What Is Panchakarma ?
Panchakarma is a Sanskrit word that means “five actions”. In simple terms, it is an Ayurvedic treatment comprising of five main methods for detoxifying the body.
Panchakarma has its roots in the ancient Indian civilizations of 3000-5000 B. C. Over the centuries, it has met many minor modifications suiting individual needs of different regions. But the main practice remains in intact even today.
A large number of clinics , in the West as well , are providing full range of Panchakarma treatments to multitudes of patients and those seeking preventive measures against diseases. The ever growing number of people who prefer it over conventional treatment is proof of its popularity and effectiveness .
How Panchakarma Works?
Ayurvedic medicine believes that all disease takes root in the digestive system. During the process of digestion some toxic substances escape from the digestive tract and wind their way to various parts of the body . Residing deep in the body tissues, these harmful toxins (Ama ) start playing havoc with human health, causing disease debility & decay .
Panchakarma is there to rescue the body, by :
- First pushing these toxic substances back into the digestive tract and ,
- Then expelling them completely from the GI tract.
After accomplishing these two tasks, Panchakarma goes one step further to see that its good effects on the body, mind & emotions last long.
What Are The Different Stages Of Panchakarma?
Panchakarma therapy involves three stages:
- Purvakarma or the Preparatory Treatment stage
- Panchakarma or the Five-action Main Treatment stage
- Paschatkarma or the Post- Treatment stage
What To Expect During Each Stage?
This part of the treatment precedes Panchakarma , the main stage.
Purvakarma offers two distinct therapies :
Abhyantra Snehana : Includes internal oleation(oiling) of the body with warm herbal oils .This action helps move the toxins from deep tissues to the digestive tract for complete elimination in the main stage.
Bahaya Snehana : Includes external oleation (oiling) of the body with warm herbal oils for softening up and lubricating the body tissues.
One form of this process is the oiling of the whole body while another is the pouring of warm oil in a continuous , steady drip over the forehead.
Whether one receives both forms of therapy or just one depends on what is suitable in each individual case.
Swedana is the artificial process for making the body sweat . It can be of many types i.e.
- thermal or non thermal
- high , medium or low sweat
- local or general
- moist heat or dry heat.
The most common type however is the one in which practitioners use herbal oils to rub on the body with steam baths (Vaspa Sweda) to follow.
These double actions of herbs and oil massages coupled with steam baths help open up the body pores to facilitate full absorption of the herbs and the oils.
This process helps remove the deep seated toxins from the body tissues and push them back into the digestive tract for final elimination.
Purvakarma may continue for up-to 2 weeks before the commencement of the Main stage. The length of the treatment may vary from person to person .
Panchakarma: Main Treatment Stage
If the purpose of Purvakarma was to dislodge the stubborn excess toxins from the tissues and force them back to the GI tract, the idea behind Panchakarma is to banish them totally from the body .
Although this main part of the treatment contains five different actions (pradhana karmas ) , practioners do not usually perform all of them together on any one individual.
The deciding factor will be what combination the expert thinks is best depending on :
- General health/ strength
- Kinda of illnesses etc.
The following five actions constitute Panchakarma:
In this treatment the patient follows a regimen of taking a special diet and herbal medicines for inducing vomiting.
The diet usually consists of black gram, rice cooked in milk with ghee ,honey, yogurt etc. and is eaten in the previous night.
A drink made out of vomit inducing herbal drugs is taken in the morning.
Usually it takes about 10-15 minutes to induce vomiting after taking the herbal drink in the morning. But in case it doesn’t happen even after 48 minutes , gently irritating the pharynx will do the job.
This procedure is repeated several times for completely eliminating the toxins.
Vamana is a treatment of choice for dislodging the toxins from upper respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.
Virechana focuses on expelling the toxins ,hiding in the liver and the gall bladder ,through the anal route. By doing so , Virechana achieves complete purification of the digestive and the blood circulatory systems.
This treatment requires the intake of purgative drugs on empty stomach, early in the morning . Slowly sipping warm water may also follow to aid complete evacuation of the bowels.
It will take around 3 hours for the drugs to work. Virechana is a complete therapy for many disorders of the entire body.
