Panchakarma is Ayurveda’s main treatment for purification, detoxification and cleansing. The literal definition of Panchakarma is “five therapies” which refers to the treatment’s five basic procedures for eliminating toxins from the body. These procedures include Vamana, Virechana, Basti, Nasya and Raktamokshana (also referred to as Rakta Moksha). Purvakarma refers to pretreatment. The practice of Panchakarma can help to balance the three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha), eliminate deep-rooted stress, and remove illness-causing toxins from the body. Panchakarma can also help to heal disease and promote intelligence, alertness, improved digestion, prolonged youth and stability of the body.
Panchakarma may be administered to individuals between the ages of seven and eighty. However, it is necessary to seek the guidance of an Ayurvedic physician who will determine the appropriate treatment and procedure as not all individuals will need to undergo all five procedures. Furthermore, it’s often recommended that treatment be combined with a special detoxification diet for optimum effectiveness. The five treatments are basically comprised of anabolic (reduction ) and catabolic (building up) processes.
Purvakarma refers to Panchakarma pretreatment and is comprised of snehan (olation therapy) and swedan (fomentation therapy). Snehan can be done internally or externally. Internal snehan involves taking sidhdha ghrut (medicated clarified butter) or sidhdha taila (medicated edible oil) orally to lubricate the body system, reduce dryness, and aid in removing impurities. External snehan involves a prescribed body massage with the application of sidhdha ghrut or sidhdha taila to the skin. Swedan follows the completion of snehan and involves heat therapy. This can include sunbaths, sweat boxes, warm water baths, steam baths and the like and it can be applied to the whole body or simply to the diseased area of the body.
Vamana refers to medicated emesis, or therapeutic vomiting. This practice helps to remove Kapha toxins from the body and, in particular, the respiratory tract. Vamana is a particularly effective treatment for individuals with a high Kapha imbalance. With daily treatment, the toxins are loosened, mobilized and ultimately eliminated from the body. Vamana can be particularly beneficial for treating allergies, bronchial asthma, chronic indigestion, edema, hay fever, hyperacidity, nasal congestion, obesity, psoriasis, psychological disorders, skin disorders, and vitiligo
Virechana refers to medicated purgation therapy. This therapy removes Pitta toxins which have accumulated in the liver and gallbladder. The treatment also results in a complete cleansing of the gastro-intestinal tract. There are no side effects and the procedure is a safe one. Virechana can be particularly beneficial for treating asthma, chronic fever, constipation, diabetes, digestive disorders, elephantiasis, gynecological disorders, headaches, hemiplegia, hyperacidity, joint disorders, paraplegia, psoriasis, skin disorders, and vitiligo.
Basti, also referred to as vasti, involves the practice of medicated enema or colonic irrigation. This is thought of as the ultimate Panchakarma treatment because it can cleanse accumulated toxins from all three of the doshas while also serving as a rejuvenating treatment. Basti involves the use of an enema comprised of medicated oil or ghee and an herbal decoction. According to the particular individual’s medical condition, the treatment may be followed for eight to thirty days. The enema cleanses the colon and increases muscle tone. Basti is particularly beneficial for treating backache and sciatica, cervical spondylosis, colitis, constipation, convalescence, digestive disorders, hemiplegia, hepatomegaly and splenomegaly, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, paraplegia, piles, sexual debility and infertility.
Nasya refers to nasal administration or nose cleaning. For this practice, a medicated oil is administered through the nose in order to cleanse Kapha toxins which have accumulated in the head and neck regions. According to the individual’s medical condition, this treatment may be practiced for up to thirty days. Nasya is particularly beneficial in treating Bel’s Palsy, frozen shoulder, headaches, hemiplegia, hyperpigmentation in the face, insomnia, loss of smell and taste, migraines, nasal allergies, nasal polyp, neurological dysfunctions, paraplegia, premature graying of the hair, sinusitis, stiffness of the neck, and trigeminal neuralgia. Nasya can also help to improve memory and eyesight, eliminate excess mucus, and increase clarity of the voice.
Raktamokshana, also referred to as Rakta Moksha, is a treatment to cleanse the blood. This practice involves blood letting and is advised only in very rare conditions. It is generally not performed during general Panchakarma and, in fact, most Ayurveda Centers in the U.S. do not offer this treatment because of a high risk of infection.