This article has been reviewed and approved by Dr. Madhavachandran for authenticity and medical correctness on 21 Jul 2020

All about Ayurvedic panchakarma

Ayurveda rejuvenation treatments aim to make you feel more vital, relaxed, and better. It also helps to make you look and feel younger than before.

Stress affects all of us, and we have to accept it as part and parcel of our life. It can affect you on physical, mental, or emotional levels. Some people will need to travel a lot as part of their work. It puts their bodies under great stress as they have to adapt very fast with the changes.

Lack of sleep due to excess work or pressures due to work or family can also lead to anxiety and stress.For others, it will be mental stress, due to pressure at work or family, or many others. Failed relationships, losing a close relative, and many more can be the reasons for emotional stress.

Stress causes severe harm to your body. There are various ways to combat stress. Yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques can make you feel better. For it to have its full effects, you need to detoxify your body as a first step.

According to Ayurveda, stress can cause a build-up of toxins in your body. Mind and body are understood to be interrelated. Any change in physical health will affect the mental condition of a person and vice versa. Treatments like Panchakarma helps to remove the accumulated toxins from the body. You will feel more fresh and vital after this. It helps you to attain a positive frame of mind and change your approach to life. 

Ayurveda overview

According to Ayurveda, your body has three humors or doshas that build and control the tissues. These are the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. For you to be healthy, these three need to be in a state of balance. If there is an imbalance, you get ill. Many factors can upset this balance to make you ill or feel sick. Stress is one of the most important ones.

When you feel stressed, your body releases many hormones and other chemicals to combat it. But, at times, the change in the level of hormones can have a negative impact. It alters the way your body functions and also affects your brain.

Ayurveda views that these changes occur due to an imbalance of the doshas. When you have stress, your eating habits change. You may eat very little or tend to overeat. You may also eat at odd times of the day or night. You may even sleep lesser or feel sleepy all through the day.

The first problem that you can have due to all these is with the digestion of food. Improper digestion causes toxins to form in your body. These toxins or 'Ama' in Ayurveda then again impairs your digestion. Your body will have problems with removing these toxins. 

All these together causes an increase of Vata in your body. An increase in Vata leads to an imbalance of the other two doshas as well. This disharmony of the doshas to make you feel more and more stressed up.

Panchakarma treatment helps to remove the toxins from your body. Once the toxins move out of the body, the balance of the doshas comes back to normal. It makes you feel more healthy and vital than before. 

What is Panchakarma treatment?

Panchakarma is a classical Ayurvedic treatment that includes five ("Pancha" in Sanskrit) major procedures. You can use this treatment as both as preventive or curative as per your condition.

In Kerala Ayurveda, which is currently the most popular form of Ayurveda, there are three phases or stages in Panchakarma treatment. These are

  1. Purva karma
  2. Pradhana karma
  3. Paschat karma

1. Purva karma

This stage is the first one and is the preparatory phase. Your body needs to prepare for the main stage ahead. The main processes here are

  • Deepana and Pachana - The goal is to improve your digestive fire or Agni. You will have oral medicines for this. It helps to digest the toxins or Ama.
  • Pizhichil: It is an important Kerala specialty process to prepare you for the main treatment. It includes Snehana and Swedana.
  • Snehana- It involves both internal medicines and external therapies.Snehapana is the internal consumption of medicated ghee. It helps in lubricating the inner channels. Bahya Snehana is a type of oil massage that you will have all over your body. It makes your body very supple and also stimulates your nerves and muscles. During the massage, the toxins will move from different parts of your body to the GI tract. 
  • Swedana- This is a type of steam therapy that makes you sweat. It also helps to release any toxins in the sweat glands. The doctor will put you in a cubicle that contains medicated steam vapors. You will have Swedana soon after Snehana.

