GOLD-NANOPARTICLES - SWARNA BHASMA IN UNANI MEDICINE
Gold that has been reduced to its powder or ash form is termed Swarna Bhasma, simply meaning Gold-Ash or Gold-Nanoparticles. Metallic nanoparticles are considered detoxified and suitable as finished medicines or as ingredients in Ayurvedic and Siddha pharmaceuticals. The term Kushta, synonymous with Bhasma, is used primarily by Unani practitioners although Siddha also employs this term. Surprisingly, gold nanoparticles can indeed be achieved by two ancient techniques - sublimation and levigation.
Swarna Bhasma via Sublimation
Prepared gold is amalgamated with prepared mercury and subjected to sublimation (incinerated at high heat). When the alchemist-pharmacist repeats the process by creating a new gold-mercury amalgam with the fine gold powder, the gold achieves a progressively smaller particle size due to an increase of surface area in contact with the mercury. With each additional cycle of amalgamation/sublimation, the gold achieves a much finer state of division.
The gold will be broken down and finely divided into a gold-dust at the bottom of the vessel. Mercury in the presence of ambient oxygen will oxidize to form a red mercuric-oxide ash (HgO) which builds up at the top of the sublimation vessel. This can either be kept for use as an ingredient in other formulations or simply discarded. In an open vessel the mercury will basically vaporize to the detriment of the environment and one's health. After a number of repeated cycles, sometimes as many as 18, the gold will eventually convert to a nanoparticle-sized ash suitable for use as a medicine. The gold is now considered to be "killed".
One of the benefits of sublimation is the efficiency of the technique. It reduces labor and exposure of gold to an unsterile environment. One of the drawbacks is that the much of the organic material is simply incinerated causing the gold to act as the active ingredient on its own. This may reduce bio-availability.
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