According to Ayurveda, health is not defined as being disease free. It is the state of normalcy of the three doshas – vata, pitta, and kapha, which broadly represent the nervous system, the metabolic system, and the nutritive system.
These doshas keep the human body, mind, and emotions in balance. A disease is manifested when the delicate balance between the doshas is disturbed. An Ayurvedic cleanse draws out the toxins from the body, also drawing out excess vata, pitta, and kapha from the tissues into the digestive tract in order to eliminate them. This in turn unblocks the channels and restores balance. This cleanse is known as Panchakarma, which literally means five actions or procedures. It is a method of cleansing the body of all unwanted waste after lubricating the body. This treatment is highly beneficial as it includes preventive and curative actions for various diseases.
Benefits of Panchakarma
- Cleared toxins from the entire system
- Balanced doshas
- Healed digestive system
- Enhanced immunity
- Decreased stress
- Improved skin lustre
- Weight-loss (if overweight)
- Deep relaxation
- Meditative outlook on life
- Enhanced mindfulness
Panchakarma Treatment Procedure
The complete process of Panchakarma involves the following three steps:
1. Poorva Karma
This is a preparatory procedure required before the main treatment, to soften the tissues so that the lipid-soluble toxins deposited into them are liquefied and flow back into the digestive tract. From here, they can be eliminated. This treatment prepares the patient mentally and physically for the main procedure of Panchakarma.
It involves three procedures:
- Pachan Karma – improves digestion with herbs and fasting so that the patient can digest the ghee (clarified butter) which is provided to liquefy the fat-soluble toxins.
- Snehan Karma – medicated ghee is given to the patient in increasing doses in order to aggravate and liquefy the fat-soluble toxins deposited in the deep tissues.
- Swedan Karma – a full body steam bath is given to the patient thereby opening up the body channels and allowing the heat to liquefy the toxins further. This facilitates their movement from the
tissues to the digestive tract.
2. Pradhan Karma
This is the Panchakarma, a five-step procedure which is highly individualized depending on the needs, age, digestive strength, immune system, and other factors. This intense Panchakarma procedure can only be done under the guidance of an Ayurvedic practitioner.
The five karmas to cleanse the complete body are:
- Vamanam (therapeutic emesis) – induced vomiting which helps clear the upper GI tract to the duodenum (end of the stomach) and a part of the respiratory tract.
- Virechanam (purgation) – induced purgation clears the GI tract from the duodenum to the exit.
- Anuvasana (enema using medicated oil) – the oil enema helps lubricate the rectal area and remove the lipid soluble waste out through the anus.
- Nasyam – nasal inhalation of medicated substances which help clear the respiratory tract and the para nasal sinuses.
This is a post-therapy dietary regime to restore the body’s digestive and absorptive capacity to its normal state. It includes rejuvenating treatments, lifestyle management, diet management, and intake of herbal supplements.
It includes the following procedures:
- Sansarjan Karma – food therapy after detoxification, which aims at gradually increasing the patient’s diet from liquids to semi-solids to a normal diet.
- Rasayan Adi Prayogam – a rejuvenating rasayan therapy which aids in increasing natural immunity and enhancing your general well-being.
- Shaman Chikitsa – a pacification therapy with herbs and lifestyle management.
It is important to note that a panchakarma procedure is designed specifically for an individual after a thorough physical examination and pulse diagnosis.
Hence, there is no universal package for everybody. These treatments can take a minimum of 7 days and may last as long as 21 days.
Who Needs Panchakarma?
Practically everyone can benefit from a panchakarma procedure because the body is constantly creating toxins. That is why it is important to cleanse and detox the body regularly. These are the signs to know if you need a detox:
- A thick layer of coating on the tongue
- Feeling tired throughout the day, especially after meals
- Body aches and pains
- Uncontrollable cravings
- Foggy mind
- Bad breath, body odor, or flatulence
- Constipation or diarrhea
The purpose of Panchakarma is sodhana (purification). If a disease is treated with the sodhana approach, it does not recur. Thus, the panchakarma sodhana is the ultimate way to heal and re-balance the body.
Certain Panchakarma procedures are not suitable for certain health problems and some procedures should not be performed on children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
Panchakarma treatments should only be performed by qualified and experienced Ayurvedic practitioners.
Side Effects of Panchakarma
Common side effects of Panchakarma include fatigue, malaise, headaches, congestion, and general illness. An initial increase in the symptoms may also occur as a side effect.
It is also important to note that as Panchakarma seeks to release stored emotional problems, some patients can experience mental disturbances and depression during the course of treatment.