PanchaKarma – Science of Detoxification in AyurvedaVandana Barnawal
Ayurveda is one of the oldest systems of medicines. It was preached, practiced and documented in the ancient times by omniscient sages. Ayurveda views disease as the natural end result of living out of harmony with our environment. And, it emphasizes on getting rid of toxins and re-establishing harmony and balance as the means of achieving optimal health in our body and mind.
Treatment Modalities of Ayurveda
The two main types of treatment modalities in Ayurveda are Samshodhan Chikitsa (cleansing therapies) and Samshaman Chikitsa (pacifying therapies).
Samshaman Chikitsa is done once the disease process has started but Samshodhan Chikitsa starts before the disease sets foot in our body. After centuries of observation and treatment evaluations, Ayurvedic seers were able to predict the outcome of effect of changes of season on human mind and body type. They devised the preventive procedures in the form of Panchakarma Therapies, so that the human body and mind can be cleansed and toxic elements removed, and chances of diseases will be diminished. Panchakarma can also be used to enhance immunity and treat chronic conditions.
As the name suggests, it consists of five major therapeutic procedures. They are Vamana (therapeutic emesis), Virechana (therapeutic purgation), Niruha Basti (therapeutic decoction enema), Anuvasan Basti (therapeutic oily enema) and Nasya (therapeutic errhine). There may be other allied therapies.
To make body fit for main therapy, certain preparatory procedures are done, and they are called Purvakarma, which means preparatory measures. They are Deepan/ Pachan (digestion of Ama), Snehan (external oleation therapy) and Swedan (whole body sudation).
Mode of action
If we look at the human metabolism, from modern perspective, it creates mainly three kinds of waste. They can be water soluble, fat soluble, or waste of volatile nature. Volatile waste such as carbon dioxide, gets removed from the body by the lungs through the process of respiration. Water soluble waste also gets removed through the renal filtrations, sweat or other bodily secretions. Fat soluble waste is mostly the responsibility of liver. There are increased chances that they are not completely removed and get accumulated in our body. This fat-soluble waste can be compared to Ama Dosha, which is the toxin formed as a result of faulty digestion. If it is not removed, becomes the cause of diseases of body and mind. Ayurvedic detoxification procedure, Panchakarma focuses on removal of Ama Dosha and bring balance to other three Doshas, namely Vata,Pitta and Kapha. At the same time, many other health benefits are achieved by Panchakarma Therapy.
Deepen/ Pachan Aushadha act by increasing Agni i.e. they improve digestive strength. Some of the Pachan herbs described in Charak Samhita are fruit and root of Pippali (Piper longum), Chavya (Piper chaba Hunter), Chitraka (Plumbago zeylanica), roots of Shringavera (Ginger) (Zingiber officinale), fruit of Maricha (Piper nigrum), Ajamoda (Trachyspermumroxburghianum), Hingu Niryasa (Asafoetida) etc. they are recommended as first step of preparatory measure.
Whole body massage with profuse use of herbal / medicinal oils and internal administration of herbal/ medicinal oil or ghee preparations during Snehan karma makes it possible for the body to eliminate the fat soluble toxic waste by diffusion. The large surface area of skin and also the large expanse of villi and microvilli in our gastrointestinal tract provide large exchange base, and works well facilitating the process. Fat in the body are mainly stored in abdomen around mesenteries and also mostly under the skin. Bahya Snehan targets the subcutaneous fat and Abhyantara Sneh targets the gut from inside.
Hot wet steam or dry sudation are used for swedana, so that the person sweats profusely. It increases the local blood circulation and further helps in this exchange. Swedan also liquefies the Doshas and clears the obstruction from the Srotas so that Doshas are mobilized and can be expelled easily. Various types of Swedan has been described for local and whole body sudation such as Sankara Sweda, where bolus of herbs is used for local sudation. In another type, called Prastara Sweda, a bed is prepared with pulses or grains infused with herbs such as long pepper, black pepper, ginger or from krushra (thick gruel) or Utkarika. It is then covered with silk or wool or leaves of medicinal plants and person after Snehan is made to lie down on it for Swedan.
Bringing body back to normal after Vaman and Virechan therapies, which are drastic alimentary purification procedures by specific dietary regimen and different medicines, is Paschat karma. It comprises of Samsarjana Karma, Rasayanadi Karma and Samana Yoga. During Samsarjan Karma specific kind of dietary regimen is followed using Peya, Vilepi, Akrita- KritaYush etc., so that Jatharagni is increased. When Panchakarma is done as part of rejuvenation, after the major procedures, Rasayan herbs are given. When Panchakarma is done as part of treatment for a particular problem, specific medicines are given.
Panchakarma is a highly complex and sophisticated science for purification of body and mind and should be best administered supervised by expert of the subject.