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Panchkarma

Panchkarma is the combination of the 5 different types of treatments (karma). The human body is like a machine. Just like how a machine needs periodic cleansing and lubrication to improve the efficiency and quality, similarly the human body also needs periodic cleansing and lubrication to improve the quality of life. How this cleansing is done is by a therapeutic treatment or mode of treatments what we term as Panchkarma. Panchkarma is the process of cleaning the body without damaging the tissues. This process requires certain preparatory procedures, the main procedure (Panchkarma) and some purification procedure afterwards.

Thus the Panchkarma is comprised of three components:

  1. Purvkarma (preparatory procedure)
  2. Panchkarma (main procedure)
  3. Pashyatkarma (post procedure)
A. Purvkarma (preparatory procedure) Purvkarma refers to the preparation of body for Ayurvedic Panchkarma therapy. Purvkarma is necessary for the body to achieve the complete benefits of Panchkarma and encourage the body to release its toxins. The goal of these preliminary procedures is to transport toxic substances and waste products that remain obstructed some where in the body and to bring them to channels or organs from where the body can expel them during the purification. It mainly contains:
  • Deepan (causes kindling of Undigested food waste or toxins (ama))
  • Pachan (ama-pachana) (cause digestion of toxins)
  • Snehan (oleation) (gives excitation action for dosha)
  • Swedan (Fomentation) (liquefies the dosha and move it to Koshta (digestive tract) )

Purvakarma can be completed in one day or over many days.

B. The 5 Panchkarma treatments
  1. Vaman (therapeutic vomiting)

    Vaman or emesis is the procedure of eliminating the impurities from the upper part of the body. It is indicated specially for Kapha related disorders.

    Concept

    Vomiting is induced with herbal emetic substances for the purpose of eliminating vitiated Kapha and Pitta. Herb induced vomiting is of fundamental importance to the entire scheme of Panchkarma. Unripe Pitta and Kapha can be eliminated by medicinal emesis.

    How is Vaman done

    Pre-operative (Purvkarma) - depends on aggravations of doshas Vaman is started with 3 to 5 day internal Snehan (oral intake of medicinal oil or ghee in incremental quantities ranging 30 to 150 ml) followed by external Snehan (full body massage) and/or Swedan (application of hot steam). Vaman is performed preferably early in the morning after motion has been passed. 3 to 4 glasses of medicinal drinks are administered orally and vomiting is stimulated by rubbing the tongue as this stimulates the vomiting centre of the brain.

    How does it work

    The oral intake of medicinal oil or ghee helps to loosens up the vitiated doshas and the massage strokes helps the far seated doshas to be directed towards the abdominal and thereby facilitating early elimination through the oral cavity.

    Benefits
    • Elimination of excessive Kapha that is build up in the body.
    • Improve the strength and immunity of the body.
    • Improve the metabolic balance of the body.
    • Congestion, suffocation, fullness and dullness disappear and the pores in the body will open and become clear.
    Recommended for
    • Highly recommended in Kapha disorders
    • Highly recommended in Psoriasis
    • Upper respiratory tract infection
    • Asthma
    • Common cold
    • Skin disorders
    • Chronic cough
    • Digestive disturbance like acid peptic disease (amla pitta)
    • Tendency of indigestion (agni mandya)
    • Type of jaundice (ruthpath kamala)
    • Rhinitis
    • Tonsillitis
    • Obesity
    • Psychological conditions like feeling of saturated, vagueness, dizziness, anxiety, obsessive- compulsive disorder, disturbed sleep and nightmares
    Contra-indications
    • Pregnancy
    • Elderly age
    • Impaired immunity
  2. Virechan (therapeutic purification)

    Downward elimination of vitiated doshas or waste products is known as Virechan. It literally means clinically induction of purgation. Purgation is simply clinically induced loose motions. It is the cleansing of the Pitta and the purification of the blood toxins from the body that are accumulated in the liver and gall bladder, it completely cleanses the gastrointestinal tract.

    How is Virechan done

    Virechan starts with preparatory procedure, it includes oleation, both internal (oral intake of ghee or oil) and external (massages), and fomentation (application of hot steam), followed by intake of the medicine of choice for Virechan.

    How does it work

    The oral intake of medicinal ghee or oil helps to loosens up the vitiated doshas and the strokes of massages helps the far seated doshas to be directed towards the abdomen. The aim of the treatment is to stimulate vitiated doshas from the stomach, small intestine, liver and gall bladder, and bring them to the gastrointestinal tract for their eventual expulsion from the body through the rectum.

