Panchkarma Therapies

panchkarma therapies


The objective of Ayurveda is 'Svasthaya Svasthya Rakshanam Athurasya Vikaraprasamanam' which means to protect the health of the healthy and to relieve the suffering of the sufferer. To achieve this objective Ayurveda advises different methods of treatment. One of the classifications is as follows.

What is Panchakarma?

'Niroohavamana kaya sirorekosravisrutayaitipanchakarmani' (Ashtanga Hridaya, sutrasthana, 14/5).

As the name suggests, Pancha in Sanskrit stands for five and Karma is the therapeutic measures, therefore Panchakarma means five types of therapeutic measures. These are undertaken for the purification of the body and Ayurveda considers it necessary before the start of any other therapy. The logic being that is that just as a cloth needs to be purified or cleaned of impurities and dust before it can be permeated with a new color, similarly the body needs to be purified before it can be permeated with new color similarly the body needs to be purified before it can be permeated with new colors of youthfulness, health and energy etc. It fact most of the time Panchakarma is an end in itself rather than an introduction to other therapeutic measures.

Panchakarma is commonly used in treating broad categories of conditions arthritic, rheumatic, neurological, neuromuscular, muscular-skeletal disorders, other degenerative conditions, mental disorders, insomnia, depression, menstrual irregularities, infertility, obesity, asthma and other respiratory conditions, irritable bowel syndrome, gastro-intestinal conditions, other chronic conditions, etc. thus Panchakarma has preventive, curative and primitive functions.

'Ayurveda emphasizes preventative and healing therapies along with various methods of purification and rejuvenation'. Ayurveda is thus more than a mere healing system; it is a science and art of right living which helps to achieve longevity. It can also guide every individual in the prevention of disease and long term maintenance of health. To achieve this balanced state of body, mind and consciousness, Ayurveda prescribes Panchakarma Therapy for the refining of body toxin.

Modern India has practiced Ayurvedaan unusual yet perfect blend of the traditional and the modern in both domestic as well as in the international arena. On one hand, Indian information technology is being hailed as a power to reckon with, and on the other, the traditional Indian knowledge systems like Ayurveda, Yoga etc. are being considered seriously. More and more people from all over the world are flocking to India to get Ayurvedicview on their health issues. Panchakarma clinics can now be found everywhere, including star hotels and holiday resorts. It is important at this juncture to know what Panchakarma is. This write-up is mainly for the common reader; only minimum information has been imparted. For a more detailed study one has to get in touch with an Ayurvedic physician or refer to the books on this topic. This material must not be expected to serve the purpose of a user’s manual.

Historical Background

It is interesting to note that a few basics of Panchakarma were common during the Vedic period itself though the word Panchakarma appears only in Ayurveda literature. There is reference to Virechana and Vamanadravyas (materials for emesis or purgation) in the Vedic and post-Vedic literature. Dhanvantari, the lord of Ayurveda holds a Jalooka (leech) in one hand symbolizing surgical practice. It is understood that different forms of bloodletting as a purifying technique were common even during ancient period. Similarly one can see references to Nasya (nasal medication) in Punsavana (eugenics) in Vedictext. For example, to attain conception by an infertile woman, Nasya is done with root juice of white flowered Brihaticollected on Pushyanakshatra.

Panchakarma is anexceptional contribution of Ayurveda. One can see widespread references to Panchakarma in the earliest classical texts available on Ayurveda, CharakaSamhita, SushrutaSamhitaandVaghbhata. As a living custom, Panchakarma is widely established in the Ayurvedic practice.

Not only in Ayurveda but in other different medical cultures as well, one could see treatment such as Panchakarma used for cleansingpurpose. Techniques like Panchakarma are mentioned in the other systems of medicines as well. For instance, catharsis in the Greek medicine is a method of purgation or purification. In recent times in western bio-medicine there was practice of medicated enemas for situation like arthritis, asthma described in the form of high rectal or low rectal enema. Even current pharmacological books had explanation on how these get absorbed into the body through lymphatic or systemic circulation and their effects. Drug management method like nasal medication for conditions like diabetes insipid us were also mentioned.

Techniques like emesis or purgation are techniques that support or stimulate body’s natural processes. One can see techniques like induced vomiting being used by animals also as Cats or dogs when sick eat grass and induce vomiting.

