Panchakarma: A Unique Therapy Of Ayurveda


Dr. Sanjeev Sood 

Panchkarma is a purifying therapy to enhance the metabolic process through food and herbal medicines. It is used in deep-rooted chronic disease as well as seasonal imbalance of tridoshas. As the wastes are eliminated from the body the person becomes healthy. Literally Panch means five and Karma means action. So Panch Karma means five types of actions or techniques or treatment. These types of therapeutics are based on elimination therapy.
            Elimination is a natural instinct of every living creature. Human body is a complex type of wonderful machine, which has millions of functions, majority of them are voluntarily controlled and some of them are involuntary or self-controlled. Millions of cells in the body are working day and night to produce energy and maintain the life. Lot of wastes is produced in this process at the level of cells.
(A healthy person image) 

 It is natural that some toxins accumulate in the body as a result of various metabolic activities. It is necessary to eliminate these toxins from the body, which the body is doing to the great extent, but some toxins still remains in the body and causing many disease when their quantity increases beyond a certain limit. These wastes should always be eradicated from the body, otherwise they stick into minute channels of the body known as 'srotas' and start producing diseases. That is why, if we want to be healthy, it is necessary to eliminate wastes from the channels and no room should be given for accumulation of these waste products.Doshas and waste materials accumulate in the body as a result of following improper diet and living style. The seasonal accumulation of doshas is also described in Ayurveda. For example, Kapha doshas accumulate in winter. So to eliminate these excess doshas or impurities from the body, various Panch Karma treatments are used.           

Infinite number of unwanted toxins and unwanted metabolic substances accumulate in our body in due course of time, which is against the law of nature. These unwanted toxins and unwanted metabolic substances have been accumulated for the major reasons being the air pollution, the chemicals that we eat through our food, lack of body movements. In this 20th Century man is following a life pattern, which is totally against the principles of nature. At the formation of Universe, is considered, that the universe was free from any pollutants. Man is the cause for these pollutants. The question of accumulating of toxins was not arising at that time because the resistance of the body was strong enough to eliminate all the toxins in the natural form. As now days the life being artificial we disobey the laws of nature, as a result wastage gets accumulated in our body more easily. When the wastage in our body reaches to uncontrollable limit our bodies resistance is helpless and we become an easy prey to disease. As a human being advances in age by the time he or she is 40 these signs are clearly seen. The body resistance becomes weak and the human being unexpectedly suffers from minor or major disease. At this point Ayurveda says that body is not in equilibrium with nature and it needs immediate correction. The process of correcting is called panchakarma and is explained below how it is done.

Snehana (Person doing Sneha)            Hecticness , noise and the speed or our time produce excess of Vata dosha. This leads to dryness of the exterior as well as the interior body. This dryness is best treated with internal and external saturation of the organism with fat.
We begin with interior Snehana( Abbyantar Snehana).
Mostly Ghee is used, which cools and softens the tissues and expels excess Vata dosha. Depending on the Ayurvedic doctor, other fats like sesame or mustard oil may be used. These oils produce heat, stabilize and improve strength, they lend gloss to the skin, they diminish Vata dosha without raising Kapha dosha too much.             These fats are given in the beginning of purvakarma, early in the morning, for three up to seven days. It is important to give them in the early morning, because at this time, the digestive power is weak, the fats may not be digested immediately, and only this way they can act as necessary in purvakarma treatment.
You have to watch the body signals of sufficient internal fat saturation. If You observe loose, light and fatty stools, a soft, glossy, oily skin and an aversion against fatty substances, it is time to end this part of therapy.
You will also observe good appetite, a sensation of lightness and a cosy tiredness.
You may observe signs of internal diseases like headache, spine, articular and muscular pain as well as other symptoms of these diseases. This is a sign of mobilization and will in most cases vanish rapidly. After this phase of internal fat saturation we begin external fat treatment.
Oils pretreated with herbal mixtures that fit to the individual prakruti are massaged into the body, mostly as a synchrone massage, with two therapists performing massage in synchronous movements.
Synchrone massage is of immense becalming influence upon Vata dosha and harmonizes body functions and sentiments.

Svedana (Person doing Svedana) 

After mobilization of the doshas and toxins by Snehana, warmth treatment liquefies them, opens up the fine channels, the srotas and prepares elimination.Commonly used is Bashpa Svedana. This is a form of steam bath, during which a wooden box is put upon the body.
            Water is cooked with individually prepared herbal mixtures, and the steam is led into this box.
Because the head is not suited for warmth treatment, it must be observed, that the head is located outside this box.
            Another form of warmth treatment is Nadi Svedana. Here herbal steam is put directly upon the body by means of a hose. This form of treatment is best suited for rheumatic pain, strain and compression disorders.
After this pretreatment phase, the origin Panch Karma treatment is begun. 

