What Is Panchakarma And What Are Its Benefits? November 19, 2015

Ayurveda in Sanskrit means ‘science of life’. Ayurveda emphasizes a healthy and enlightened lifestyle. It has gained wide acceptance across the world. According to Ayurveda, every human being is a unique creation born from pure consciousness. It descends into 5 great elements which are fire, water, ether, earth and air. These five elements form the Tridosa – Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

‘Pancha’ in sanskrit stands for five and ‘Karma’ for therapeutic measures. Therefore, ‘Panchakarma’ means 5 types of therapeutic measures. The therapy is composed of 5 types of advanced treatment for the evacuation of the vitiated ‘dosha’ from the body. There are many sub-types of this therapy as well. These treatments are extremely helpful for alleviating deep rooted diseases and for improving physical and mental health.

Panchakarma dates back to India’s golden era when these luxurious and rejuvenating treatments were reserved only for the royals. It is a series of therapeutic treatments that cleanse the body’s deep tissues and bring life-enhancing energy, thereby, increasing vitality, confidence and well-being.

Panchakarma is a 14-day preventive and curative therapy, which helps to detoxify the body and mind. The waste matter is called ‘ama’ in Ayurveda. Our body has the innate ability to efficiently process and remove the wastes from the body. However, faulty dietary habits, poor workout pattern and metabolic co-factors lead to the accumulation of toxins in the body. This weakens the immune system and opens the door for chronic and degenerative diseases.

‘Ama’ is a foul smelling and harmful substance that needs to be evacuated completely for proper functioning of the body. Panchakarma helps to remove the excess ‘doshas’ and eliminates the harmful ‘ama’ out of the system through body’s own channels of elimination. Panchakarma is practiced in the most pristine form with traditional Ayurveda herbal oils and medicinal herbs. It is performed by skilled Ayurveda masseurs and physicians. Thus, Panchakarma reinforces the immune system and leaves the body healthy and strong.

During the treatment, the person will be provided with information about Ayurveda and Panchakarma diet according to the constitution. Special treatments are also available for arthritis, back pain, neck pain, slip disc, anxiety and other degenerative diseases.

Benefits of Panchakarma Treatment:

The results of Panchakarma are very powerful and effective. Some of the benefits include:

  • The doshas – vata, pitta and kapha, will return to their original places and function normally. Mind calms down, and intellect and concentration becomes sharp.
  • It helps to attain a clear and glowing complexion.
  • It helps to reverse the negative effects of daily living.
  • It restores the natural state of health and wellness by bringing balance in the system and improving bodily function.
  • A person undergoing Panchakarma attains longevity, intellect and freedom from diseases.

Procedure of Panchakarma Cleanse:

Panchakarma treatment must begin with a consultation from a qualified ayurvedic doctor. The doctor should be able to determine the individual’s prakriti (constitution), the nature of the health problem and the appropriate degree of intensity for the prescribed therapies. Panchakarma should be administered under strict medical supervision.

Panchakarma is divided into 3 phases of detoxification:

1. Purvakarma/Preparation stage:

This procedure aims at separating the doshas and other body elements. It helps to bring back the dosha to the central site in the alimentary canal so that they can be eliminated from the body. Purvakarma consists of the following 2 steps:

a. Snehan (Oleation therapy):

Snehan therapy involves the lubrication of the body with oil and clarified butter. The person is asked to consume high amounts of clarified butter and oil. This helps the toxins to move towards the gastrointestinal tract. The patient is asked to practice some dieting restrictions like drinking only hot water throughout the session, no sleeping during the daytime and eating food only when hungry. This helps to eliminate impurities from the body. This is followed by the full body oil massage. Oil massage makes the tissue soft and supple nourishing the nervous system.

b. Swedan (Sweating):

Snehan is followed by the swedan therapy. Fomentation in the form of a steam bath to produce sweating is called swedan. An herbal concoction may be added to the steam to loosen the toxins from the individual. This liquefies the dosha so that they can easily trickle down the alimentary canal.