2. Pradhan karma

This stage is the main phase of Panchakarma treatment. The five therapies of Panchakarma are

  1. Vamana- It is a treatment to remove toxins in the upper part of your body by inducing vomiting. Removal of these toxins can help you to breathe more freely. It also helps to increase the level of oxygen in your blood and body. You will feel more relaxed and energetic. 
  2. Virechana- In this treatment, you will have drugs that increase your bowel movements. It helps to remove the toxins in the digestive organs to make you feel relaxed. It improves the functions of all organs that help you in digesting food. It also helps to remove some toxins in your blood.
  3. Vasti- It is a type of medicated enema that helps to remove the toxins in your intestines. It helps to correct the level of Vata in your body. Also, it helps to nourish your bones and joints, helping you move more freely. You will also feel that your body has become more relaxed. The doctor will give drugs through your rectum for this treatment.
  4. Nasya- It is a treatment to improve the functions of your brain and nerves. During it, the doctor will give you some medicines through your nose. It helps to clear your nose, sinuses, etc. It also activates the brain and the nerves. Your eyes and ears will feel good, and you will feel more relaxed than before. 
  5. Rakthamoksha- It is a treatment to purify your blood to remove any toxins present in it. There are different techniques for this, and your doctor will decide the one you will have. 

3.Paschat karma

This phase is the last stage of the program. It is an important step that relaxes your body after the rigorous Pradhan karma. The procedures in this phase prepare you for the normal life after the treatment.

There will be a focus on improving your immunity and building strength.

This whole Panchakarma treatment will take about 21 days. It will be ideal if you can spend that time in the hospital. 

What are the benefits of Ayurvedic panchakarma treatment?

The key benefits that you can get after a Panchakarma treatment are

  • Balances the doshas that are in imbalance
  • Boosts your digestive fire or Agni
  • Eliminates the toxins or Ama from your body
  • Builds immunity and strength
  • Nourishes your tissues thus making your skin glow 
  • Slows the process of aging
  • Reduces stress and anxiety 
  • Improves your metabolism which aids in weight loss

Who can go for Ayurvedic panchakarma treatment?

Panchakarma treatment has both preventive and curative benefits. Any adult can go for this treatment. However, there are a few conditions that you should be aware of. These are

  • You must be above 12 years
  • You are not bedridden
  • You did not have any surgery in the last six months
  • You are not planning to have any surgery in the next three months
  • You are healthy enough to withstand the procedures
  • You do not have any contagious infections

How to prepare for Ayurveda rejuvenation?

The first and foremost step is to find a good doctor and hospital. The doctor will look into your condition and suggest the type of treatments you will need.

The doctor will explain to you the benefits that you will have from it. You can also clear any doubts that you may have. Since the cost of treatments varies, you will have to select a package that suits your budget. 

Most of the treatments range from two to three weeks. It is better not to go for one below two weeks, as the results may be inadequate. Ayurveda treatments need sufficient time to have its effects and hence better not compromise on it.

After treatment, you will have to take a few days to rest and have some medicines at home. So, you need to factor this in as well.

What happens during Ayurvedic panchakarma treatment

Along with your primary treatment, you will also have other procedures to boost you up. There will be medicines that help to ramp up your immunity, digestion, etc. 

You will be on a strict diet with no meat or fish. It will contain vegetables and grains full of nutrients. You will not have permission to drink or smoke during the treatment. 

Yoga and meditation is a part of all Ayurveda treatments. It helps you stay calm and relaxed by connecting you to your inner-self. It helps to release the spiritual power that you have in you to make you more positive.

Things to do after the Ayurvedic panchakarma treatment

It is important that you maintain the benefits gained from this treatment. You will have to continue with the diet and lifestyle changes, as advised by the doctor. Lead an active life with daily physical exercises, follow a healthy diet, and practice activities like yoga or meditation to reduce stress.

Ayurvedic panchakarma
Ayurvedic panchakarma

References / Additional Reading
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Madhavachandran for authenticity and medical correctness on 21 Jul 2020
Dr. Madhavachandran
Dr. Madhavachandran
BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery), FABMS
Dr. Madhavachandran BAMS, FABMS is the Chief Physician and Chief Technical Officer of Rasayana Ayurveda Centre, Ezhakkaranad, Ernakulam District, Kerala. He has got 25 years of professional experience. He has vast experience in treating various diseases. He has 19 scientific publications in high impact International Research Journals. He has carried out studies on Geriatrics, infertility, malignancy, neuro muscular diseases and preventive cardiology. He is also a person well known in the field of new drug development.