Panchakarma: Decoding five-step bio-purification process to detoxify body

Panchakarma is done both for prevention and rejuvenation.   
Panchakarma: Decoding five-step bio-purification process to detoxify body

Among all the Ayurvedic terms, panchakarma is perhaps the most popular—and also the most misunderstood. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just application of oil, but a five-step bio-purification process to detoxify the body. While kriyakarmas like abhyangam, shirodhara, patrapotal swedam, shastikapinda swedam are shaman (pacifying) methods, panchakarma is a shodhana (purifying) technique.

It is done in three stages: poorvakarma (the preparatory phase), pradhana karma (the main procedure), and paschat karma (the post-procedure). The selection of the method depends on an individual’s dosha dushti (the vitiation of the three doshas), bala (the strength of the patient to withstand the process), and other factors. The preparatory phase may include snehapaana (the intake of specific unctuous material like ghee or medicated oil) and other swedana karma (sudation techniques).

The five panchakarma procedures are:
It is an emesis, in which an individual is made to vomit after being stimulated with certain medicines. It helps to treat kaphaja disorders such as skin diseases, gynaecological issues, hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, obesity and initial stages of liver diseases.

Virechanam: It is a purgation technique, in which a certain drug is prescribed as a purgative. The body is stimulated to remove toxins through the anal route, thus clearing the metabolic pathways to function better. It is generally done in pitta disorders such as blood-related issues, infective skin problems, liver diseases, psychological disturbances, and preconception care.

Kashaya Vasthi: In this, different drugs are mixed according to the clinical condition and administered using a vasthi yantra (the enema instrument). There are different kinds of vasthi, such as Madhutailika, Vaitarana and Ksheera.

Sneha Vasthi: A form of enema, in which medicated oils are used in the vasthi, it is always done in combination with kashaya vasthi. It helps to cure vatika disorders such as those pertaining to the musculoskeletal system, neurological conditions and endocrine issues.

Nasyam: A treatment where herbal oils, juices, or powder are instilled through the nasal route, it is generally done in urdwajatru vikaras (issues pertaining to the above-shoulder region).

Panchakarma is done both for prevention and rejuvenation. Anyone who has a disease or has a potential risk can benefit from the procedure. Those with a family history of allergies, skin issues or psychiatric 
problems can also derive advantages from it. It can be used to prevent and delay the onset of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, thyroid disorders and cardiac issues.

It can also potentially help to address issues related to the locomotor system, respiratory system, neuro-endocrine system and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. By undergoing panchakarma in the early stages of these conditions, individuals may experience improvements in their symptoms, avoid recurrence, and enhance their overall quality of life.

The author is a Professor at the Department of Panchakarma, Ashtamgam Ayurveda Medical College, Kerala 

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