It is the cornerstone to Ayurvedic management of Disease. It is the process which gets to the root cause of the problem which corrects the essential balance of “Tri-Dosha” in the body. This process is not only good for alleviating the disease but also useful tools in maintaining excellent health.
Ayurveda advises undergoing panchkarma at the seasonal changes to clean the body, improve the digestion and to improve the metabolic process.
This age-old science of purifying the body is an ancient branch of Ayurveda, The Treatment in Ayurveda consists of two main types.
One is Shaman Chikitsa, used to subdue the vitiated Doshas, due to which any ailments may be produced. It is administered by using various medicinal herbo-mineral preparations.
However, if the Doshas are vitiated beyond a particular level, they give rise to various endotoxins, which have a tendency to be accumulated in the minute channels. These are beyond the level of pacification and hence need to be eliminated or removed from the body. In such cases, the second type of treatment, which is Shodhan Chikitsa or cleansing therapy, is indicated. Since it consists of the five types of main therapies, it is known as the Panchakarma Chikitsa.
Panchakarma has been given a special place in all the ancient Ayurvedic texts. Aacharya Charak, the author of the most important ancient text on internal medicine, has described a wide use of Panchakarma therapy for almost all the major diseases. Two separate sections, Kalpa Sthanam, and Siddhi Sthanam in Charak Samhita describe the details of special decoctions and other preparations used for Panchakarma therapy.
Panchakarma includes three parts namely:-
01. Poorva Karma (Preparatory Methods) which includes:-
Before the actual operation of purification begins, there is a need to prepare the body in prescribed methods to encourage the body to let go of the toxins. The two procedures are 'snehan' and 'swedan'. Snehan is the oil massage. Oil is applied to the entire body with a particular type of massagewhich helps the toxins to move towards the gastro-intestinal tract. Oil massage also makes the superficial and deep tissues soft and supple. Snehan is given daily for three to seven days, as indicated. Swedan is sudation or sweating and is given every day immediately following the snehan. An herbal concoction may be added to the steam to further loosen the toxins from the individual. Swedan liquefies the toxins and increases the movement of toxins into the gastro-intestinal tract. After three to seven days of snehan and swedan, the doshas become well "ripened". A particular panchakarma method is then given according to the individual's constitution and disorder, prakruti and vikruti, respectively.
- Paachan (Digestion)
- Snehan (Internal and external oleation)
- Swedan (Fomentation)
02. Pradhan Karma (Main methods)which includes:-
- Vaman Karma (Induced vomiting)
- Virechan Karma (Induced purgation)
- Basti Karma (Medicated enema)
- Nasya Karma (Nasal medicine)
- Rakta Mokshan (Artificial bloodletting)
03. Pashchat Karma (Post-Therapeutic Measures)which includes:-
- Sansarjan Krama (Specific dietetics)
- DhumaPana (smoking of medicinal cigars)
Types of Panchkarma:-
01. Vaman karma (therapeutic vomiting or emesis):-
When there is congestion in the lungs causing repeated attacks of bronchitis, colds, cough or asthma, the Ayurvedic treatment is therapeutic vomiting, vaman, to eliminate the kapha causing the excess mucus. First, after the snehan and swedan, three to four glasses of licorice or salt water is administered, then vomiting is stimulated by rubbing the tongue which triggers the vomiting center through the gag reflex. One may alternatively take two to three glasses of salt water which will also aggravate kapha and then rub the tongue to induce vomiting. Once the mucus is released the patient will feel instantly relieved. It is likely that congestion, wheezing and breathlessness will disappear and that the sinuses will become clear. Therapeutic vomiting is also indicated in chronic asthma, diabetes, chronic cold, lymphatic congestion, chronic indigestion and edema.
madan-emetic nut, madhuka-yastimadhu-licorice, neem-bitter leaf, bimbi, kutaj-kurchi- conessi bark, murva-clematis, triloba-devdaru-deodar, Cedrus deodara, Salt, NaCl, ela-cardamom, nux vomica.