2. Pradhakarma Or Main Course:

This stage includes elimination of toxins from the body through vomiting, purgation, medicated enema and nasal administration. Pradhakarma stage consists of 5 cleansing procedures which include the following:

a. Vamana:

This therapy is best suited for people with ‘Kapha’ phlegm disorders. The objective of this therapy is to induce vomiting and get rid of the mucous causing excess kapha. The patient is given foods like rice, salt and yoghurt to further aggravate Kapha. The application of the steam to the chest and back helps to liquefy kapha. A concoction made of licorice, honey and madanaphalam is also given to the patient to induce vomiting. Vomiting will occur either spontaneously or is induced by rubbing the tongue. 4 to 8 vomits are the target. The patient feels very comfortable after the session is over. Therapeutic vomiting is useful for people suffering from nausea, loss of appetite, anemia, poisoning, fever, indigestion, epilepsy, chronic sinus problem and repeated attacks of tonsillitis.

b. Virechan (Purgation therapy):

Virechan is cleansing of the ‘pitta’ and purification of the blood toxins. It is useful for eliminating excess pitta (fire) from the intestines. It is performed 3 days after the Vamana treatment. The therapy can be performed directly after the Purvakarma. Different purgatives are used depending on the person’s constitution and severity of the disease. A number of effective herbs like cow’s milk, flax seed, husk, bran, castor oil etc. are used for this treatment. Virechan treatment is useful for treating skin diseases, chronic fever, piles, abdominal tumors, gout, jaundice, gastrointestinal problems and irritable bowel syndrome.

c. Basti (Enema Therapy)

Basti is the most effective treatment for ‘vata’ disorders. It involves introducing medicinal substance such as herbal oil and other herbal decoctions in the rectum. An irrigation procedure is carried out to cleanse the colon and restore its function with medicated enemas. This treatment helps to alleviate constipation, distention, chronic fever, kidney stones, arthritis, common cold, backache, heart pain and hyperacidity. Basti therapy is divided into 2 types:

  • Anuvasana Basti – involves the usage of medicates oil enemas.
  • Niruha Basti – involves the usage of medicated enema of decoction and medicated oils.

d. Nasya (Nasal Administration):

The nasal administration of medication is called Nasya. This process involves inhaling of medicated oil drops usually after the massage. The purpose of Nasyam is to purge and rejuvenate the tissues and organs of head and neck. Nasyam improves oxygenation which has direct influence on brain functioning. This treatment helps to treat cold, sinusitis, allergies, migraine and headache. It is also useful for treating kapha oriented problems of the ear, eyes, nose and catarrh.

e. Rakt Mokshana (Bloodletting):

Bloodletting therapy is used to eliminate toxins that are absorbed into the bloodstream through the gastrointestinal tract. This process is useful for treating skin conditions like rashes, eczema, acne, scabies, urticarial, chronic itching and hives. It is also effective for treating enlarged liver and spleen. Bloodletting should be performed by qualified physician only. Leaches can also be used for bloodletting. If the disease manifestation is local like eczema, then leaches are the best option. If administered properly, bloodletting stimulates the antitoxic substance in the blood stream, thus, developing the immune mechanism in the blood system. Do not opt for bloodletting in case of anemia, edema and, weakness and to very old people.

3. Elimination Stage:

a. Pashchatakarma:

Pashchatkarma is the last step in the process of ayurveda Panchakarma. It includes sansarjan and rasayanam therapies. In sansarjan karma, a particular diet is given to the patient to fortify his or her digestive system. This is basically a diet regimen to bring the patient back to the normal state. Rasayanam involves the methods to rejuvenate a person after pradhankarma has been achieved.

