Panchakarma therapy of Ayurveda comprises of five basic types of advanced treatment for elimination of vitiated Doshas (toxic materials) from the body. One can consider this as a cleansing program of toxins from the body. There are many subtypes of this therapy and different types of herbal massages, steam bath, external oil treatments, Basti (medicated enemas), Virechana (purgation through herbs), Vamana (emesis through herbs), Nasya (nasal administration of oils) etc. are incorporated. These practices are extremely helpful in relieving deep seated diseases as well as it is also beneficial for maintaining and improving physical and mental health.
Before the actual operation of purification begins, there is a need to prepare the body in prescribed methods to encourage the body to let go of the toxins.
The two procedures are Snehana and Swedana.
1. Snehana (Abhyangam) is the oil massage. Oil is applied to the entire body with a particular type of massage which helps the toxins to move towards the gastro-intestinal tract. Oil massage also makes the superficial and deep tissues soft and supple, thus helping to remove stress and to nourish the nervous system. Snehana is given daily for three to seven days as indicated.
2. Swedana is sudation or sweating and is given every day immediately following the Snehana. A herbal concoction may be added to the steam to further loosen the toxins from the individual. Swedana liquefies the toxins and increases the movement of toxins into the gastro-intestinal tract.
Main purification measures of Panchakarma are as follows:
Vamana: Emesis therapy When there is congestion in the lungs causing repeated attacks of Bronchitis, Colds, Cough or Asthma, the Ayurvedic treatment is therapeutic vomiting, Vamana, to eliminate the Kapha causing the excess mucus.
Virechana: Purgation therapy when excess Bile, Pitta, is secreted and accumulated in the gall bladder, liver and small intestine, it tends to result in rashes, skin inflammation, acne, chronic attacks of fever, biliary vomiting, nausea and jaundice. Ayurvedic literature suggests in these conditions the administration of therapeutic purgation or a therapeutic laxative.
Nasya: Nasal administration. The nose is the doorway to the brain and it is also the doorway to consciousness. The nasal administration of medication is called Nasya. An excess of bodily humors accumulated in the sinus, throat, nose or head areas is eliminated by means of the nearest possible opening, the nose.
Basti: Enema therapy. Vata's predominant site is the colon. Ayurvedic Basti involves the introduction into the rectum of herbal concoctions of sesame oil, and certain herbal preparations in a liquid medium. Basti, is the most effective treatment of Vata disorders, although many enemas over a prescribed period of time are usually required. It relieves constipation, distention, chronic fever, cold, sexual disorders, kidney stones, heart pain, backache, sciatica and other pains in the joints. Many other Vata disorders such as arthritis, rheumatism, gout, muscle spasms and headaches may also be treated with Basti. Basti therapy is divided in two main types, i.e. Anuvasana Basti or medicated oil enemas and Niruha Basti or medicated enema of decoctions and medicated oils.