Indications for Vaman:-
used for all kapha type disorders good for pitta headache, dizziness, and nausea will help to release blocked emotions respiratory congestion bronchitis chronic cold sinus congestion kaphagenic asthma
Contra-Indications for Vaman:-
below the age of 12 or over age 65 menstruation pre-menstrual period (one week prior) pregnancy emaciation delicate or sensitive person with too much fear, grief or anxiety hypoglycemia vata prakruti vata diseases heart diseases during vata season acute fever diarrhea obesity
02. Virechan karma (purgation):-
When excess bile, pitta, is secreted and accumulated in the gall bladder, liver and small intestine, it tends to result in rashes, skin inflammation, acne, chronic attacks of fever, biliary vomiting, nausea and jaundice. Ayurvedic literature suggests in these conditions the administration of therapeutic purgation or a therapeutic laxative. Virechan is facilitated with senna leaves, flax seeds, psyllium husks or triphala in a combination that is appropriate for the individual person.
Senna, prune, bran, flaxseed husk, dandelion root, psyllium seed, cow's milk, salt, castor oil, raisins, mango juice, triphala.
Indications for Virechan:-
allergic rash skin inflammation acne, dermatitis, eczema chronic fever ascites biliary vomiting jaundice urinary disorder enlargement of the spleen internal worms burning sensation in the eyes inflammation of the eyes conjunctivitis gout
Contra-Indications for Virechan:-
low agni acute fever diarrhea severe constipation bleeding from rectum or lung cavities foreign body in the stomach after enema emaciation or weakness prolapsed rectum alcoholism dehydration childhood old age ulcerative colitis
03. Basti karma (enema)
Vata's predominant site is the colon. Ayurvedic basti involves the introduction into the rectum of herbal concoctions of sesame oil, and certain herbal preparations in a liquid medium. Basti, is the most effective treatment of vata disorders, although many enemas over a prescribed period of time are usually required. It relieves constipation, distention, chronic fever, cold, sexual disorders, kidney stones, heart pain, backache, sciatica and other pains in the joints. Many other vata disorders such as arthritis, rheumatism, gout, muscle spasms and headaches may also be treated with basti.
Vata is a very active principle in pathogenesis. If we can control vata through the use of basti, we have gone a long way in going to the root cause of the vast majority of diseases.
Vata is the main etiological factor in the manifestation of diseases. It is the motive force behind the elimination and retention of feces, urine, bile and other excreta.
There are eight main types of basti, according to traditional texts, each with their own indications and contra-indications as listed below.
(a) Anuvasana (oil enema)
It is used in pure vata disorders and when a person is having excess hunger or dryness related to vata imbalances.
(b) Niruha-Asthapana (decoction enema)
It is used, among other conditions, for evacuation of vata, nervous diseases, gastro-intestinal vata conditions, gout, certain fever conditions, unconsciousness, certain urinary conditions, appetite, pain, hyperacidity and heart diseases.
(c) Uttara Basti (through the urethra with men or vagina with women)
It is used for selected semen and ovulation disorders and for some problems involving painful urination or bladder infections. This is not to be used for someone with diabetes.
(d) Matra Basti (daily oil enema)
It is used by someone emaciated by overwork or too much exercise, too much heavy lifting, walking too long of a distance, too much sexual activity or someone with chronic vata disorders. It does not need to be accompanied by any strict dietary restriction or daily routine and can be administered, in the appropriate cases, in all seasons. It gives strength, promotes weight and helps elimination of waste products.
(e) Karma Basti (schedule of 30 bastis)
(f) Kala Basti (schedule of 15 bastis; 10 oil + 5 decoction)
(g)Yoga Basti (schedule of 8 bastis; 5 oil + 3 decoction)
(h) Bruhana Basti (nutritional enema)
It is used for providing deep nutrition in select conditions. Traditionally, highly nutritive substances have been used, such as warm milk, meat broth, bone marrow soup and herbs like shatavari or ashwagandha.
General Indications for Basti:-
constipation low back ache gout rheumatism sciatica arthritis nervous disorders vata headache emaciation muscular atrophy
General Contra-Indications for Basti (include but are not limited to the following:-
Enema therapy should not be used if the patient is suffering from diarrhea, bleeding of the rectum, chronic indigestion, breathlessness, diabetes, fever, emaciation, severe anemia, pulmonary tuberculosis, old age or for children below the age of seven years.
for oil enemas: diabetes, obesity, indigestion, low agni, enlarged liver or spleen, unconsciousness, tuberculosis and cough.
for decoction enemas: debility, hiccough, hemorrhoids, inflammation of anus, piles, diarrhea, pregnancy, ascites, diabetes and some conditions involving painful or difficult breathing.
for nutritional enemas: diabetes, obesity, lymphatic obstruction, ascites.
for urethra or vaginal enemas: diabetes
04. Nasya karma (elimination of toxins through the nose)
The nose is the doorway to the brain and it is also the doorway to consciousness. The nasal administration of medication is called nasya. An excess of bodily humors accumulated in the sinus, throat, nose or head areas is eliminated by means of the nearest possible opening, the nose.