Theoretical Background

According to Ayurveda, body is made of 7 different types of tissue called Dhatu. These body tissues are nourished through food materials that get digested by act of digestive fire. The digested materials are carried to different tissues through Srotas. At each tissue level there is a digestive fire that works on the food material to start absorption of nutrients into the corresponding tissue. As a by-product of this process, mala are formed which are finally eliminated. Nourishment of body tissues does not occur when there is any block in body channels or impaired function of any of the digestive fires, these results in the indigestion of food in the body. This waste material clogs the body channels and manifests in different illness. Administration of these conditions has to be done by removing of these blocks and improving metabolic processes. When oleation and sudation are done, waste materials clogged in the body channels become Pakva and they move into the Kostha. During Panchakarma these are expelled through natural orifices. As it is a mechanism to eliminate the waste materials from the body, Panchakarma is not only used as curative treatment but also as preventive treatment.

Panchakarma therapies


Vaman is one therapy among 'Panchakarma'- the fivefold Ayurvedic detoxification measures. This process will bring therapeutic vomiting. Prior tothisprocess the individual’s body will be prepared by proper snehana (oleation) and swedana (sudation).


This is a very helpful therapy for kapha predominate disorder such as asthma, cough, psoriasis and skin disorders.


This treatment is one among Panchakarma which eliminate excess Pitta from the body. Virechan is performed by administering Virechak Aushdhi (purgative medicine) in milk or warm water after proper preparation of the human being through poorvakarmas.


This therapy is extremely beneficial in Pitta disorders such as dermatitis, chronic fever, heartburn, jaundice, etc.



One among the five classical detoxification procedures (Panchakarma) and indicated in Vatadisorder. The main seat of the Vatadosha is Pakwashaya (large intestine): therefore Vasti, the medicated oil enema.


is the most important therapy for all Vatadisorder such as constipation, neurological ailments, paralysis, flatulence, lower backache, gout and rheumatism etc.

The results encourage and rebuild the Dhatus (body tissues), support their activities, re-establish and build up the body’s resistance. This is very nutritive while removing accumulated Malas (toxins) from the colon.

(B) Kashayavasti

This therapy is normally done after a course of Snehavasti. This is a cleansing enema where a combination of honey, oil, herbal paste, herbal decoction, etc. is done as per the patient’s requirement and condition.


This therapy is forVatadisorder thus helps to treat diseases such as arthritis, constipation, neurological ailments, paralysis, flatulence, lower backache, gout and rheumatism etc.


It is a therapeutic treatment for the nose, throat, sinus and head. The face, shoulders and chest are massaged with particular herbal oil and made to perspire. The herbal extracts or herbal oil in exact doze is considered and instilled into the nostrils, while inhaling.After this process, the nose, chest, palms and foot are massaged energetically.

Benefits :-

This Ayurvedic therapy can provide anamazing remedy for congestion, allergies, sinusitis, headaches, migraine and other nasal disorders.

This treatment will cleanse, purify and strengthen the nasal passages allowing you to breathe fully and easily again.

This action is highly effective for headaches, sinusitis, migraine and rhinitis.


This is a technique to eliminate the excess toxins in the blood. Bloodletting is planned by Sushruta- Father of AyurvedicSurgery. In Charaka Samhita, instead of bloods letting the two forms of Vasti areseen as two separate forms of Panchakarma. A modern listing includes Shirodhara or hot-oil head massage(Abhyanga).


In this therapy, specially prepared warm herbal oil is poured over the neck and retained inside the black gram paste boundary for the required time. The medicinal properties of herbal oils used for this treatment deeply cleans and enriches the blood, builds and maintains strong muscle and connective tissues and lubricates the joints keeping them flexible and pain free.


Janu Vasti:-

This is a special therapy in which warm medicated oil is retained above the knee joint. This therapy is very effective in treating different conditions of the knee joints like arthritis, degenerative conditions etc.


Netra Tarpanam:-

A special therapy in which the eyes are bathed in pure medicated cow’s ghee. This procedure takes 15 minutes.



This is a specialized herbal treatment for weight reduction. A herbal powder is applied all over the body and deeply massaged by two therapists for one hour.



A herbal paste is applied to the entire head for 45 minute.


Abhyanga (medicated oil massage)

Abhyanga is Purvakarma or preparatory measure of Panchakarma therapy in Ayurveda. It is an ancient therapy, traditionally given by two therapists, who works together, synchronizing their strokes and massage according to the circulatory and Marma points for forty to sixty minutes. Detoxifying sesame oils are chosen according to one's illness. Usually this is done in seven standard positions. It is one of the most rejuvenating treatments of Ayurveda.