Panchakarma program includes a health checkup with the following test:

  1. Determination of body constitution
  2. Urine and stool test
  3. Lipid profile
  4. Blood electrolytes
  5. Liver function
  6. Serum creatinine
  7. ESR
  8. Hemoglobin concentration

Panchakarma includes the following activities:

1. Satsang:

It includes silent meditation, chanting and reading the philosophy of life, yoga and vedanta. This enables one to indulge in deep meditation.

2. Asana Class:

The ashram includes both beginner’s and intermediate’s asana classes for their patients. People who have no experience in yoga and asanas are recommended to join the beginner’s classes. They are taught basic pranayama, sun salutation and 12 basic postures in a systematic way.

3. Pranayama:

This includes the basic practice of deep breathing exercises such as kapalabhati and anuloma- viloma.

[ Read: Pranayama for Glowing Skin ]

4. Karma Yoga:

Karma yoga is the practice of selfless yoga which helps the Pranakarma guest to feel a part of the ashram. The guests are advised to do up to one hour of selfless service everyday within the ashram.

[ Read: What is Karma Yoga ]

5. Kirtan:

‘Kirtan’ is chanting that helps to purify the heart and mind. Correct pronunciation of sanskrit words and devotional attitude are very important while performing kirtan.

6. Meditation:

The guideline to meditation, benefits of meditation, the uses of mantras and mantra meditation is taught in the ashram.

Do’s And Dont’s During Panchakarma Cleanse:

  1. Usage of warm water is recommended for both washing and bathing.
  2. One should sleep only during the night, not in the afternoon.
  3. One should not suppress the natural urge to urinate and sneeze. Do not try to suppress thirst and hunger.
  4. Smoking and alcohol are strictly prohibited.
  5. One should always rest on the bed at the time of Panchakarma and obey all the rules formulated by the physician.
  6. It is advised to get plenty of rest during Panchakarma. You should also avoid staying up late at night, listening to loud music, watching television and doing other stimulating activities during Panchkarma. Keep your mind and senses clear and calm by staying away from computer, television and mobile phones.
  7. The patients are advised to bring their own clothes, sandals, toiletries, personal items, meditation, yoga mat, meditation cushion, pen, towel and a torch.
  8. The only exercise recommended during this period is yoga. Running jogging and biking are too strenuous to perform during this period.
  9. The patients are advised to keep themselves warm and protect themselves from wind and excessive sunlight.

Panchakarma Diet:

The patients are advised to drink large amounts of melted ghee followed by a non-fat ‘khichdi’ with steamed vegetables. On the last day of Oleation, a gentle laxative is given to remove accumulated toxins from the intestinal tract. It is recommended to follow the Panchakarma diet for a few days even after the completion of the treatment. It will take at least a week to return to your pre-Panchakarma diet. Continue to drink at least three cups of warm liquid every day, preferably warm water.

Safety Profile:

  1. Although Panchakarma is a delightful and comfortable therapy, you may experience some moments of discomfort due to excess release of toxins.
  2. Change in sleeping pattern is common during Panchakarma. Your sleep may seem lighter than usual due to increased awareness of yourself. If you wake up early, stay in the bed with the eyes closed, paying attention to your breathing pattern.
  3. Fatigue and tiredness are very normal during the initial days of Panchakarma. This feeling of tiredness is due to longstanding fatigue being eliminated from the system.
  4. You may also experience sudden mood swings and unexplained sadness, joy or anger. This is a natural part of the detoxifying process.
  5. Panchakarma is a very special Ayurveda treatment which must be administered by highly trained and skillful Ayurveda practitioners only. It must be performed under close observation and supervision.

Package and Price:

The cost of the package depends on the number of days you stay in the ashram. The approximate cost of the package is:

  1. For 7 days – Rs. 14,000
  2. For 14 days – Rs. 25,000
  3. For 21 days – Rs. 35,000
  4. For 28 days – Rs. 42,000
  5. For 45 days – Rs. 65,000

Have you ever undergone Panchakarma treatment? If yes, please share your experiences with us in the comments section below. Your views are always welcome to us. So, keep us posted about what you think about this treatment.