What Is Bhasma In Ayurveda
The oxidized form of metal and mineral preparations, called bhasma, is also extensively used in Ayurvedic medicine. Bhasmas are metal or mineral powder formulas made by specific Ayurvedic text procedures with several herbs and herbal extracts and subjected to very precise heat treatment. The science and art of bhasmas, a separate branch of pharmacy known as Rasa Shastra.
On the basis of their origin, Ayurvedic medicines are also classified into three groups:
Kastha ausadhis (herbal preparations).
Rasa ausadhis (metallic preparations).
Jangama ausadhis (animal preparation — prepared from animal products).
The name bhasma is generally applied to all metallic and nonmetallic substances that are Subjected to the process of incineration and reduction to ash.
In Ayurveda, purification is called shodhana. Shodhana is the process through which the
external and internal impurities of metals and minerals are removed.
Steps Of Bhasmikaran
1. Shodhan: The principle objective of shodhan is to remove unwanted part from the raw material and separate out impurities. Metals obtained from ores may contain several impurities, which are removed by subjecting them to Shodhan process. In context of bhasma, shodhan means purifying and making the product suitable for the next step i.e. Maran. Ayurveda classifies shodhan into a) General process and b) Specific process.
General Process Of Shodhan:
The sheets of metals are heated till red hot and are successively dipped into liquids like oil, buttermilk, cow’s urine etc. The procedure is repeated seven times.
Specific Process Of Shodhan:
For some metals a specific process is described for shodhan e.g. for purification of Jasad, the molten mass is poured in cow’s milk 21 times.
2. Maran: Maran literally means killing. As the name suggests in maran process, a change is brought about in the chemical form or state of the metal. This makes it to lose its metallic characteristics and physical nature. In short, after maran, metal can be converted into powder or other form suitable for administration. To convert various metals into a form appropriate for human consumption, several techniques have been employed which ultimately gave birth to concept: “Bhasma prepared by using Rasa i.e. mercury is the best, where as the one prepared using herbs are of better quality and those prepared using Gandhaka (sulfur) are of inferior quality. Thus there are 3 methods given for maran. It is carried out by heating the metal in presence of 1) mercury 2) plants and 3) sulfur. When various maran procedures for different metals were reviewed, it was found that mercury is mainly used. The unique property of mercury to amalgamate with many metals must have been the reason behind its maximum use in the process of Bhasmikaran. Ancient practitioners might have found it as the most suitable chemical and therefore probably have mentioned that bhasmas using mercury are superior. Plants used in maran process may be serving as catalyst in the process or the minerals in the plants may be forming complexes with the metals. However, no such explanation can be obtained for the use of sulfur.
3. Chalan: Process of stirring during heating the metal is chalan. Stirring is carried out either with iron rod or stick made from a specific plant. As we know today, iron serves as catalyst in many chemical reactions. The phytoconstituents of plant stick may be enhancing the therapeutic effect. For example, stick of Neem is used for chalan process of Jasad bhasma, which is used topically for ophthalmic diseases.
4. Dhavan: In this process, several water washes are given to the product obtained in the previous stage. Perhaps this is to remove the excess amounts of agents used in shodhan or maran stage. Such agents may adversely affect the quality of final product. Hence intermediates are washed with water; thereby water soluble constituents are removed.
5. Galan: The product is then sifted either through a fine cloth or through sieves of suitable mesh so as to separate residual material larger in size.
6. Puttan: The term puttan means ignition. The general term used for heating in the process of Bhasmikaran is Puta. A special earthen pot, Sharav is generally used for the process. It has two parts, each having a shape of soccer. Sharav is used for direct heating of the material. Its shallowness is useful in heating the material faster and uniformly. After keeping the material on the shallow surface, other part is used as a lid, by placing it in an inverted position. This Puttan process can be looked upon as the key step in manufacturing of bhasma. The classification of putta is primarily done on the basic nature of the process and is as under:
Quality Of Bhasma
Traditionally, the end points of incineration of a metal and its conversion to a bhasma state are evaluated based on the following criteria:
- There should be no Chandrika or metallic lusture (Nischandrika).
- When a bhasma is spread between the index finger and thumb, it should be so
- Fine as to get easily into the lines and crevices of the fingers (Rekhapurita).
- When a small quantity is spread on cold and still water, it should float on the surface (Varitara).
In ayurveda bhasmas of mercury, Maharasa, Uparasa, Sadharanrasa, Dhatu, Upadhatu, Ratna, Uparatna, Sudhavarga, Siktavarga etc are explained.