Introducing to Panchakarma: Ayurvedic cleanse

In talking about an introduction to Panchakarma, Dr. Vasant Lad, one of my teachers and renowned Ayurvedic physician, reminds us, “Ayurveda is more than a mere healing system; it is a science and an art of appropriate living that helps to achieve longevity.”

The mind and body are intricately connected according to Ayurveda. What you do to one affects the other. Ayurveda teaches us that diseases don’t develop overnight, and there are six stages in disease formation. A persistent cough or consistent heartburn or nagging body pain or breakouts on your face etc. might point towards something bigger. There are signs and symptoms present, which many choose to ignore, pop a pill, and feel surprised when a full-blown disease is diagnosed. Basically, absence of diagnosed diseases doesn’t necessarily guarantee presence of good health.

Ayurvedic model of health

This quote pasted below from the Sushruta Samhita, one of the classical Ayurvedic texts, summarizes the Ayurvedic model of health.

“Samadosha, samagnischa samadhatumala kriyaha prasanna atmenindriya manaha swasthya ityabhidheeyate”

One who is established in self, who has balanced doshas, balanced agni, properly formed dhatus, proper elimination of malas, well-functioning bodily processes and whose mind, soul and senses are happy is called a healthy person.

Introduction to Panchakarma further explains the concept of healthy agni, detrimental ama, and what a healthy balance means.

Why Panchakarma?

Panchakarma plays a vital role in keeping the body healthy. Since the process focuses on the purification of the body at various levels in stages, it eliminates the toxins (ama) and increases digestive fire (Agni). It rejuvenates the mind-body, restores body’s natural healing abilities, improves sleep patterns as well as eating habits, lowers stress, helps in weight loss, brings doshas back into balance, and much more. Panchakarma eliminates accumulated impurities from the mind-body physiology. An introduction to Panchakarma will tell you about the root, history, and steps involved in this Ayurvedic detox process.

An Introduction to Panchakarma!

Pancha in Sanskrit means “five,” and karma means “action” and refers to five different purifying and rejuvenating procedures in Ayurveda. It is important to note that an Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner designs a panchakarma procedure specifically for an individual after a thorough physical examination and pulse diagnosis. There is no generic, cookie-cutter package for all. These treatments can take a minimum of 7 days and may last as long as 21 days.

What are the steps involved in Panchakarma?

Panchakarma cleansing procedure in Ayurveda has three main phases:

  1. Poorva Karma

    This includes steps that are meant to soften and help encourage the release of stored toxicity. Snehana—where oleation therapy (internal and external) and induced intense sweating (swedana) loosen excess doshas and toxins accumulated in the body.

  2. Pradhan Karma

    It is a specialized treatment and is administered to expel impurities and revitalize the system. The five proedures are: Vamana (therapeutic vomiting or emesis),Virechana (purgation), Nasya (nasal irrigation), Basti (herbalized enema), and Raktamokshana (bloodletting).

  3. Paschaat Karma

    It is also considered the rejuvenation phase—time to implement the tools that have been taught to help sustain the new and improved you.A rehabilitation plan with diet, rest and lifestyle modifications is prescribed to prevent recurrence of the disease. This post-treatment care sets Ayurveda apart from other fields of medicine.

Introduction to Panchakarma Therapy: The five procedures. 

Here are the five classical elements that make up panchakarma therapy as they were originally written in the old texts:

  1. Basti:

    Herbalized oil enemas: According to the nature of disease, home grown decoctions, oils, ghee, or milk are managed into the rectum and this can have incredible positive effects. This treatment is to a great degree powerful against vata-dominated conditions, such as arthritis, anxiety, and constipation.

  1. Nasya:

    Nasal irrigation: This treatment is extremely effective in clearing and purging the head area. At the beginning of the treatment, the head and shoulder areas are given a delicate massage. After that, nasal drops are poured with a dropped in both the nostrils. The client/patient inhales it. This achieves the cleaning of the whole head area and diminishes different sorts of cerebral pain, headache, hair issues, sleep disorder, neurological disorders, sinusitis, chronic rhinitis, and respiratory ailments. Nasya is the easiest panchakarma therapy to boost structural and functional parts of the supraclavicular region.

  1. Vamana:

    Therapeutic vomiting: In this treatment, a patient is given internal and external oleation and fomentation treatments for few days which includes therapies and some Ayurvedic medicines. Once the toxins get melted and accumulate in upper cavities of body, the patient is given emetic medicines and decoction. This enables vomiting and helps in disposing of the toxins from the body tissues. Vamana treatment is particularly suggested basically for kapha-dominated conditions, such as weight gain, asthma, and congestion. In the US, this therapy isn’t practiced.

  1. Virechana:

    Purgation: In virechana, purgation or disposal of toxins happens through the clearing of the bowels. In this treatment, the patient is given internal and external oleation. From that point onward, the patient is given a natural purgative to encourage clearing of the guts that aides in purifying the body of toxins. Virechana treatment is prescribed fundamentally for pitta-dominated conditions, such as herpes zoster, jaundice, colitis, celiac infection etc.

  1. Raktamokshana:

    Bloodletting: This treatment is useful for cleaning the blood and protecting it against viable against ailments .. caused because of impurities in the blood. It can be done in a particular area or for the whole body. This treatment is especially valuable in different skin infections, such as psoriasis, dermatitis, and furthermore in local lesions such as abscesses and pigmentation. In the US, raktamokshana is not the easiest to perform because the process includes patient donating blood or drinking solarized water or doing gem therapy or avoiding eating pitta aggravating foods.

How do you know if you have toxins?

Now that you read about the basic introduction to Panchakarma, how do you know if your body has toxins? The signs of ama accumulation can be obvious. If you notice you have any of the following symptoms, you might benefit from a panchakarma program:

  • Thick layer of coating on the tongue
  • Tired throughout the day, especially after meals
  • Unexplained body aches and pains
  • Uncontrollable cravings
  • Unclear mind
  • Mood swings
  • Bad smelling breath
  • Body odor
  • Gas or bloating
  • Frequent Constipation or diarrhea

Introduction to Panchakarma: A word of caution 

Hope the Introduction to Panchakarma has been helpful. But know that certain Panchakarma procedures are not suitable for an array of health problems and some procedures should not be performed on children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Please work with reliable Ayurvedic Panchakarma Centers and find the best Ayurvedic doctors and practitioners to restore your health.


Disclaimer: The content, Introduction to Panchakarma, is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained ayurvedic coach, contact me here.