Vasti (medicated enema)
Vastikarma involves administering medicated enema in suspension form through the rectum or the genitourinary tract.
It is the most important of all Panchakarmas. It aims at relieving the whole body of damaging toxins . There are many kinds of Vasti but Niruha Vasti & Anuvasana/Sneha Vasti are the two most popular of all.
Niruha Vasti (decoction enema)
This decoction enema is given before breakfast and contains:
- Medicated oil/ghee
- a decoction made from specific drugs &
- rock salt
The enema works in about ten minutes, after which the patient should take hot water bath and semi solid diet.
Anuvasana / Sneha Vasti (oil enema)
This medicated oil enema is given through the anal or genitourinary tract. The usual time for giving Sneha Vasti is in the afternoon ,immediately after lunch.
The manner of administering is similar to Niruha Vasti but since it is a retention enema , it is advisable to retain it in the body for minimum 3 hours before evacuation.
Nasya (Nasal treatment )
This form of Panchakarma treatment requires administration of drugs through the nostrils. Nasya targets toxins inhabiting the head and the neck. A variety of medicated drops come in use for this treatment.
The usual dose is 4-8 drops of warm medicated oil through both nostrils per sitting. Gentle massage of the forehead and the face along with some Swedana should precede this therapy.
RaktaMoksha (blood letting)
According to traditional Ayurvedic medicine drawing out a little blood helps eliminate toxins present in the blood stream.
However , most of the modern world countries including the U. S , do not view RaktaMoksha favorably.
After the completion of Panchakarma stage comes the final, post -therapy stage or Paschatkarma.
In this phase the patient takes complete rest , avoids certain activities & follows the advice of the doctors with regard to:
- Spiritual Training, etc.
Length of Entire Treatment
Panchakarma treatment may take from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity of the case in addition to numerous other factors.
Where To Go ?
Persons desiring to receive Panchakarma therapy should seek it from only certified practioners of Ayurvedic Medicine .
A large number of well equipped, modern clinics, run by highly qualified Ayurvedic doctors and nurses are available in the western world including the U. S. These clinics offer out-patient as well as indoor Panchakarma services .
Benefits of Panchakarma
- Slows down ageing
- Restores digestion
- Cures irregular bowels
- Boosts strength
- Improves complexion
- Relieves stiffness
- Cures cold
- Reduces pain
- Treats heaviness
- Cures indigestion, gastric ulcers, other gastric disorders
- Relieves cough, asthma, other bronchial disorders
- Helps control diabetes
- Aids in combating schizophrenia
- Treats sinusitis
- Treats skin diseases
- Cures gastrointestinal disorders like constipation, worm infestation, irregular bowels etc.
- Treats skin diseases like eczema etc.
- Treats chronic fever, goiter, asthma etc.
- Provides clarity of mind
- Gives strength to the sense organs
- Furnishes stability to the tissues
- Improves digestion
- Stops premature ageing
- Relieves back ache, sciatica, chronic fever
- Parkinson’s disease
- Treats rheumotological disorders like lumbago, arthritis, etc.
- Provides relief from digestive disorders
- Boosts immunity
- Relieves alcoholism
- Restores vigor, vitality , strength & energy
- Smoothens the skin & gives it luster
- Relieves exhaustion
- Treats neurological disorders
- Improves vision
- Induces sound sleep
- Strengthens the body
- Provides longevity
- Relieves headaches
Overall Benefits of Panchakarma:
- Helps restore metabolic power
- Eliminates toxins
- Strengthens tissue functions
- Improves awareness
- Reduces dependence on alcohol, tobacco and drugs
- Aids adopting healthy diet and lifestyle
- Reduces stress
- Relaxes body & the mind
- Induces tolerance
- Enhances endurance
Panchakarma is not only a treatment for curing several straight forward as well as complicated disorders but it is also an equally effective preventive measure against the onset of these disorders .
By setting it free of harmful toxins, Panchakarma restores strength & energy to the body enabling it to fight off disease, debility and ageing.
Panchakarma treatment results in detoxing the body in a manner which facilitates bringing about a perfect balance between the body, mind, and the emotions.
It concentrates on first identifying and then removing the causes , and not just the symptoms , of disorders & diseases.
Learn More and check our health topics.