Updated: Aug 7, 2019
Panchkarma is a systematic ayurvedic cleansing process which dislodges and flushes out toxins from each and every cell of our body. It not only treats diseases but also improves overall health and is widely used across the globe to achieve longevity and holistic rejuvenation. According to the ancient ayurveda text book Charak Samhita, Panchkarma therapy can be used for preventive, curative or rejuvenatory purposes. Panchkarma is unique therapy because it targets a specific kind of toxin – Ama. Ama is a sticky and heavy substance produced in the body as a result of indigestion, improper food habits, and unhealthy lifestyle.
In Sanskrit, “Panch” means five and “karma” means actions or therapies. The 5 therapies are delivered in 3 steps.
Step1: Poorva Karma (Pre-operative treatment)
This is a preliminary step to prepare the patient to attain full benefits of Panchakarma therapies. This step has 2 processes:
Snehan (oleation): Snehan refers to massage for a specific time period in order to prepare morbid doshas to be removed. The massage can be carried out either with a variety of vegetable oils or dairy such as milk, curd, ghee (claified butter) etc. The substance used for oil massage varies with seasons. For example: ghee is preferred in fall season, and oil is preferred in winter season.
Swedan (fomentation): In this step, the body is made to perspire by applying either direct heat – Sagini or indirect heat – Niragini. This liquifies the doshas, clears the obstruction in the channels of circulation and directs the doshas to the stomach from where they can be expelled easily. Medicinal plants used in this step possess valuable therapeutic properties.
Step 2: Pradhan Karma
Once all toxins are collected in the stomach, they are removed using a combination of 5 following therapies:
Vaman karma (therapeutic emesis): In Vaman, specific herbal medicines in different forms are administered to induce emesis. Effective Vaman Karma is indicated by 4-8 expulsions during emesis therapy. This karma is highy therapeutic and beneficial for Kapha dosha. For example: a patient experiencing lung congestion resulting in bronchitis, cough, cold, or asthma will be able to breathe freely, experience lightness in the chest, have a clear voice and a decent appetite after this therapy.
Virechan karma (purgation): Virechana is used to alleviate diseases caused by pitta dosha. In this karma purgative substances are orally administered powder, decoction or paste to cleanse small intestine. Virechan also cleanses blood toxins, sweat glands, kidneys, colon, liver, spleen, and blood vessels.
Anuvasan Vasti karma (enema using medicated oil): It is one of the most important karmas in Ayurveda as it eradicates vatta doshas. In this karma, oleous substances such as oils, ghee and fats consisting of medicated oils are administered to the patient through the process of enema. The herbal plants and parts used in preparation of medicated oils depends upon the patient’s constitution and disease. It is beneficial in arthritis, sciatia, spondylitis, paralysis, colitis, infertility, chronic digestive and metabolic disorders, constipation. This karma helps nourish the lower gastro intestinal tract and hence considered very beneficial for patients with dryness in their bodies.
Asthapan Vasti Karma (enema using medicated decoction): It is another type of enema. The medicated decoctions used in this karma have aqueous base as opposed to oleus substances used in Anuvasan Vasti. This karma is used to address specific diseases and the decoction is selected according to the condition of the disease.
Shirovirechan or Nasya Karma (nasal administration of medicines): It is the last karma and is used to balance aggravated doshas from the upper body, especially head, throat, and nose. In this process medicated oils, herbal paste, extracted medicinal juice, finely powdered herbal drugs, fumes of medicinal substances, or ghee are administered through the nose in a certain quantity for a given number of days. This karma is used to treat diseases around head and neck such as migraine, facial paralysis, epilepsy, sinusitis, hysteria, oral cavity, scalp and hair diseases, skin diseases, throat diseases. Patients benefit from good sleep and proper functioning of sensory organs.
Note: Patient receives only 2-3 therapies out of all 5 depending upon their dosha imbalance.
Step 3: Paschaat Karma
While undergoing above mentioned therapies, internal energy of one's body is decreased. Once Ama and toxins are removed from the body and normal function of the body is restored the patient is put through a rebuilding process to strengthen the digestive system and immune system. This entails following a special diet and health promoting herbal remedies. Initially patient is given liquid diet, followed by semi-solid diet and eventually a normal diet.
After receiving panchkarma body becomes free of all toxins, mind becomes light and clear and the energy level of the body is high. With no adverse side effects, Panchkarma therapies are world renowned for getting great results in curing or managing various diseases. Healthy people are also advised to undergo panchkarma every year or two for longevity.
Like what you read ? Subscribe (at the bottom of the page) to get future articles and free Ayurveda lifestyle tips delivered right in your Inbox.
About the author:
Dipen Raj Garg is co-founder of Himalayan Wellness Retreats and head of business development in North and South America. He is a strong believer and supporter of authentic Ayurveda practices and he can be contacted via Linkedin or e-mail: email@example.com
Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.