Pancha Karma Therapy
What is Pancha Karma?
‘Panch’ means five and ‘Karma’ means therapy or action. Pancha Karma refers to an intensive detoxification program using five actions or procedures to remove toxins from the body and mind.
These five actions are:
Vamana – emesis / induced therapeutic vomiting (for Kapha)
Virechana – purgation (for Pitta)
Asthsapana Vasti ― Herbal Decoction Enema (for Vata)
Anuvasana Vasti ― Oily Enema Therapy (for Vata)
Nasya – nasal administration (for Kapha)
Pancha Karma is a very ideal and a perfect solution and is a totally holistic detoxification. This is because it not only works on the physical system but it works on the mental and the subtle energies as well.
Preparation for Pancha Karma
Before starting Pancha Karma therapy you will have been through the consultation process and standard treatment etc. This is required so that you understand your birth constitution (Prakriti) and current state (Vikriti) and know what kind of life-style and diet is compatible for you. You will have had time and support to make necessary adjustments and it is likely you will have undergone standard treatment to help remove excess Doshas and stabilise your system. Such standard treatment may include herbal formulas (taken orally), Ayurvedic Abhyanga massage therapy, Yoga for Doshas therapy, and other treatment as required. This preparation process may take one to several months, the longer the better really, as you will develop discipline and prepare the system, the body and mind, for the more intensive process of Pancha Karma.
What happens during Pancha Karma Treatment?
The duration of Pancha Karma treatment may vary but a seven-day period of intensive therapy is usually recommended by us. Before starting you will prepare for a few days ensuring that you eat more fruits and vegetables etc. to get better bowel movements and make sure you are not constipated. The combination and type of actions performed during the Pancha Karma will be suited to your individual needs. Some or all of the actions may be required. Only one of Vamana, Virechana, or Vasti, will be performed on any one day with Nasya typically performed every day. All herbal decoctions given are based on the patient’s strength, capacity and Doshas and we prepare such decoctions to have the desired effect in relation to the number of bowel movements or vomiting etc. In addition to this, full body Ayurvedic Abhyanga body massage is carried out daily along with full body steam and application of herbal wash. You will adhere to a very simple and strictly controlled diet and sip hot water continuously. You will take complete rest at all times and will continue on a light program and simple diet for several days after the Pancha Karma is completed. Special yoga poses are also recommended for this period to assist in the movement of toxins through the digestive system for elimination. Daily detailed reports are kept and given to the physician. These will document exactly what you are experiencing and observing physically and psychologically.
We have to also remember that though the intake of food is greatly reduced and controlled and the food you eat is very simple (like plain rice porridge and kitcheree) there is ample food in the way of the herbs and the massage oil. Herbs provide you with nourishment and something that is already digested. So you never feel weak or like fainting; you are constantly conscious and awake.
Ayurvedic massage is an integral and vital aspect of Pancha Karma whereby toxins that are hardened and stubborn, are broken by means of the special strokes, and the herbal oil that penetrates through the skin directly bypassing the digestive system. This means the oil is ingested very quickly, and then there is the application of heat – the oil is warm, the strokes give you continuous heat, and this heat combined with the herbs becoming absorbed into the blood helps seek out toxins and loosens and breaks them. So a combination of these factors together with hot showers and the steam bath after the massage allows whatever toxins have broken out to liquefy. Normally this is where massage therapy stops and the patient returns home after a hot shower. But in Pancha Karma this is when some of the five actions are carried out. Often times the toxins that have come loose and are now in the digestive tract have the potential to be reabsorbed via the intestines. These things (the five actions) are carried out to ensure that the toxins in the digestive tract are forced out and are not reabsorbed.
Just a note about the absorption of substances through the skin, be aware what you cannot put in your mouth as food you should not put onto your skin as this can be absorbed directly.
How does Pancha Karma remove excess Doshas and toxins?
Pancha Karma is an intense detoxification program, breaking toxins and forcing them out as rigorously as possible without creating too much of discomfort. However, there is some discomfort nonetheless and this will vary according to the individual. The first 2-3 days there will be some disturbances because there is a kind of a shock to the system and some of the symptoms of detoxification such as bloating, headaches, skin eruptions, nausea, tiredness etc. may be experienced. Perseverance is very important. The physician is there to motivate and to continuously support and to make sure you are not frightened.
