In Ayurveda, therapeutic measures are classified as:

  • 1. Purificatory therapies
    (Shodana chikitsa)
  • 2. Curative medication
    (Samana chikitsa)
  • 3. Surgical intervention
    (Shastra karma)
  • 4. Rejuvenation treatment
    (Rasayana chikitsa)
  • 5. Aphrodisiac treatment
    (Vajikarana chikitsa)

Among them, the purificatory therapies are classified into 5 named as Panchakarma. The deep cleansing process, unique to Ayurveda, that enables the body to release excess doshas and toxins from its cells and expel them is called Panchakarma, which basically denotes detoxification or elimination of toxins from the body. Although the human body is considered as a great, intelligent, natural healing system capable of rejuvenating itself, the formation of toxins reduces that natural capacity. It is then that Panchakarma plays a crucial role in that correction.

PANCHAKARMA in Ayurveda involves 5 therapies that help in body detoxification by removing toxins that have accumulated in the body due to pollution, lifestyle habits, unhealthy diet and stressful mind. Panchakarma also helps in maintaining the equilibrium of three doshas, VATA, PITTA and KAPHA. The type of elimination is decided by the doctor after assessing the patient’ health and the intensity of illness.

तान्यु पस्थित दोषाणाांथनेह थवेदोपपादनै:I
पञ्चकर्ाास्ण कुवीत र् ात्रा कालौ स्वचारयन् II च . सू २ - १५

Panchakarma Types

Panchakarma program starts with Ayurveda massages mainly oleation and sudation therapies such as Abhyanga, Podikkizhi, Elakkizhi etc, Snehapana using medicated ghee and other internal herbal medicines. It may take 5 to 7days for preparing the patient for detoxification and the physician decides the type of Panchakarma to be administered based on the disease or the dosha imbalance in the patient. Panchakarma includes:

  • NASYAM (Nasal medication)
  • VAMANA (Therapeutic emesis)
  • VIRECHANA (Therapeutic purgation)
  • VASTHI (Medicated retention enema)
  • RAKTHAMOKSHAM (Bloodletting through venous and capillary route)

पञ्चधा शोदनं च तत्- ननरूहो वमनं काय नशरोरेकास्रनवस्रन I अ. हृ. सू १४ - ४

1. Nasyam

means nasal instillation of herbal oil, powders or extracts that helps in cleansing the channels in head and neck and thereby correcting the related diseases. Based on conditions, the drops instilled varies from 2 to 10 drops. It is administered in the morning hours after a gentle steam inhalation and face massage.
Benefits of Nasya includes:

  • Effective in correcting Sinusitis, Migraine, Headaches, Spondylitis, Nasal polyps etc
  • Removes excess Kapha dosha accumulated in head and neck regions
  • Rejuvenates the brain tissue and restores the cerebral circulation

ऊर्धववजत्रु नवकारेषु नवषेशान्नस्यनमष्यते।
नासा नह नशरसो द्वारं तेन तद् ् याप्य हनन्त तान् ||

2. Vamana

means Therapeutic Emesis. This controlled induction of vomiting is advised after a course of Snehapana or Ghee intake. The course would vary from a period of 5 to 8days. During the course no external massages are given and the patient is given strict diet that includes rice soup and rice gruel. The day before Vamana, patient is given high calorific food to stimulate the Kapha dosha.
Benefits of Nasya includes:

  • Effective in skin conditions such as psoriasis, urticaria, allergy and respiratory problems
  • Expels vitiated Kapha dosha from all over the body

कफेनवद्यात् वमनं संयोगेवा कफोल्बणे।

3. Virechana

means Therapeutic Purgation that corrects PITTA and VATA disorders in the body. This detoxification is performed after proper oleation and sudation therapies that takes a maximum of 7 to 10 days. The procedure is achieved by drinking herbal oil or tablet intake after which the patient is put on special diet throughout the day.
Benefits of Virechana includes:

  • Morbid Pitta dosha is evacuated
  • Pitta dominant regions of the body – small intestine, liver, spleen, heart, blood, skin etc. are purified.
  • Restoring functions and movements of Colon and genitourinary systems

कषाय मधरुैः नपत्तेनवरेकैः कटुकैः कफेनस्नग्धोष्ण लवण वावयौ ।

4. Vasti

means Medicated Enema using herbal oil and decoctions. They are used in correcting almost all VATA disorders and is considered as the KING of Panchakarma procedures. The patient is administered Vasti only after proper oleation and sudation therapies. The classification is mainly based on the route of administration, types of medicine used and number of administration.

Route of administration:
If done via Genito urinary tract, it is termed UTTARA VASTI and if done through Anal canal, it is termed ADHO VASTI

Types of medicine:
Vasti is classified as SNEHA VASTI if done using medicated Oil alone and KASHAYA VASTI if done using decoction mixed with salt, honey, ghee etc

Number of administration:
Vasti is classified as YOGA, KARMA and KALA if 8, 15 and 30 vastis are administered.

Benefits of Vasti includes:

  • Restores the functioning of Central Nervous System and Enteric nervous system
  • Treats infertility conditions and Genitourinary diseases
  • Alleviates Gastro intestinal problems including flatulence, indigestion and constipation

वातोल्बणषेु दोषेषु वातेवा वनस्तररष्यते।

5. Rakthmoksham

means bloodletting procedure mainly advocated in skin diseases, varicose vein and other conditions where vitiated blood causes redness and pain.

दष्टु रक्तापगमानात् सद्यो रागरुजां शमैः ।

Traditionally it was performed using leeches that were identified to suck impure blood, calabash gourd, cow’ horn and pot. In modern times, the practice has changed to using needles where blood is removed via venous and capillary routes.

Benefits of Rakthmoksham includes:

  • Purifies blood and pacifies skin diseases
  • Removes vitiated Vata, Pitta and Kapha dosha from the affected region
  • Mainly advocated in Pitta disorders
  • Restores the functioning of Liver and Spleen

प्रछानम् पिण्डिते वा स्यात् अवगाढे जलौकसः ।
त्वक्स्थे अलाबु घटी शृङ्गं शिरैव व्यापके असृजि ।
वातादिधाम वा शृङ्ग जलौक अलाबुभिः क्रमात् ॥

Panchakarma Stages

त्रिविदं कर्म - पूर्व कर्म प्रधान कर्म पश्चात कर्मेति II सु सू ५ -१

Poorva (pre) Karma

These important preparatory procedures have two parts

  • Oelation (snehana) Therapy
  • Fomentation (swedana) Therapy
Pradhan (main) Karma

Consists of the five essential purificatory therapies, namely.

  • Emesis Therapy
  • Purgation Therapy
  • Enema Therapy
  • Nasal Therapy
  • Bloodletting
Paschat (post) Karma

Crucial follow-up therapies that include diet, medication & lifestyle.

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