What is Panchakarma?
Panchakarma is a set of five procedures which involves the bio- purification of body, mind and spirit. It is also known as ‘Shodhana Chikitsa’ which literally means ‘cleansing treatment’. Panchakarma has a special place among the various Ayurvedic healing methods. Āyurveda is probably the only medical science which has established the concept of Shodhana/cleansing in such a scientific manner.
We are dealing with stress in our day-to-day lives. Additionally, exposure to pollutants combined with poor lifestyle choices and incorrect dietary habits has an adverse effect on our bodies in the form of toxic accumulation in the deeper tissues. Hence, it is imperative that we rightly opt for detox procedures in order to stay healthy. Moreover, the data presented in medical cases report that an increasing number of people are falling sick for silly reasons. Immunity levels are dropping and we are losing our mental and emotional balance for the smallest of reasons. In this scenario, Panchakarma becomes the best rejuvenating alternative to restore the life and longevity of our tissues and as a result, restores our health.
What are the benefits of Panchakarma?
To support the ongoing benefits of the rejuvenation programme, Panchakarma strongly advocates and suggests a lifestyle regime to suit the constitution of the patient, the knowledge of which is established with a Nadi Pariksha performed by an Ayurvedic physician (Vaidya), specially trained in a Gurukulam system of learning to perform Nadi Pariksha. Furthermore, specific diets are prescribed to the patient.
Following the diet religiously leads to proper assimilation of nutrients in the body.
Other benefits of Panchakarma:
1.Elimination of toxins at the cellular level.
2.Restoration of cellular intelligence and metabolism of the 7 most important tissues.
3.Restoration of constitutional balance.
4.Restoring optimum metabolic activity according to the patient’s Prakruti.
5.Complete relaxation of the mind and body.
7.Weight loss as a consequence of the elimination of toxins.
8.Slowing down of the ageing process.
9.Reduction of dependence on other drugs and medicines.
10.Enhancement of one’s self-reliance, strength, energy, vitality and mental clarity.
The five procedures of Panchakarma are Vamana, Virechana, Sneh Basti, Niruha Basti and Nasyam. Furthermore, groups of other complementing therapies can be clubbed together or added with Panchakarma in order to increase the efficiency of the treatment and enhance the healing effect of the patient. We have also successfully adopted a few classical and powerful therapies practiced in Kerala which have shown very good results in patients. These therapies complement the classical Panchakarma route of therapeutic interventions in the most effective way.
This literally means the oleation. This procedure is done by two different methods – Abhyantar Snehan (oral intake of medicated oil/ghee) and Bahya Snehan (therapeutic massage with medicated oil/ghee). The benefits and indications of these therapies are totally different from each other.
Abhyantar Snehan or Snehapana: (hair fall, constipation)
Abhyantar Snehan is done as a therapeutic treatment as well as preparatory procedure for some Panchakarma therapies. The dose and the type of medicated oil/ghee is strictly decided by a vaidya trained specifically to handle Panchakarma procedures and needs close medical observation. As this is internal consumption, on a case basis, the dose is increased slowly and gradually in the span of 8 to 14 days. Whereas in some cases, it requires only the same dose to be consumed for certain number of days as required to influence healing.
Benefits of Abhyantar Snehan or Snehapana:
1. Regeneration of body tissues
2. Moistens the entire body’s deeper tissues
3. Improves the efficiency of all sense organs
4. Lubricates the joints, increases the mobility of the body.
Indications of Abhyantar Snehan or Snehapana:
1. Degenerative disorders
2. Chronic arthritis
3. Skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, etc.
4. Neuro-muscular disorders
5. Hair fall
7. Chronic fatigue syndrome
Bahya Snehan or Therapeutic massage: (rejuvenates, poor immunity)
Bahya Snehan is the most popular treatment of Āyurveda and also becomes the base for many Panchkarma therapies. This therapy has no age limits and can be done for a new born baby to a ninety year old person.
Benefits of Bahya Snehan or Therapeutic massage:
1. Rejuvenate body and mind
2. Improves immunity
3. Calms and freshen the mind
4. Reduces aches and pains
5. Gives shape to the body
6. Induces sound sleep
Contraindications of Bahya Snehan or Therapeutic massage:
3. In case of bruise and wound, swollen and injured muscles
4. Too much fatigue
5. Peripheral vascular disease
Swedan: (obesity, stiffness)
This is the process by which the body, below neck is made to perspire in a herbal steam bath. This therapy is also done for specific body parts (local Snehan) and various means are used like medicated oil/ ghee/decoction/medicated milk etc. It is done either as an individual therapy or a complementary therapy.
