Panchakarma: Basics, Types, Sub Types & Importance

 Ayurveda is a science of life, which having some ultimate formulas for body purifications. To know those formulas, we have to know Panchakarma therapy. From the name we can make out some meaning of it, Pancha (five) + Karma (methods or work) means a series of five methods for body purification.
In the topic “Basics Concept of Ayurvedic Philosophy”, we have discussed Tridosha, the components responsible for the maintenance of the human body. Tridosha, are considered as the main factors responsible for the manifestation of the disease along with the attachment of other factors. It is quite difficult to maintain a balance in the Tridosha triangle.
There are many factors like seasonal change, behavioral change, food habit, change of residence that hampers the triangle, and we fall in disease. So for us, a prime challenge is to maintain that triangle intact.
For better understanding just imagine the dosha as some toxic thing in the case of the abnormal state or like free radicals that hampers our normal body activities and causes diseases. In Ayurveda two types of treatment specially mentioned to clean those toxins or, you can say to make the triangle intact.
They are
1. Shaman Chikitsa (Treatment to normalize the doshas like oral medications)
2. Shodhan Chikitsa (Treatment For purification of doshas like Panchakarma)

Panchakarma:

Pancha-Karma is a series of vital procedures of purifications of the body. There are five basic procedures along with some preparatory And Post-Purification measures. The Basic procedure is nothing but a simple concept of the expulsion of doshas from the body through the natural orifices. Somehow, the same thing we do in case of treating any poisoning case.
Therefore, the basic formulas are, divided into three Karmas or Procedures and they are;
  1. Purva Karma (Preparatory Procedures)
  2. Pradhan Karma (Main Procedures or Therapies)
  3. Paschyat Karma (Follow-up Procedures)

Purva Karma (Preparatory Procedures):

There are three main procedures as a Purva Karam mentioned in the classics, they are
  • Snehana Karma Or Oleation Therapy
This is the basic karma by which we start the Snehana. It stands for the protection of healthy cells and to make some looseness of Doshas with the body cells or channels that occurred after Dosa-Dushya Samurcchana (Mix of Doshas along with healthy body tissues like skin, muscles, bones, joints etc). Usually, Snehapan or Intake of Oily substances along with massage with Snehan Dravyas or Oils are included in this procedure.
  • Swedana Karma Or Fomentation Therapy
This is nothing but proving some heat to the body by different methods so that the loose doshas can be liquefied properly and can easily come to the Kostha (Abdomen or for better understand in the GI tract) from the periphery or from the affected areas. As our aim is to expel the doshas from the body by natural orifices and all are well connected to GI track so the main focus always remains in bringing all doshas to the GI Tract Different types of Swedana mentioned in classics for this purpose.
Pachana Karma Or Digestive Therapy
This is a simple therapy towards the correction of our digestive system. In Ayurveda it is said that due to improper digestion leads to the formation of  AMA (Can be compared with free radicles)  in the body which blocks the microchannels (mentioned as SROTAS in Ayurveda) and triggers the doshas. AMA is directly responsible for manifestation any diseases so a proper digestive system is very  much important to keep ourselves healthy. The whole procedure done by two steps
1. DeepanA procedure by which a correction is done in the Agni or Digestive power. In simple language increasing the Agni or digestive power is Deepan.
2. PachanA procedure by which the AMA or toxins in the body (Which remains in the various tissues or microchannels) are digested or liquefied.
(Herbs like Black Peeper, Ginger, Long Pepper (Piper longum), Vrikshamla, Coriandrum sativum, Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), Jeera (Cuminum cyminum), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Amlaki (Emblica officinalis), Chitraka (Plumbago zeylanica), Hing (Ferula asafoetida) are generally used for this propose.)

Pradhan Karma (Main Therapies)

Vaman
(A method by which vitiated doshas are removed from the body by induced vomiting, mainly indicated for Kapha dosha but some amount of Pitta dosha can also be removed from this)
Virechan
A method by which vitiated doshas are removed from the body by downward elimination mainly indicated for the Pitta dosha but some amount of Kapha can also be removed.
Basti
A method by which medicated enema is given to patients, mainly indicated for the treatment of Vata dosha (diseases caused by Vata Dosha abnormality),Interesting this is that in ancient time it was given by Urinary Bladder (Which is known as Basti in Sanskrit) of A sheep or Buffalo or cow , but nowadays plastic bags are used for that purposes.
Shiro Virechan (Nasya)
A simple procedure by which medications administered through the nostrils to purify the Head and Neck from Vitiated doshas.
Rakta Mokshan (Bloodletting)   
It is the procedure by which the dushit rakta (Polluted Blood due to a mixture with doshas) are removed from the body by some fine surgical procedure. Acharya Sushruta mentioned about it but Acharya Charak Didn't mention it in his classics. Acharya Charak mentioned Uttar Basti in the place of Rakta Mokshan or Bloodletting. Use of world famous Leeches therapy also comes under this procedure.

Paschyat Karma (Follow-up Procedures)

After the main therapy, our digestive power becomes very week so we can't tolerate heavy food. Any heavy diet can lead to again the formation of AMA that will make any case worse. So Paschyat Karma is indicated for the proper care of AGNI or digestive powder. Some selective food grains and the specific type of food given depending upon the type of the main procedure conducted earlier. 3 to seven day's program is indicated according to the results of purification. Some recipes like Peya (cooked with 1-part rice 6-part water) Vilepi (cooked with 1 part rice 4 part water) Yusha (Prepared from Mung daal) Kruta Yusha (Cocked with salt, oil, spices) Akruta Yusha (Cocked without anything added) Kruta mansarasa (meat cooked with oil, salt, spices) are given to the patients according to their digestive capacity.
    Use of medicated smoking is very much important to remove the mucous in the pharynx. Medicated cigars made by herbs like Agaru, Jyotishmati.
     Some behavioral advice also was given to the patients as to avoid overeating, excessive sitting, excessive walking, Loud Speech, Sexual indulgence, Exposer to hot or cold weather, etc.

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