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In Sanskrit Pancha means five and Karma means actions. The word Panchakarma means five actions. According to Charaka, Panchakarma refers to Nasya (nasal therapy), Vamana (emesis), Virechana (purging) and two kinds of Vasti (therapeutic enema), Nirooha Vasti and Sneha Vasti. Herbal decoctions are used for Nirooha Vasti and herbal oils for Sneha Vasti.


The surgeon Sushruta, regards Rakta (blood) also as a Dosha (humour), the vitiation of which can cause diseases, advocated Raktamokshana (bloodletting) as the fifth in the Panchakarma therapies.
So the five therapies are Nasya, Vamana, Virechana, Vasti and Raktamokshana.
As bloodletting involves medical venesection, it is no longer popular.
Leeching, however, is still practiced.

The Ayurvedic rejuvenation regimen practiced today is called Panchakarma – Pancha means ‘five’ and Karma, ‘action’. This five-fold therapy is aimed at Shodhana, the eradication of the basic cause of disease. Shodhana along with Shamana, the mitigation of the disease and its symptoms, are the two concepts of disease management in Ayurveda.
Panchakarma does not just eliminate disease-causing toxins but also revitalizes the tissues.


What are the five Pancha Karma therapies?

Vamana is a special medicated vomiting procedure to remove Kapha toxins (mucus, phlegm) from the sinuses, lungs and mainly the stomach (the origin site of Kapha dosha). Vamana is a painless, drug-induced emetic process.
The therapy of Vamana cures diseases like acne, asthma, arthritis, chronic cold, diabetes, and various other Kapha disorders.

Virechana means purgation. Virechana is one of the Panchakarma therapies for the elimination of Pitta – related toxins.
The process of cleansing is carried out in the small intestine and other Pitta zones. Here, drugs that stimulate bowel movement are administered for the expulsion of the toxins via the rectum.

Vasti means bladder.

Vasti is a medicated enema to remove toxins from the colon (the origin site of Vayu) and to tone and rejuvenate the colon. Two types of basti can be used depending upon the need; oily (for toning) and non oily (for cleansing).

Nasya is a group of herbal therapies in the form of medicinal oils or powders applied through the nose. Herbs are used in various forms including powder (snuff), powder (blowing into nostrils, medicated oil, and paste. These therapies are very good for mind, emotions, nerves, head and sinus conditions.

Blood letting removes the excess toxins in the blood, but it is not used in many Western countries because it requires a medical license to practice. Blood letting is listed by Sushrut- father of Ayurvedic surgery. In Charak Samhita, instead of blood letting, the two forms of basti are seen as two separate forms of pancha karma.


What are the preliminary steps taken to prepare for Pancha Karma?

The idea behind Pancha Karma is to
Loosen the toxins where ever they exist (e.g., arthritis in the shoulder)
Release toxins through sweating and returning them to their origin sites (Stomach for Kapha; Small Intestine for Pitta; Colon for Vayu)


Preliminary procedures include special diet of

~ kicharee (basmati rice, moongdal, ghee)
~ Oil abhyanga (massage)
~ Steam bath
~ Rest

     Once toxins are back in their origin site, they are ready to be completely eliminated from the body.



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