    Benefits
    • The elimination of excessive Pitta from the body.
    • This process not only eliminates diseases of Pitta and blood but it helps to rejuvenate all the tissues and organs in the abdomen.
    • Improves skin complexion
    • Gives longevity and increases immunity
    • Improves the digestive system
    Recommended for
    • Various skin diseases
    • Chronic fever
    • Enlargement of liver and spleen
    • Thyroid disorder
    • Intestine parasites
    • Anaemia
    • Severe pain in head
    • Burning of eyes, redness of the eyes
    • Various discolouration of skin
    • Glandular swelling
    • Asthma
    • Cough
    • Jaundice
    • Epilepsy
    • Arthritis
    • Paralysis
    • Hyperacidity
    Contra-indications
    • Old and weak patients
    • Children
    • In pregnancy and immediately after delivery
    • Persons who have developed fissures in the anus or bleeding per rectum
    • Ulcers of small and large intestine
    • Prolapse of the rectum
    • Diarrhoea
    • Dysentery
  3. Basti (enema treatment)

    Basti means urinary bladder. In ancient days, physicians were using the urinary bladders of sheep, cows or buffaloes for giving medicinal enema, hence the name. Basti can be given with many different combinations of herbs and other substances like oil, milk, honey, salt, meat, herbal paste etc. The effect of Basti is different with different combinations of herbs and substances. Basti is the main treatment for Vata disorders. However, it is also useful for diseases of Pitta and Kapha as well as for vitiation of doshas together or the vitiation of blood. Vata is the only motivating force in the body, which is responsible for spreading doshas in all these tracts. Vata is also responsible for transportation of sweat, urine, faeces, etc. And Basti is the main treatment, which can control Vata.

    There are three main types of basti:

    Anuvasana Basti or Sneh Basti

    It’s performed with only medicinal oil or ghee. The word Anuvasana means that which remains inside (vasa) the body for long time (anu) without causing any harm. This can also be given daily (anudina) without any side effects hence it is called as Anuvasana. Anuvasana is usually used for tonification and for reducing Vata.

    How is Anuvasna or Sneh basti done

    Like all other Panchkarma, the patient should follow the Purvkarma (preparatory procedure). A gentle massage is followed by light steam application all over the body (especially the lower part of the body), and a proper diet. After a few days of Purvkarma, a physician should carry out a proper examination of the patient. The actual procedure is the application of medicinal warm oil through the rectum (anal cavity) with the help of a Basti instrument (small rubber tube).

    How does it work

    Anuvasana or Sneh Basti helps the lubrication and nourishment of the stomach and intestinal tract, cleanses the colon, and rejuvenating the colon function.

    Benefits
    • Vata dosha is brought under proper control, all other aggravated doshas and waste products are removed and hence all the tissues are properly developed.
    • Person remains healthy and resistance to diseases improves.
    • Strength, agni (digestive fire) and cognitive capability are increased.
    • The complexion of the skin and voice improves.
    Recommended for
    • Highly recommended in all Vata disorders like arthritis, paralysis.
    • Joint and muscular pain
    • Constipation
    • Dryness of the body and very strong digestive fire
    • Oleation and nutrition
    Contra-indications
    • Diarrhoea
    • Rectal bleeding
    • Several anaemia
    • Newly developed fever
    • Jaundice
    • Piles
    Niruh or Asathapana Basti

    Niruh or Asathapana Basti is a concoction or cleansing enema, usually using herb extracts as main ingredients. The word “Niruh” means: “whose benefit is great”. “Niruh” usually means: “Purification”.

    How to apply Niruh Basti

    After sufficient Purvkarma, such as full body massages followed by steam application and proper dieting, the patient is ready for Niruh Basti. After proper physical examination by a doctor, a warm medicinal concoction is applied through the rectum with the help of catheter or Basti instrument.

    How does Niruh Basti work

    The active ingredient of the concoction absorbs in the colon which helps to loosen toxins from the colon and helps easily elimination of the toxins.

    Benefits
    • Increase in appetite
    • Clears the bowels
    • Increase the strength of the bowels
    • Decreases constipation
    • Decreases hyperactivity
    Recommended for

    This is especially recommended for Vata diseases when it is vitiated due to the obstruction in the channels, such as:

    • Pain in abdomen, chest, pelvic region, eye, ear or legs
    • Headache
    • Cardiac pain
    • Hemiplegia
    • Facial paralysis
    • Constipation
    • Obstruction in urination
    • Worms
    • Stiffness in the body
    • Fistula
    • Joint diseases
    • Stiffness in the back and hips
    • Problems with lactation
    • Tremors (of the limbs)
    • Loss of strength in the body
    • Gout
    Contra-indications
    • Patients who have received too much oleation
    • Severe loss of appetite
    • Patient who is tired due to long travel
    • Hunger and thirst
    • Diarrhoea
    • Old and weak people
    • Toxins in the intestines
    • Vomiting
    Uttarbasti

    This Basti is usually given for urinary and reproductive system related diseases. Uttarbasti is an important Panchkarma procedure for genitourinary disorders (term used to indicate the organs of the reproductive system and the urinary system) of both males and females. The therapy involves administration of a specific medicinal oil, ghee or a concoction into the urinary bladder or uterus. It is a highly recommended treatment for infertility and uterus related diseases.