Benefits of Swedan:
1. Removes pain, stiffness and swelling of the body
2. Improves stability and stamina
3. Improves and tones gastric fire
4. Helps to eliminate excess subcutaneous fats
5. Makes the skin lustrous
Indications of Swedan:
1. Slow metabolism, loss of appetite
2. Slow lymphatic circulation and poor blood circulation
3. Oedema, aches and pain
4. Neuro-muscular disorders
5. Joint pain
Vamanam: (asthma, hyperacidity)
This is therapeutically induced vomiting. In short, It has the following benefits :
1. It clears the excess mucous accumulation in the oesophagus and upper digestive track.
2. It clears the accumulated toxins in the stomach thereby helping in better metabolic activity.
3. It relieves the accumulated stress, stored in the form of emotions in the heart and the glands in region of the throat.
4. It activates hunger, enhances diaphragmatic movement, leading to proper digestion.
Virechanam: (skin disorders, addictions)
It is a therapeutically induced purgation. In short, It has the following benefits :
1. Release abdominal distension and evacuate accumulated gases
2. Balances the tridosha (three humors – vpk)
3. Activates the function of apana vaayu
4. Keeps the person grounded and restores mental and emotional balance. (the abdomen is a site for psychosomatic expressions connected with fear, anxiety, restlessness and in specific cases, agitation too. When Virechanam is introduced it removes these blockages from the channels and re-directs the energy- apana vaayu in right direction. So a person feels calm, composed and finds himself in a peaceful, stable mental disposition.)
5. Releases all undigested matter from the large intestine thereby rejuvenating the colon.
6. It improves water metabolism
Matra Basti: (backache, arthritis)
Matra Basti procedure is a medicated oil enema which is administered through the anal route to rejuvenate and strengthen this channel. In short, It has the following benefits :
1. It helps to maintain the health and longevity of the deeper tissues by effectively eliminating the excess toxins from the body.
2. It helps improve the digestive fire or Agni and helps in the digestion of toxins which form as a result of an ineffective digestion process.
3. It rejuvenates the skin which is the direct result of rasa and rakta dhatu. Rasa dhatu is the outcome of consuming food where acids, alkali and food are mixed in harmony where food is consumed in a pleasant state of mind. Rasa is useful to nourish every tissue of the body.
4. It helps in maintaining the water metabolism by nourishing the walls of the large intestine.
Niruham or Kashaya Basti: (constipation, nervous disorders)
Niruham or Kashaya Basti it process where medicated decoction enema is administered into the large intestine. In short, It has the following benefits :
1. The medicated decoction balances the vaayu, thereby improving the life of tissues in the body. It activates the life force which originates at the pelvic diaphragm and enhances the overall energy in the body.
2. When vaayu is toned, it also helps in toning the nerve impulses thereby relaxing the nerves and muscles
3. It induces deep state of relaxation.
4. It eliminates constipation.
Nasyam: (colds, frozen shoulder)
Nasyam Drops of medicated oil or herbal juice is administered in the nostril. In short, It has the following benefits :
1. Enhances cerebral circulation
2. Restores and balances prana in the body
3. Prevents recurring colds and sinus congestion
4. Rejuvenates the action of the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nerves and enhances body-mind coordination
5. Pacifies the stress in the neck and thoracic region
6. Radiance in facial skin as a consequence of rejuvenation of the facial tissues
7. Rejuvenates hair follicles and effectively controls hair fall and greying
8. Improved immunity of upper respiratory track.
Shirodhara: (insomnia, anxiety)
Shirodhara it is a continuous pouring (thick flow) of medicated oil or herbal decoction on the forehead with a special instrument called Dhara Yantra.
Benefits of Shirodhara:
1. Prevents hair fall and baldness, greying of hair
2. Improves the subtle perceptibility of the sense organs
3. Induces sound sleep
4. Very effective in the management of stress
5. Brings down blood pressure in a hypertensive person
6. Useful in the management of cranial nerve disorder.
Indications of Shirodhara:
3. Insomnia (sleeping disorder)
5. Mental exhaustion
Pizhichil: (paralysis, rheumatoid arthritis)
In Pizhichil procedure, the body below the neck is made to perspire by the means of application of warm medicated oil or ghee or milk or decoction.
Benefits of Pizhichil:
1. Improved stability and stamina of the body.
2. Complexion of the skin becomes lustrous.
3. Slows down the ageing process and while adding various other benefits
4. Improved efficiency of sense organs
Indications of Pizhichil:
1. Paralysis of whole body (quadriplegia)
2. Rheumatoid arthritis
4. Multiple sclerosis
Navarakizhi: (muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease)
Navarakizhi is one of the popular and special treatments in Kerala. It is a process by which the body or any specific part is made to perspire by the application of certain medicinal puddings externally, in the form of boluses tied in a muslin bag.
