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PANCHKARMA

Panchkarma is a part of the purification therapies of Ayurveda. ‘Panch’ means five and ‘Karma’ means actions so literally translated, it is a set of five systematic actions used for purification of the body. It is used to bring the aggravated doshas into balance and to flush out the accumulated ‘ama’ toxins from the body using the normal modes of elimination like the intestines, sweat glands and the urinary tract.

Elimination is a natural body instinct but over a period of time, and in cases of dosha imbalance these wastes are not effectively eliminated from the body. These wastes tend to stick into the minute channels of the body known as the ‘srotas’ and start producing disease. Panchkarma is considered to be the most radical way to cleanse the body and thereby eliminate, once and for all the disease causing doshas and the toxins.

Since most of the treatments used in Panchkarma are used to treat deep rooted diseases, a set of preliminary detoxification and ‘ama’(toxin) reducing methods should be followed for a period of a week or more. These are known as the ‘PurvaKarma’.

PurvaKarma: this consists of the following steps

1.Snehan(oleation therapy) : these are of two types, internal snehan-medicated oils and ghee(clarified butter) are used. These help in pushing the impurities so that their elimination becomes easy.

External snehan- This comprises of different kinds of massage. Medicated oils like sesame oil are used.

2.Swedan(sweating) : sweating is done shortly after the massage. This is done in a sweat box or with the steam of diaphoretic herbs like camphor or eucalyptus.

Panchkarma: The five steps are as follows:

1.Vamana – use of emetics – artificial vomiting is induced using herbs like, strong teas of locorice, salt, calamus. It is usually indicated for people and disorders of ‘Kapha’(phlegm).

2.Virechan – use of laxatives – A strong purgative like senna or rhubarb is given. It is normally used to eliminate high Pitta(fire) from its site in the small intestines.

3.Basti – use of medicated enemas – cleaning enemas are used primarily to dispel high Vata(air) from the colon.

4.Nasya – Nasal administration – medicinal oils or herbal mixtures are inhaled or used as drops(mixed with oils or ghee) to clear the congestion in the sinuses. It is also good for balancing the ‘prana vata’.

5.Rakta Mokshana – blood letting – this is not much in use these a days except in oriental systems of medicine.

PaschatKarma:

The use of Panchkarma therapies puts a lot of strain on the body and the digestive fire becomes weak. Paschatkarma is the set of therapies used to regain the vigour and vitality of the body. These include:

1.Samsarjan karma:a special diet and life style is prescribed for about two weeks. In this therapy the digestive power and strength of the person is restored by starting a light diet and gradually moving towards a heavy diet.

2.Shamana: In this treatment is given for the main condition for which the panchkarma was undertaken.

3.Rasayan: It is a special form of tonification therapy. This is best done after the panchkarma. Special herbs are used to tone up the various systems of the body.

Ayurveda recommends that everyone needs the Panchkarma. ideally it should be done three times a year, at the turn of spring, fall and winter. Today’s hectic life may not permit us such a luxury but on e should try getting one week of these therapies once a year to keep in good health year after year.

One word of caution though, these are very specific and technical therapies and these should only and only be done under the supervision and direction of a well qualified Ayurvedic practitioner.




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