“Panchakarma” consists of sequence of different therapeutic treatments, which are used for clearing toxins and subtle energies present inside the body. “Panchakarma” is capable of preventing as well as curing diseases and success rates are higher in case of chronic diseases in which allopathy is not very effective. It can also provide yoga practitioners with path to inner peace and enhance spiritual practices they perform.
“Panchakarma” is known to be the basic building block for ayurveda treatments and tries to solve the root cause of problems in the body. “Panchakarma” keeps your body in healthy condition by cleaning it from the inside as well as assists in curing the ailments. It also checks tridosha and attempts to revert the changes in three dosha or tridosha, which are pitta, vata and kapha.
Meaning of Panchakarma
‘Panchakarma’, is a Sanskrit word, which comprises of ‘Pancha’ – meaning Five and ‘Karma’ – meaning actions or therapeutic measures. Thus it literally means five therapies. It is based on the concept that toxins or ‘doshas’ that accumulate in the body are responsible for causing a diseased state. It therefore suggests that the body should be cleansed and the toxins need to be removed thoroughly from the body. With this aim, there are various procedures included in the five therapies of Panchakarma for cleansing of the body. Based on the individual requirement these procedures are prescribed by a qualified Panchakarma practitioner. They include massages, baths, application of various medicinal substances etc.
Cleansing the body of toxic materials
“Panchakarma” is not just for the sick, even people with good health need to adapt “Panchakarma” treatments in their lives. The reason for this is that we are now living in a world full of toxic pollutants. Synthetic chemicals are being used in agriculture and pass on to our bodies causing several diseases. Many of these toxic pollutants have fat-soluble properties and these get lodged inside lipid layers in cells. In recent study, it was found that “Panchakarma” was able to reduce amount of pesticide compounds present in bodies of participants who took part in the study.
Proper Level of Tridosha
Level of tridosha is important for good health and “Panchakarma” aids in retaining correct level in the body. In ancient literature by Acharya Charak, there is mention of “Panchakarma” as a cure for various ailments. It is said that when tridosha is not in proper balance it affects the body and results in various diseases.
One example would be of lungs congestion, which can lead to several diseases in the respiratory system such as bronchitis or cough. If we are able to maintain proper Kapha level in our bodies then most of the illnesses can be reduced. One solution which is also part of “Panchakarma” is vaman in which vomiting is used for controlling Kapha.
Excess pitta secretion also indicates problems present in the body. This extra bile or pitta causes different ailments ranging from acne, rashes to skin inflammation. In case liver gets affected then other severe problems may have to be faced such as chronic fever, jaundice and nausea. As a solution it is suggested by ayurvedic experts that patients intake virechan. Virechan consists of several things such as triphala, senna leaves, flax seeds and works as a cure for such patients.
The third in the tridosha called as vaata also creates problems in the body if its level is not proper. This can lead to problems like constipation, joint pain, rheumatism and headache. Basti is one treatment that is quite effective for these problems and restores balance of vaata in the body.
“Panchakarma” also talks about Nasya method for treatment of various diseases related to nose. It is believed that life force which is also known as Prana enters body from nose and any problems in the nose can lead to varied ailments like loss of sensory perception, epilepsy and convulsions. There are some Nasya karma procedures, which aid in rectifying these problems.
“Panchakarma” is also beneficial in several skin problems as well as infections. There are various types of toxins present in any person’s gastro intestinal tract and imbalances can lead to disorders of skin such as eczema, herpes and leukoderma. Raktamoksha is the solution provided by “Panchakarma” which can help eliminate toxins and purify blood.
How ‘Panchakarma’ works
“Panchakarma” focuses on root causes for any disease and attempts to clear the body of various toxins (ama) and balance kapha, pitta and vaata. Ideal time for doing “Panchakarma” is at the time of change in seasons so that impurities that spawned in earlier season can be cleared out and you move into next season.
Three phases of ‘Panchakarma’ process
There are three phases in “Panchakarma” process, which we will briefly look into in this section.
- Preparatory Phase: Internal oleation is part of this phase in which your diet will be monitored and different food items included in your meal which help to burn ama, detoxify your body and are easily digestible.
- External Oleation: In this phase you will receive ayurvedic massage and steam bath for a period of 3 to 7 days, both aimed to loosen impurities present in the body and allows ama as well as doshas to shift towards gastrointestinal tract.
- Karmas: At this stage the main procedures of “Panchakarma” are performed and out of the five procedures, three are commonly performed in USA. These consist of Nasya, Virechana and Basti with each having its own individual benefits.
In order to prepare the body for the main Panchakarma therapies, pre purification measures are carried out in a prescribed manner. These measures are namely,
‘Snehana’ or Oleation
In this, herbal oils are applied to the whole body and massage is done with the aim of removing toxins via digestive tract. This massage also helps in de-stressing and relaxing the body tissues. Herbal oils are also given internally.
‘Swedana’ or Steam bath
This is a type of steam bath in which medicated herbal oils are added. By using therapeutic heat, toxins are allowed to flow out of the body through the digestive tract. This is generally performed after ‘Snehana’ or oil massage.
Main Panchakarma therapies
The purification measures that form the main part of Panchakarma treatment or five therapies are:
‘Vamana’ or Emesis
The toxins that are accumulated due to cough, asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory tract infections are eliminated by this therapy. This procedure involved therapeutic vomiting in order to remove excess mucus from the respiratory tract.
‘Virechana’ or Purgation
This therapy aims at removing toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. Excess bile, when gets accumulated can cause nausea, vomiting, fever, skin infections and other digestive troubles. In this procedure, therapeutic laxatives are administered in order to eliminate the toxins from the digestive tract.
‘Nasya’ or Nasal
This is gentle cleansing of the upper respiratory tract and eliminating toxins from the nose, sinuses, throat and head region. In this therapy, herbal oils or medicine drops are administered through the nose as prescribed.
‘Basti’ or enema
This is considered as the most effective therapy for removal of toxins from the digestive tract, particularly rectum. In this procedure herbal oils are administered into the rectum, with the aim of removing toxins present in the colon. It is helpful in many ailments like indigestion, constipation, kidney troubles, joint pain, backache, headaches and other similar chronic disorders.
Raktamokshana or blood cleansing
This is a complicated procedure and is only rarely used due to the risk of infections in blood cleansing.
This is a special detoxifying diet based on Ayurvedic principles, which is prescribed by specialists along with Panchakarma therapies. All individuals undergoing Panchakarma treatment also need to follow this special diet plan, which is designed based on their individual needs and concerns.
Other miscellaneous therapies
Apart from the main purification measures, Panchakarma also includes certain miscellaneous therapies that are prescribed by the specialists, depending on the specific needs of individuals. They are:
This is a process in which herbal oils are allowed to flow on the forehead and scalp from a vessel hanging above. This helps in relieving stress and induces sleep. This is recommended in insomnia, hypertension, anxiety and depression.
In this therapy herbal oils are poured into a long cap placed on the head. This is used to treat hair loss, facial paralysis and other disorders of skull.
This is a process of application of herbal oils all over the body and massaging in a prescribed manner. This is useful in treating nervous disorders, paralysis, rheumatic troubles and as a rejuvenation therapy.
There are many other therapies like kadivasthi, udvarthanam, uttar basti, tarpanam. They use herbal oils, medicated packs and other medicinal substances, etc on specific body areas depending on the ailments. These therapies are useful in the treatment of backaches, slip disc, joint pains, knee arthritis, neurological and genitourinary complaints and infertility in female. They are also used for ailments of eyes and for a healthy, glowing skin.