Benefits of Navarakizhi:
1. Makes the body supple and removes stiffness in the joints
2. Cleanses the channels and brings about better blood circulation
3. Removes sluggishness and excessive sleep.
4. Cures all types of diseases of the nervous system and emaciation of limbs.
5. Useful for sports persons, dancers, martial artists.
Indications of Navarakizhi:
3. All degenerative disorders
4. Muscular dystrophy
Podikizhi: (cervical spondylitis, sprains)
Podikizhi it is a variety of sudation conducted by means of heated bolus bags filled with powders of seeds of certain plants.
Benefits of Podikizhi:
1. Helps to reduce weight in obese patients
2. Effective in low backache
Indications of Podikizhi:
1. Low backache
3. Cervical spondylitis
Shiropichu: (psychological disorders, stress)
Shiropichu is a procedure performed by a trained therapist by expertly locating stressed areas weakened by repeated psychosomatic expressions. Application of medicated oil to the vertex using cotton pad saturated with oil. This procedure does not involve massage. One can achieve multiple benefits from this simple but powerful therapy.
Benefits of Shiropichu:
1. Calming down the stress on nerves
2. Controls the excessive thinking
3. Reduces anger and anxiety
Indications of Shiropichu:
1. Psychological disorders
3. Dermatological conditions of the scalp
4. Cranial nerve disorders
5. Premature greying of hair
Udwartanam: (obesity, cellulite)
Udwartanam is an herbal scrubbing massage technique. In this procedure, herbal powders or pastes are being
used. A gentle pressure is applied during the massage in the direction opposite to that of the hair follicles.
Benefits of Udwartanam:
1. Breaks down and mobilises accumulated fats.
2. Relieves body odour
3. Improves skin tone as well as cleans it
4. Relieves itching and rejuvenate the skin
5. Improves blood circulation and opens up the blocked channels.
Indications of Udwartanam:
1. Obesity and loss of muscle tone
2. Cellulite, neuromuscular disorders
3. Diabetes Mellitus, diabetic neuropathy
4. Lethargy and lack of enthusiasm
Hrud Basti: (ischemic heart disease, cardiomyopathy)
Hrud Basti is a strengthening and rejuvenating therapy designed for the Heart muscles and to improve the functioning of the heart.
Benefits of Hrud Basti:
1. Nourishes the heart and improves cardiac functions.
2. Reduces chest pain (angina).
3. Removes psychological burden that affects the heart.
4. Improves cardiac output.
5. Helps to get rid of deep-seated stress due to stored and unexpressed thought patterns and memories of past experiences. Works well with counseling and therapeutically induced pranayamas.
6. Improves exercise tolerance.
Indications of Hrud Basti:
1. Ischemic Heart Disease.
2. Valvular heart disease.
4. Emotional stress.
5. Low emotional quotient
Janu Basti: (knee pain, osteoarthritis)
Janu Basti is a specialised treatment for ailments related to Knee joint. Various medicated oils are used as per the condition of the joints. This therapy is done for 30 to 40 minutes depending on the severity of the disease.
Benefits of Janu Basti:
1. Reduces pain and swelling in the knee joint.
2. Improves the weight bearing capacity of the joint.
3. Restores the damage of the joints by strengthening the muscles and ligaments supporting the joint.
4. Improves the movement of the knee joint.
Indications of Janu Basti:
1. Pain in the knee joint and calf muscles.
2. Osteoarthritis of the knee joint
3. Rheumatoid arthritis
4. Ligament tear, Meniscus’s tear
5. Effusion in the knee joint
6. Subluxation of knee ligaments
Kati Basti: (sciatica, sacro-iliitis)
Kati Basti is an Ayurvedic lumbo-sacral rejuvenation therapy using medicated oil or herbal decoctions. One can achieve both local oleation and sudation by this procedure. The word Kati stands for Lower back or waist and Basti for containing or retaining something inside.
Benefits of Kati Basti:
1. Pacifies Vata Dosha
2. Reduces pain and inflammation in lower back area.
3. Removes rigidly and spasm of muscles around lumbo sacral region.
4. Nourishes and strengthens the bones, connective tissues, ligaments, nerves, muscles of lumbo sacral region.
5. Lubricates the joint.
Indications of Kati Basti:
1. Chronic backache.
2. Degenerative changes in the spine.
3. Compressed intervertebral disc.
4. Disc prolapse
7. Rheumatic arthritis.
A meritorious alumna of the prestigious RA Poddar Ayurvedic College with profound spiritual understanding. She is trained in Nadi vidya by a strict guru-shishya lineage and has clinical experience with more than 15 years. An excellent orator who has been invited to various national and international platforms that empower audiences with the knowledge of Āyurveda. Dr. Rushalli Nair is the first-ever lady Vaidya who has been invited to Swaminarayan temple to offer her services to Sadhvis and devotees.