Panchakarma - The Detoxification methods in Ayurveda

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Panchakarma - The Detoxification methods in Ayurveda

By- Dr.Savitha .C.G

The detoxification methods in ayurveda are known as 'SHODHANA'. This process comprises of five stages. They are

  • Snehana. ( Internal and external administration of medicated fats)
  • Swedana ( Perspiration)
  • Vamana (Emesis)
  • Virechana (Purgation)
  • Basthi. ( Administration of liquid preparation with the help of a bladder)

SNEHANA: - The process which imparts softness and removes dryness of the body is called Snehana. This is the first stage of detoxification. Medicated oils, ghee, animal fats and bone marrow were recommended for Snehana by ancient sages. Snehana is of two types.

1. BAHYA SNEHANA (External application of oil)

2. ABHYANTARA SNEHANA (Internal administration).

Importance of Snehana: - VAGHBATA has stressed about the importance of Snehana as 'When we try to bend a dry stick, instead of bending it breaks. But when the same dry stick is seasoned with oil it bends smoothly'. Human body also responds like this. Due to Snehana the vitiated Doshas, get loosened and blocked Srotas (channels) become soft and slippery.

Persons not eligible for snehana: - Persons who are very obese, pregnant, very weak, alcoholics or workaholics, are not eligible. Also patients who are suffering from indigestion, ascites, diarrhea and fever are not recommended for snehana.

SWEDANA:- The process which makes us to sweat is called 'Swedana'. This is the second stage of Panchakarma. There are two major types of swedana.

1. Saagnisweda (Swedana conducted with the help of Agni or fire).This includes

  • Sankara sweda( Medicinal herbs are tied in a cloth and heated in a liquid medium. This is placed on body )
  • Prasthaara sweda ( Boiled or heated medicines are spread on a long rectangular stone slab and covered with cloth or big leaves. Patient is made to sleep on this .)
  • Naadi sweda (Helping the process of sweating by directing the vapors of herbal concoction towards a definite affected part)
  • Baashpa sweda ( Steam bath )
  • Parisheka sweda ( Thin stream of medicated liquid is allowed to fall on patient)
  • Avagaha sweda (Sleeping in bath tub filled with medicated liquid).
  • Kuti sweda (Making the patient to sleep in a room where the walls are covered with medicinal pastes which are to be vaporized by heat from burning coals.)

2. Anaagni sweda (Swedana conducted without the help of fire).This includes

  • Vyaayaama (Physical Exercise)
  • Ushna sadana( A house in a very hot place)
  • Guru praavarana (Covering body with blankets)
  • Kshudha (Hunger)
  • Bahupaana (Consuming alcohol in excess )
  • Bhaya (Fear)
  • Krodha (Anger)
  • Upanaha (Applying thick medicinal packs )
  • Aahatah (Wrestling)
  • Aatapa (Exposure to early morning sun rays)

Importance of swedana: - The process of sweating removes Srotovarodha (obstructions in channels). Now the soft and loosened (by Snehana) vitiated Doshas move towards Koshta (stomach) through opened slippery channels.

VAMANA: - After snehana and swedana the vitiated doshas move towards Koshta (Stomach). The process of expelling of these Doshas by induced emesis is called 'Vamana'. Detoxification through vamana is preferred in diseases of head and chest and in diseases which have 'Kapha' as predominant dosha.

Persons not eligible for vamana:- Persons who are very obese, very weak, pregnant, children, aged, students, and workaholics are not eligible .

VIRECHANA:- The process of expelling vitiated Doshas which have accumulated in Koshta after Snehana and Swedana ,by induced purgation is called 'Virechana'. This method is adopted in diseases in which Pitta is predominant Dosha.

Persons not eligible for virechana:-Virechana is contraindicated in pregnancy, diseases of rectum, diarrhea, alcoholics, and cardiac ailments.

BASTHI:-'Basthi' means urinary bladder. The process of administering medicines with the help of urinary bladder of animals is called basthi. The urinary bladder removed from dead animal is cleaned and processed. A long metallic hollow tube like structure is tied to

one end and other openings of bladder are sealed. Liquid medicines are filled in this processed bladder and administered. Basthi is usually correlated with enema. Medicines are administered with the help of basthi through

  • Anus(Pakvasayagatha),
  • Vagina (Garbhasayagatha),
  • Urethra (Mootraashyagata) and
  • In wounds (Vranagatha).

Depending on the base of the medicines used - Basthi is divided into

  • Niruha (Water based preparations of herbs are used )
  • Anuvaasana(Oil based preparation are used )

Basthi is a very effective and preferred process for expelling vitiated Doshas.

This is adopted in diseases which are Vaata predominant.

Importance of Panchakarma: - The channels (srotas) become devoid of obstructions (obstructions by vitiated doshas) after shodhana. The medicines administered after shodhana assimilates and reaches every part of the body through these clear channels. Hence the efficiency of medicines increases.

Benefits of Detoxification:- Disease subsides, vitality increases, sense organs get rejuvenated, memory power increases, energy level increases.

Increases quantity of semen and sperm count and helps to lead disease free long life.

Pancha karma therapy can be adopted in healthy man also to rejuvenate him.

Pancha karma in daily routine:- Massaging oil to body, bathing daily, rubbing body with herbal bath powder, applying oil to scalp - are parts of pancha karma in daily life. Practicing these habits daily keeps you healthy and maintains your vigour.

Dr.Savitha .C.G, BAMS from G.C.I.M Mysore , is practicing Indian System of Medicines since last 12 yrs .She has contributed health related articles in various news papers and magazines. She is a regular 'Health Columnist' to a regional news paper.
For any doubts you can contact her at -

You can read more about 'Panchakarma' by CLICKING HERE !
   Read More about two other important procedures in Panchakarma - Massage & Shirodhara here.


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