    Application of Uttarbasti

    After proper Purvkarma like proper diet and full body massages with medicinal oil or ghee and hot steam application, a herbal concoction is introduce into the intrauterine cavity or up to the cervix in the case of a female and into the bladder in the case of a male.

    Benefits
    • Regularising hormonal circulation
    • Increased conception rates
    • Maintain a healthy PH in the uterus and fallopian tubes
    • Good quality and healthy sperm production
    • Sexual power increases
    • Aging decreases
    Recommended for females for
    • Fallopian tube blockage
    • Uterine fibroid
    • Endometriosis
    • Female Infertility
    • Cervical polyp
    Recommended for males for
    • Urinary incontinence
    • Prostate enlargement
    • Cystitis
    • Neurogenic bladder dysfunction
    • Male infertility
    • Diseases of urinary system
    Contra-indications
    • Pregnancy
    • Weak people
    • Old age
    How does Basti work

    The effect of Basti is different with different combinations of herbs and substances. It helps to get rid of all vitiated doshas so it can be used for: improving health, reducing obesity, purification, increasing health stability, improving skin complexion, etc.

    Benefits of Basti
    • Vata dosha is brought under proper control, all other aggravated doshas and waste products are removed and hence all tissues are properly developed.
    • The patient remains healthy, reducing susceptibility to diseases.
    • Strength, agni, and mental state are increased.
    • The complexion of the skin and voice is improved.
  4. Nasya (the nasal instillation of medicines)

    Nasya means administering herbal oils, medicinal ghee, juices or powders through the nasal route. It is specifically design for ENT (ear, nose, throat) disorders.

    How is Nasya done

    It begins with a facial massage with a tailored (depends upon per person) herbal oil, followed by localized steam application, and concluded with administering a few drops of herbal oils, medicinal ghee, juices or powders through the nose.

    How does it work

    According to Ayurveda the nasal cavity is the opening to the brain. That’s why medicinal oils, ghee, juices and powders are given through the nose to stimulate the vital centre of the brain to overcome specific diseases. These medicines enters the blood circulation, which is present in and around the nose. It clears the mucous blockage around the area and cleans the sinus, thereby improving the sense of smell.

    Benefits
    • Cleanses the nasal cavity, purifies and strengthens the nasal passages.
    • Allows to breathe fully and easily again.
    • Regular use can prevent diseases of ear, nose, throat and head.
    • Prevents hair loss and baldness, and can improve the quality of the hair
    • Controls all doshas in the region of the head as well as all the centres of sense organs and motor organs situated in the head
    Recommended for
    • Highly recommended in all types of allergies
    • Sinusitis
    • Headaches
    • Migraine
    • Hair loss
    • Premature greying of hair
    • Rhinitis
    • Cervical spondylosis (also known as neck arthritis)
    • Stress
    • Other nasal disorders
    • Facial paralysis
    • Hemiplegia
    • Aphasia
  5. Raktmokshan (blood related therapy)

    Raktmokshan means to let the vitiated blood out of the body. It is blood cleansing and purification therapy. The aim of this therapy is to remove toxic blood with vitiated doshas from the body. It can be done with Pitta and blood related diseases like skin diseases, pigmentation, psoriasis, eczema etc.

How does Panchkarma work

Panchkarma procedure purifies the body biologically, it helps restore the physiological balance and reverses the underlying pathology.

Benefits of Panchkarma
  • Any suitable karma (treatment) eliminates toxins from the body.
  • It cleanses the organs, cells, and membrane of the body, thereby improving the biological purity of the inner and outer parts of your body.
  • Improves the digestive system
  • Diseases are alleviated
  • Health is restored and maintained
  • Helps sense organs to function properly
  • Improves the mind and mental state
  • Colour and quality of the skin improves
  • Strength increases
  • The patient becomes capable of getting good progeny
  • Sexual power increases
  • Ageing process is delayed
  • The person enjoys diseases free healthy life.
Who can do Panchkarma

Anybody who has a disease can do Panchkarma to get rid of the disease. But also a healthy person who wants to maintain their state of health can do Panchkarma. So Panchkarma is for everyone from age 17 to 70 for a healthy and long life.

C. Pashyatkarma (Post Procedure), Samsarjana Karma or detox diet
  1. Dietetic Regimen (Samsarjana Karma)

    Immediately after Panchkarma, the digestive system becomes very weak. In this stage, if normal food is consumed, then the digestive system is not able to digest it and there is danger of formation of toxin substances like Ama. To avoid this, a step by step diet from light to heavy is advised. This procedure can be done in 3, 5, 7 or 15 days depending on the purification.

  2. Behaviour to avoid
    • Overeating
    • Loud speech
    • Too much sitting
    • Too much walking
    • Anger
    • Anxiety
    • Too much use of vehicles
    • Too much sex
    • Excessive heat (sun) or cold (wind)
    • Inhibition of natural urges like coughing, sneezing, passing urine, eliminating stool, etc.