Vamana (Photo of Vomiting)

As Kapha is mainly located within the upper stomach, therapeutic vomiting is indicated mainly in excess Kapha conditions.             During pretreatment, the organism has put excess Kapha into this part of the stomach and is ready to expel it.
Therapeutic vomiting is best suited for
1.       Diabetes mellitus 2.       Fat metabolism disorders 3.       Overweight 4.       Bronchial asthma 5.Chronic airway diseases (Bronchitis) 6.       Chronic Sinusitis 7.       Hypothyroidism 8.       Depressions 9.       Under motivation 10.   Lack of appetite             Vamana is induced after a whole body massage through application of suited herbal mixtures. It is rather exhausting for the patient and must be watched by an AYURVEDIC doctor.             It demands a good constitution of the patient and is not to be applicated in a variety of diseases, among them heart disease, digestive disorders, malignant tumors, hemorrhoids, AIDS and other diseases that go along with a chronic weakening of the organism.            Best time for Vamana treatment is spring, because in winter Kapha accumulates within the body and may be expelled by this treatment. 


Therapeutically purging removes excessive Pitta and Kapha dosha, which makes it an alternative for exhausting Vamana.
Pitta diseases that may be cured by Virechana are
1.       Chronic and acute inflammations 2.       Allergies 3.       Dermatitis (Photo)4.       Psoriasis 5.       Hemorrhoids 6.       Stomach and duodenal ulcers 7.       Hyperthyroidism 8.       Chronic fever 9.       Liver and spleen diseases 10.   Eye diseases 11.   Aggressivity and testiness 12.   Alcohol disease             Purging is done mostly by application of castor oil in individual dosage. If medically indicated, other drugs like flax seed or psyllium may be used, especially, when a more soft form of purging is indicated.             Purging, and the digestive fire agni will be dampened will diminish pitta, which is located in the inferior part of the stomach.             A light diet will be appropriate you to increase the digestive power. In the first two days after Virechana a light wheat soup is recommended, after that a light vegetarian diet for one week. 


The therapeutical enema cleans the inferior part of the digestive tract, the colon. Vata is the dominating dosha, in Ayurveda it is the king of the doshas, and it is seated mainly within the colon. Dominating Vata makes it easier to balance the other doshas. Caraka Samhita, one of the oldest ayurvedic textbooks, says: "Basti - though applicated and acting mainly in the large intestine - by its force attracts all impurities from the sole to the head, like the sun standing in the sky and drying all moist in the earth." Vata controls the organism as well as life.             It comes out of balance primarily where it is seated, within the colon. Thereafter it affects disorders in other organs. Balancing Vata disorders means controlling disease mechanisms of excess Pitta and Kapha origin as well. Typical Vata diseases are 1.       Diseases of the nervous system 2.       Rheumatic and other diseases of spine and joints 3.       Circulatory disorders 4.       High blood pressure 5.       Digestion disorders like constipation or irritable colon 6.       Pain syndromes 7.       Migraine 8.       Exhaustion states 9.       Disorders of falling and staying asleep 10.   Nervousness 11.   Weakness of concentration 12.   Infertility             We distinguish enemas consisting of an infusion of herbal remedies and oil enemas.
The herbal infusion enema (Niruha Basti) is composed according to the dosha disorder and acts mainly by expelling toxins from the colon.
            Oil enema nurtures and strengthens the organism.             The applicated quantity is much smaller as with Niruha basti, and the oil is kept within the colon up to nine hours.
            Both forms of enema are done alternately.
            Treatment consists of at least eight sessions, 16 up to 30 treatment sessions are normal.             Treatment consists of at least eight sessions, 16 up to 30 treatment sessions are normal.  

Nasya (Nasya)

Nasal treatment aims at cleansing the head region from excess Kapha dosha by application fluids or powder into the nose.This treatment is indicated in 1.       Chronic headache and migraine 2.       Shoulder-arm-syndrome 3.       Cervical vertebral syndrome 4.       Chronic inflammation of the sinusoids 5.       Allergic diseases of breath airways 6.       Hay fever 7.       Diseases of neck, ear and nose region 8.       Tinnitus 9.       Eye diseases 10.   Sleeping disorders 11.   Epilepsy 12.   Upper body Paralysis Nose treatment is begun with a massage of shoulder and head region. After that follows an inhalation with ethereal oils and after that the real nose treatment, which is applicated three to seven days. RaktamokshanaTherapeutical bloodletting is done in 1.       Skin diseases 2.       Gout 3.       Loss of appetite 4.       Diseases of liver and spleen 5.       Jaundice 6.       Hyperacidity of the organism 7.       Gastritis and heartburn 8.       Chronic lymph node enlargement 9.       Blood diseases 10.   Heart disease 11.   Pericardial effusion and pericarditis 12.   Pneumonia and pleural effusion 13.   Allergies 14.   Chronic headache 15.   Alcoholism 16.   Drug addiction 17.   Pitta disorders

This treatment consists in taking 100 up to 200 ml blood out of a brachial vein. In some cases, especially skin diseases, medicinal leeches are applicated.


Published in Ayurveda for Total Health – August 2005, Page No – 5 




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