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Panchakarma is a Sanskrit word. Pancha means five and karma mean treatment methods- therapeutic measures the aim of panch karma therapies is to purify and detoxify the body. It is done for both - unhealthy person and healthy person. It helps an unhealthy person to get rid of many chronic diseases as well as it helps the healthy person as a preventive treatment to keep physically and mentally fit.
Ayurveda is more than a mere healing system, it is a science and art of appropriate living which helps to achieve longevity. Ayurveda emphasizes on preventive and healing therapies along with various methods of purification and rejuvenation. Ayurveda prescribes panchakarma therapies for the cleansing of body toxins. Panchakarma therapies balances all tridosha's (vata- ether plus air, pitta-fire plus water and kapha-water plus earth- three bio energies- body constitution).
Ayurveda considers panch karma necessary before the start of any other therapy. The logic being-as a cloth needs to be purified or cleanse of dust and impurities before it can be imparted a new colour. Similarly, the body needs to be purified before it can be imparted new colours of youthfulness, health and vigor etc.
Purvakarma-pre-purification measures for panchakarma
This is done to prepare the body to encourage let go the toxins. There are two main procedures.
1. Snehana- snehana means oleation- internal and external
For external snehana - abhyanga - oil massage is prescribed. In abhyanga body is massaged with different ayurvedic oils which help the toxins to move towards the gastro - intestinal tract. Abhyanga - massage removes stress and nourishes the nervous system. It makes the body tissues - both superficial and deep soft and supple, snehana is given for 3 to 7 days daily. For internal snehana some ayurvedic - medicated ghee (ghritam) is given to take orally.
2. Swedana - swedana means sweating.
It is given daily immediately following the snehana-abhyanga. In this steam added with herbal decoction given to the body to loosen the toxins from the individual. It liquefies the toxins and increases the movement of toxins into the gastro - intestinal tract.
Pradhankarma-main purification measures of panchakarma
1. Vaman - emesis therapy
It is indicated in kaphavridhi means in excess of kapha. Vamana - the ayurvedic treatment is therapeutic vomiting, to eliminate the kapha causing the excess mucus. It is done for bronchitis, cold-cough, asthma etc.
2. Virechana - purgation therapy
It is indicated in excess of pitta in the body. Ayurveda suggests therapeutic purgation for skin problems like rashes, inflammation, biliary vomiting, acne-pimples and jaundice etc.
3. Nasyam-nasal administration
In this therapy head - face and chest are massaged with specific herbal oil and made to perspire. Then specific ayurvedic oils - powder are administered in nostrils. It is very effective for sinusitis, migraine, headaches, allergic condition and rhinitis etc.
4. Anuvasan vasti - medicated oil enemas
It is indicated in vata disorders like a backache, sciatica and other joint pains, arthritis, rheumatism, gout, muscle spasm, sexual problems, neurological problems a headache etc. Vata`s predominant site is the colon. In this therapy medicated oil is introduced into the rectum.
5. Asthapana vasti - niruha vasti - enema of decoction
It is also done for vata disorders. In this herbal decoctions are introduced in the rectum. It relieves constipation, distention, backache, rheumatism and other joint pains etc.
Other miscellaneous therapies of panchakarma
1. Sirodhara - it is indicated in insomnia, hypertension, anxiety, depression and headaches.
2. Pinda sweda - useful in joint pains in neurological problems.
3. Shasti-shali pindasweda - useful in neurological problems.
4. Nadisweda - useful in pain in joints.
5. Kati-vasti - useful in backache, slip disc, prolapse or herniation of vertebras.
6. Janu vasti - useful in osteo- arthritis - knee joint pain.
7. Shirovasti - useful in problems related with the brain, neurological disorders.
8. Uttara vasti - useful in gynae problems, infertility, genitourinary problems.
9. Udwartanam - good for skin and weight loss.
10. Tarpanam - useful in the ailments of eyes.
11. Pizhichil (sarvang dhara) - useful in paralysis and other neurological problems, joint pains.
Paschata karma - post purification measures of panchakarma
In this, some changes in diet and life style are advised after main purification course. Some ayurvedic internal medicines are also advised to be taken for different ailments for prescribed duration.