This is a form of treatment for various age related and other common disorders. It reliefpain, improve circulation, stress relief, provides better sleep. Massage therapy can relax stiff muscles and reduce the swelling that accompanies arthritis. With Ayurvedic massage, deep-seated toxins in the joints and tissues are loosened and released into the system or elimination through natural toxin-release processes.


It helps to cure problems of obesity, diabetes, skin diseases etc. It is good for stress relief, better blood circulation, nervous stimulation and muscle toning for general good health. It is also best for post-delivery/natal care.


Dhara is a special treatment in Panchakarma. A continuous stream of medicated warm oil/herbal decoctions/medicated milk/buttermilk is poured onto the forehead for 45 to 90 minutes. These procedures often induce a mental state, which creates profound relaxation of the mind and body. It deeply relaxes and revitalizes the central nervous system. Shirodhara gives the best results when done after an Abhyanga. Changing the liquid as per the dosha condition with necessary alterations in the procedure is useful to alleviate any Dosha. Shirodhara has been used to treat a range of conditions including eye disease, sinusitis, rhinitis, graying of hair, neurological problems, memory loss, insomnia, loss of hearing, tinnitus, vertigo, and skin diseases like psoriasis. It is also used non-medicinally for its relaxing properties. Recent research studies has shown that shirodhara results in vaso dilation (dilation of blood vessels) in the brain enabling increased supply of oxygen to the blood cells.


This special therapy is avaluable remedy for mental diseases, headache, nervous problems, insomnia, blood pressure, general weakness, urinary diseases and mainly in the diseases of organs above neck.


This is the most important of all external use of snehana (oil application). Certain lukewarm Ayurvedic/herbal oils are poured into a cap fitted on the head for 15 to 60 minutes per day according to the patient’s conditions for a period of 7 days. This is highly effective for facial paralysis, dryness of nostrils, mouth and throat, severe headaches, burning sensation of head and other vata originated diseases. Certain lukewarm medicated oil is applied to the entire head. A leather cap is then placed on the head to maintain the temperature. Its effects are marvelous in neuralgia, hemicranias, optic atrophy, deafness, facial paralysis and all diseases affecting the cranial nerves.


It is prescribed in clinical conditions like head ache, ear ache, humming in the ear and ailments connected with Vata in the head.

This treatment is effective for migraine, deafness, diseases affecting cranial nerves, facial paralysis, insanity, diseases and wounds etc. in fact this treatment is good for all diseases.


Pizhichil, which literally means squeezing. Here, cloth dipped in warm medicated oil is squeezed over the patient’s body. Trained attendants under the supervision of a physician perform the treatment. The attendants squeeze the oil with their right hand and simultaneously massage with their left hand in down ward strokes. The patient should be made to adopt the seven standard positions so that no area of the body is left. Though it is actually a process of sudation used as a purvakarma (preparatory treatment), it has also proved to be highly effective on its own for treating diseases caused due to the vitiation of the vatahumour, especially pakshaghata (hemiplegia), paralysis, muscle spasms and other degenerative diseases of muscles.


This treatment is very useful for rheumatic diseases, arthritis, paralysis, sexual weakness, neurological disorders, blood pressure, nervous weakness, diabetes, blood pressure, fits, convulsions, paralysis and helps to arrest the aging process. It is very effective in asthma and even in tuberculosis in early stages. This is mainly a lubricating treatment.

Shalishastika Pindswedana:-

It is a unique treatment of Ayurveda, that is a fomentation of the body with bolus of cooked rice. Shastika is a particular kind of rice known for its nutritional value. The rice is first cooked with milk and herbal decoction. Four boluses and made of the cooked rice and are tied up in lined bags. The fomentation begins with the patient sitting straight on the droni with legs stretched. The masseurs on either side perform the fomentation process in and identical manner. The movement of the hands during both fomentation and massage should always be downwards. This treatment is done in seven standard positions. This is a strengthening fomentation applied in all kinds of neurological disorders, rheumatism, arthritis, congenital deformity of the limbs, dislocation of bones and joints etc.


Herbal steam bath (Swedana):-

A gentle application of warm herbal oil is first done over the body. Next the person is made to sit keeping the head out, inside a steam chamber that lets out herbal steam from medicinal herbs makes the individuals perspire profusely that promote cohesion between cells. The steam will open small pores of the skin, thereby removing all wastes and pacifying the three doshas. A great therapy for toning the skin and giving it special glow.

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