Prana, life force as nerve energy, enters the body through the breath taken in through the nose. Prana is in the brain and maintains sensory and motor functions. Prana also governs mental activities, memory, concentration and intellectual activities. Deranged prana creates defective functioning of all these activities and produces headaches, convulsions, loss of memory and reduced sensory perception. Thus nasal administration, nasya is indicated for prana disorders, sinus congestion, migraine headaches, convulsions and certain eye and ear problems.
There are six main types of nasya, as listed below:-
1. Pradhamana (virechan) Nasya (cleansing nasya)
It uses dry powders (rather than oils) that are blown into the nose with a tube. Pradhamana nasya is mainly used for kapha types of diseases involving headaches, heaviness in the head, cold, nasal congestion, sticky eyes, hoarseness of voice due to sticky kapha, sinusitis, cervical lymph adenitis, tumors, worms, some skin diseases, epilepsy, drowsiness, Parkinsonism, inflammation of the nasal mucosa, attachment, greed and lust. Traditionally, powders such as brahmi are used.
2. Bruhana Nasya (nutrition nasya)
It uses ghee, oils, salt, shatavari ghee, ashwagandha ghee and medicated milk and is used mainly for vata disorders. It is said to benefit conditions resulting from vata imbalances such as vata-type headaches, migraine headache, dryness of voice, dry nose, nervousness, anxiety, fear, dizziness, emptiness, negativity, heaviness of eyelids, bursitis, stiffness in the neck, dry sinuses and loss of sense of smell.
3. Shaman Nasya (sedative nasya)
It is used according to which doshais aggravated but mainly for pitta-type disorders such as thinning of hair, conjunctivitis and ringing in the ears. Generally certain herbal medicated decoctions, teas and medicated oils are used.
4. Navana Nasya (decoction nasya)
It is used in vata-pitta or kapha-pitta disorders and is made from decoctions and oils together.
5. Marshya Nasya (ghee or oil nasya)
6. Prati Marshya (daily oil nasya)
This helps to open deep tissues and can be done every day and at any time to release stress.
Substances Used in Nasya:-
brahmi, ginger, ghee oils, decoctions, onion, garlic, Piper longum, black pepper, curry pepper, rose, jasmine, mogra flowers and henna.
Indications for Nasya:-
stress emotional imbalances stiffness in the neck & shoulders dryness of the nose sinus congestion hoarseness migraine headache convulsions.
Contra-Indications for Nasya:-
sinus infections pregnancy menstruation after sex, bathing, eating or drinking of alcohol should not be used below 7 years or over 80 years of age.
05. Rakta moksha (detoxification of the blood)
Toxins present in the gastro-intestinal tract are absorbed into the blood and circulated throughout the body. This condition is called toxemia, which is the basic cause of repeated infections, hypertension and certain other circulatory conditions. This includes repeated attacks of skin disorders such as urticaria, rashes, herpes, eczema, acne, leukoderma, chronic itching or hives. In such conditions, along with internal medication, elimination of the toxins and purification of the blood is necessary. Raktamoksha is also indicated for cases of enlarged liver, spleen and gout.
Extracting a small amount of blood from a vein relieves the tension created by the pittagenic toxins in the blood. Bloodletting also stimulates the spleen to produce antitoxic substances which helps to stimulate the immune system. Toxins are neutralized enabling radical cures in many blood born disorders.
Bloodletting is contraindicated in cases of anemia, edema, extreme weakness, diabetes and in children and elderly persons.
Indications for Raktamoksha:-
urticaria rash acne eczema scabies leukoderma chronic itching hives enlarged liver or spleen gout
Contra-Indications for Raktamoksha:-
anemia edema weakness young children old age during pregnancy during menstruation
The Panchakarma therapy of Ayurveda is comprised of five basic types of advanced treatment for the evacuation of vitiated Dosha (toxic materials) from the body. Imbalance of Dosha (toxic materials) and its accumulation in the body is said to be the basic pathology of the disease process in general.