Ayurveda is the traditional Hindu system of medicine, which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing. It’s an ancient Hindu science of health and medicine, based on maintaining balance among the five elements earth, air, fire, water, and ether. The word Ayurveda comes from the Sanskrit terms ayur (life) and veda (knowledge) means the knowledge of life.
Ayurveda emphasizes preventative and healing therapies along with various methods of purification and rejuvenation. Ayurveda is more than a mere healing system; it is a science and an art of appropriate living that helps to achieve longevity. It can guide every individual in the proper choice of diet, living habits and exercise to restore balance in the body, mind and consciousness, thus preventing disease from gaining a foothold in the system.
Pancha Karma is the cornerstone to Ayurvedic management of disease. Whereas diet, lifestyle and herbal supplements play key roles in creating and maintaining health; Pancha Karma is the process which gets to the root cause of the problem and corrects the essential balance of mind, body, and emotions.
It is the purification therapy used in Ayurvedic medicine. The word panchakarma means five actions and refers to five procedures intended to intensively cleanse and restore balance to the body, mind, and emotions. Panchakarma is used by Ayurvedic physicians as a treatment of a wide variety of health conditions and as a preventative measure
It is not only good for alleviating disease but is also a useful tool in maintaining excellent health. Ayurveda advises undergoing Pancha Karma at the seasonal changes to both keep the metabolism strong and keep toxins from accumulating in the Mind/Body. Using Pancha Karma prior to any rejuvenation treatment (herbal tonics and foods) greatly enhances the beneficial effects; for it cleanses the body, improves the digestion and improves the metabolic processes of the Mind/Body.
According to Ayurveda, the technique of Panchakarma eliminates toxic elements from the body. Panchakarma includes Vamana, Virechana, Basti, Nasya and Raktamokshana. It is preceded by Poorvakarma as a preparatory step, and is followed by Paschatkarma and Peyadikarma.
Panchakarma (“Pancha” means five and “karma” means treatment) is done to detoxify the body according to Ayurveda. The five procedures are claimed to eliminate the vitiated Doshas from the body.
According to Ayurveda, every human being is a unique phenomenon of cosmic consciousness. The three Dosha (humors) determines every individual’s psychosomatic temperament or constitution. Vata (ether plus air), Pitta (fire plus water) and Kapha (water plus earth) are called the Tridosha, meaning the three Dosha. The internal environment is governed by Vata -Pitta -Kapha (V-P-K), which is constantly reacting to the external environment.
Purvakarma: Pre-purification Measures
Before the actual operation of purification begins, there is a need to prepare the body with prescribed methods to encourage it to let go of the toxins.
Panchakarma begins with oleation – applying and ingesting pure essential oils in order to loosen and mobilize accumulated toxins or ama. This step includes abhyanga , a deep, soothing daily ayurvedic massage treatment using herbalized oils.
A vital aspect of this step is Swedana, a Sankskrit word meaning “that which produces heat in the system.” This process helps open the body’s circulation channels (srotas) and allows toxins to flow more easily from the tissues to the GI tract for elimination. Swedana also relaxes the body, releasing tension and allowing impurities to be eliminated through the sweat glands.
Panchakarma: Elimination and Release :-
Once the body’s toxins have been mobilized, gentle therapies are used to release them from the body. The treatment includes a day of purgation and rest.
Five Major Therapies :-
- Vamana: therapeutic vomiting or emesis
- Virechan: purgation
- Basti: enema
- Nasya: elimination of toxins through the nose
- Rakta Moksha: detoxification of the blood
Vamana Emesis Therapy :-
Carefully controlled vomiting. It is traditionally used to clear impurities in the stomach and excess in Kapha doshas, such as asthma, bronchitis, sinus congestion. The stomach is a major site for Kapha in the physiology and cleansing of this area as it reduces ama (toxins).
Virechana Purgation Therapy:-
Which means purgation. Using laxatives to clear out impurities from the small intestine, a major site for Pitta and, therefore, an effective treatment for removing ama that is associated with Pitta accumulation.
It is not recommended that laxatives are taken on a regular basis as they can create laziness in elimination.
Basti Enema Therapy :-
The administration of herbalised enemas to cleanse and establish the correct function of the large intestines is ideal for excess of Vata associated ama.
Basti is different from enemas and purgation in that it does not deplete the system of digestive juices and can be used to nourish the system as well as purifying it.
Basti preserves the body’s vitality and prevents an imbalance (a Vata aggravation). Due to emptiness in the organs care should be taken when eating – small meals of solid food before a basti and light meals of hot substances such as Mung Dal soup after the procedure. Again basti given to someone without proper preparation can aggravate the doshas and fail to eliminate ama from the patient, and sometimes cause pain and weakness.
Nasya Nasal Administration :-
Application of herbalised substances through the nasal passages. This helps to clear impurities from the head. To begin with vigorous head/neck massage, and then herbalised oil gently introduced to each nostril. This helps chronic sinus congestion and rhinitis. Conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and headaches can also be relieved by he appropriate application of a Nasya.
Traditional Ayurvedic Method for Purification and Cleansing of the Blood.
The blood cleaning therapy. Historically this has involved the removal of small quantities of blood. Now the principles of this purification procedure are used in natural herbal formulas.
According to Ayurveda, blood letting can be done to all parts of the body according to our needs. However, Rakta is rarely used now in the West.
The final step of panchakarma is rasayana, a term that means “that which is nourishing.” Once the toxins have been released, this is a critical time to begin replenishing the body with natural foods and herbs, revitalizing massage treatments, and healing practices such as meditation and yoga. It also includes a sequence of daily bastis– a therapeutic process in which medicated oils and herbal preparations are used to flush toxins from the intestinal tract. Bastis are often referred to as enemas but actually offer many more healing benefits than a simple colon cleanse. During a basti, the herbalized oils enter the deeper tissues and eliminate fat-soluble toxins that can’t be dislodged with standard enemas.
This stage of panchakarma may include nasya, an ayurvedic treatment that gently cleanses the upper respiratory tract and sinuses. This soothing process uses pure herbalized oils to improve the flow of life energy and help you breathe freely and easily.
Panchakarma is a very special Ayurvedic operation requiring proper guidance from a highly trained and skillful Ayurvedic practitioner.
References -“An Introduction to Panchakarma”, by Dr. Vasant Lad, The Ayurvedic Institute,New Mexico The Panchakarma Process, by Eliza Kerr, Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist, California (CA).