Ayurveda has two treatment modalities, Shamana (Palliative therapy) & Shodhana (Purificatory treatment). Where Shamana therapy alleviates the symptoms of the disease, Shodhana therapy eliminates the cause of disease.
This is why shodhana is the favorite treatment of Ayurvedic physicians, especially in cases of chronic & obstinate ailments. Pancakarma is one such shodhana therapy which removes impurities out of body in five different manners.
Ayurveda believes that all kinds of pathology start with the accumulation of ama (toxins) in the body tissues, which further brings imbalance in doshas. In such a condition, Pancakarma is of great help.
You might have heard a lot about Pancakarma. Many people believe that it is a kind of spa treatment, but it is not so. So, what exactly Pancakarma is? Read on to find out more.
What is Panchkarma?
Panchakarma as the name suggests is a group of five body cleansing procedures. It detoxifies body tissues, restores their normal functions, improves immunity & metabolism, and rejuvenates body as well as mind.
Among various Shodhana therapies, Pancakarma is considered as the best. It differs from other purification & detoxification therapies because, unlike others, it eliminates toxins from deep tissue level.
The five actions of Panchakarma have such a unique effect that they draw out the ama, vitiated doshas & mala (waste products) from tissues & expel them from the body. Thus, it gets rid of the cause of your suffering permanently.
The approach of Pancakarma is quite simple as it works concurrently with the natural movement of doshas in the body. This means that Pancakarma does not interfere with the body’s natural rhythm and restores the balance of doshas along with the elimination of vitiated doshas & toxins.
How is Pancakarma done?
Pancakarma therapy is not just about five therapeutic procedures. For complete purification and rejuvenation of the body, it is carried out in three stages.
The first stage is Purvakarma, which prepares the body for purification. It is followed by the main procedure of Pancakarma, and the last step is called as Paschatkarma i.e. measures to rejuvenate the body tissues after the tiring process of Panchakarma.
Purvakarma is a crucial step performed before Pancakarma. It prepares the body for the elimination of the stored toxins. Purvakarma constitutes two important processes, Snehana & Swedana.
Snehana (oleation) is the first step of Purvakarma. It involves oil massage and intake of medicated oils, ghee, animal fat, or bone marrow fat.
Swedana (fomentation) involves the therapeutic application of heat to induce sweating. It helps in the easy removal of toxins. These two treatments help in loosening up of ama lodged in deep tissues and facilitate deeper cleansing.
Five procedures of Pancakarma
Pancakarma, is performed once the body is ready to let go of the wastes stored in it. Each procedure of Pancakarma addresses a specific dosha, and hence, it has a solution for every kind of disease.
What are these five procedures?
Vamana – Emesis
Emesis or vomiting disgusts most of us, and hence, the Vamana procedure is a widely misunderstood concept of Pancakarma. In Vamana, vomiting is induced with the help of herbal preparations producing an emetic effect.
Vamana is a very simple & smooth process with minimal nausea & discomfort. It is an easy way to expel the excess kapha dosha and ama. Hence it is usually administered in the kapha related disorders like respiratory problems, allergies, diabetes, arthritis, psoriasis, leucoderma etc.
Vamana is always given in early morning i.e. when the activity of kapha dosha is on peak.
However, Vamana is not for frail, old, young children, pregnant women, and people with chronic heart disease, hypertension, tuberculosis, liver disorders.
Nasya – head & neck cleansing
Nasya eliminates doshas out of the head & neck region through the nasal passage. For Nasya, medicated oils and powders are administered into the nose.
Nasya eliminates toxins from the nose, mouth, larynx, pharynx, ears, & eyes. It cleanses the channels of the head and improves the oxygen flow in the brain.
Nasya is indicated in head & neck related disorders like sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, severe headaches, migraine, epilepsy, conjunctivitis, glaucoma, tinnitus, hearing loss, mental retardation.
Virechana – Purgation
Virechana is usually done to cleanse the digestive system from excess pitta dosha & ama. As pitta dosha is closely related to blood, Virechana is also a good option in blood toxicity-related disorders.
Virechana involves the intake of purgative herbal preparations to clear the small intestine. Purgatives are chosen as per the nature of the bowel movement of the person. Hence, purgatives of varying intensities are used in varying doses as per the patient’s need.
Virechana is an excellent therapy for all kinds of pitta related disorders like hyperacidity, colitis, gastritis, hemorrhoids, urticaria, and skin diseases such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, leprosy.
Virechana is not advised for emaciated, old aged, pregnant women, people with weak digestion, ulcerative colitis, dehydration, bleeding stools.
Virechana is administered during day time. Purgative is given two to three hours after taking meal.
Basti – purification of colon
Basti is the most celebrated Pancakarma therapy. It is said that Basti therapy is so powerful that it alone contributes to 50% of the benefits of Pancakarma.
In Basti, medicated liquids like oils or decoctions are administered into the colon through the anal route. The body retains the administered liquids for a few hours, and then it is eliminated along with fecal matter.
Basti is usually advised in vata dosha related disorders, but it has a wide-ranging influence on all doshas & body tissues.
Basti is useful in diseases of abnormal vata like chronic constipation, low back pain, sciatica, paralysis, arthritis, gout, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, & other neuro-muscular disorders.
Basti is not for people suffering from diarrhea, rectal bleeding, ulcerative colitis, colon cancer, fever.
Rakta mokshana – blood withdrawal
Rakta mokshana is a lesser-known part of Pancakarma. However, it shows a dramatic reduction in the symptoms of certain acute disorders. It is beneficial in cases of blood toxicity due to vitiated pitta & ama.
It involves drawing small amounts of blood intravenously from the affected areas. Rakta mokshana is highly prescribed in many skin disorders like eczema, chronic itching, rashes, urticaria, hypertension, enlarged spleen, or liver.
Rakta mokshana is not advisable for aged, pregnant, menstruating women, people suffering from anemia, leukemia, liver cirrhosis, edema. It is administered in the summer end and autumn season when pitta naturally aggravates.
Paschatkarma – Precautions after Pancakarma
The stage that follows Pancakarma is Paschatkarma. Without this phase, Pancakarma is incomplete & unsuccessful.
After tiresome process of Pancakarma you may experience fatigue, malaise, and general body weakness for few days. This is entirely natural and hence, paschatkarma is important for bringing body back on a healthy track.
Paschatkarma aims at re-building the body tissues, strength, restoring Agni (digestive fire), and immunity. To achieve this, a controlled diet &lifestyle is to be followed immediately after the purification procedure.
The diet comprises of nutritive & light to digest liquid preparations of rice & green lentil. Rice water, green lentil soup, & khichari are given to the patient until his digestive fire gets re-kindled.
It is advised not to enter into previous hectic lifestyle immediately after Pancakarma instead progress gradually. It is best to avoid mental & physical stress, traveling, exercise, sexual activity, exposure to the sun, cold, or rainy conditions for at least two weeks.
Ayurveda has always emphasized on Pancakarma treatments for a healthy life. Pancakarma is not something only for diseased; it is highly advised for healthy persons to eliminate the unwanted wastes out of the body from time to time for the prevention of diseases.
For satisfactory results, it is crucial to receive Pancakarma procedures from an expert physician, or else some unwanted effects may appear.
Now that profound curative benefits of Pancakarma are known, more & more people are turning towards these natural methods not only to treat severe disorders but also to maintain their health & prevent future disease.