medication with these medicines may prove dangerous.
Therefore, it is noteworthy that Ayurvedic bhasmas are considered very safe and economical in comparison to the contemporary metal based nanomedicine. Thus, bhasma as nano-medicines offer a huge potential for the safe and effective treatment of various chronic disorders.