The herbs administered (whether orally or via enema or through the skin during massage) are rapidly absorbed and digested. They search out and find the toxins that are deposited throughout the body and bring them back to be expelled from the body through the various excretory systems or through induced vomiting. The process works quickly and after any initial discomfort you will feel renewed energy, awareness, and an increase in vitality.
Pancha Karma: The five actions:
The three Doshas are found everywhere but they are predominant in certain areas. An excess or aggravated Dosha tends to accumulate more toxins in the areas where that Dosha predominates.
Vamana – induced therapeutic vomiting (for Kapha)
Kapha is understood to predominate in the upper tracts of the body, the chest, lungs, head, ear, nose and throat, and mucus resides there. Induced vomiting is used for clearing the upper tract. Special herbs are given and about an hour or two hours after consuming the herbs the patient will feel nausea and want to throw up though sometimes vomiting has to be induced by putting their fingers in their throat. This is mostly carried out only for people with extreme Kapha, otherwise we avoid this as it is not a comfortable procedure for both patient and physician.
Virechana – purgation (for Pitta)
Purgation works mainly on the digestive areas and the mid portion of the system is purged of toxins. This is the area where Pitta predominates. Purgation is given in a liquid form that you drink. The herbs are ingested and digested and brought around every cell and tissue. The activity of the herbs is to draw out and loosen and suck out toxins that have already come loose and drain them out towards the digestive system. There are also herbs there that do not allow the toxins that have come into the digestive system to remain there but to be eliminated. That is why it is called purgation – toxins are purged out. It is quite unlike what often takes place when people do a physical flushing by taking some kind of laxative thinking this is detoxification. It is not. Such a process just physically cleanses your digestive passage but not your digestive system. Detoxification of the digestive system means it has to be ingested, it has to be digested, it has to be metabolised. This is what Pancha Karma is all about and so this is where it is so intense, so complete, and so perfect.
Asthsapana Vasti ― Herbal Decoction Enema and Anuvasana Vasti ― Oily Enema Therapy (for Vata)
Then we have two forms of Vasti or enema. This is basically to take care of Vata as the intestines are where Vata predominates. One enema is a herbal decoction which is basically cleansing and then the other is an oil decoction which is nourishing you.
The two forms of enema are given after 3-4 days of purgation meaning your intestines are virtually clear of physical faecal material and the introduction of the herbal solution into the intestines at that time allows 70-80% of absorption and assimilation of the fluids. The fluid once introduced into the intestines is to be retained up to 40 mins and it is understood that up to this period the assimilation is very good. Thereafter you can eliminate whatever is left. The herbs are assimilated and absorbed just as digested food is and brought throughout the body by the blood where toxins and excess doshas are sought and removed by the elimination process mostly back through the intestines. The oil is more difficult to hold because it is heavier but nevertheless it can be done. It takes a little bit longer to be absorbed. During this enema period you will regain a lot of strength, a lot of vitality, a lot of energy because food assimilation and digestion of food is virtually instant as it bypasses the whole digestive system.
Nasya – nasal administration (for Kapha)
Lastly we have Nyasa or nasal infusion. This is medicated oil dropped into the nostrils and then the face is massaged to allow for better absorption of the medicated oil. This is to support the the Ear, Nose and Throat and the eyes as well and also to help clear the Kapha in the head regions.
Why undergo Pancha Karma?
The process of Pancha Karma is mainly to remove toxins that have remained in the system for long periods of time. These toxins are like grease, the longer it remains in a place, the harder it becomes. Pancha Karma works on the system to remove these excess Doshas and toxins and may be effective in eliminating many chronic and degenerative conditions. Often times less intensive forms of treatment may be effective in managing our Doshas but may not be enough to break out these deep rooted and stubborn toxins. Therefore Pancha Karma becomes a very important and vital tool. Most importantly it is a very controlled process where the physician and therapist are in full control and nothing is left to chance, and where every aspect of your well-being is considered and taken care of. You will also understand what is happening and why, and be ready, with a fully prepared and correct attitude. All these factors support and contribute to the profound benefits of this therapy.
This same process of Pancha Karma from a detoxification program can become a rejuvenation program but at a later stage. The herbs are changed, the concept changes, the attitude also changes, and then the results are also different. It is very useful to undergo such therapy at least once a year for the promotion of health and longevity.
What happens after Pancha Karma treatment?
For some days following the Pancha Karma you may continue to experience the effects of detoxification and it may take some time for your system to settle down again. Let things take their course and take plenty of rest. There will be constant and regular support provided so you can discuss any concerns or fears throughout the entire process.