The world’s oldest system of medicine, Ayurveda, is divided into eight branches. Of these, the first is Kayachikitsa, which is the equivalent of internal medicine in the contemporary western system. The name is derived from two words, word ‘kaya’ meaning body, and ‘chikitsa’ meaning ‘treatment.’ The basic principles of kayachikitsa were first discussed in the ancient Ayurvedic text, Charaka Samhita which is the work of one of the legendary physicians of this healing science, Charaka. Kayachikitsa deals mainly with the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of general diseases like diabetes, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis and skin problems. Kayachikitsa goes into the root cause of an illness and the various stages of its progression It provides the opportunity to stop the disease at each stage so as to prevent further deterioration of a patient’s condition.
The Two Steps
There are two steps in kayachikitsa- shaman and shodhan. Shaman involves soothing, cooling methods that focuses on rest and mild herbal remedies. It includes two procedures known as snehan and swedan. Snehan is basically oiling of the body, internally and externally. Swedan involves sweating out impurities, usually in a special steam box. Depending on the case, swedan may involve the entire body, or the treatment may involve only a very specific part of the body. The duration of the treatment can vary too.
Panchakarma- The Five Main procedures
Snehan and Swedan are are also known as ‘purva karma’ or pre-treatment steps. They are followed by the ‘shodan’ also known ‘panchakarma’. These are five main procedures undertaken in treating a disease. Panchakarma aims at reversing the disease and taking the body back to its original state of health. It involves different types of herbal massages, fomentation, external oil treatments, medicated enemas, purging through herbs, emesis through herbs, as well as nasal administration of oils. These practices are extremely helpful in relieving deep seated disease and for maintaining and improving physical and mental health.
Panchakarma treatments are followed by post treatment protocols known as pashchat karma. Another unique aspect of kayachikitsa is kayakalpa or rejuvenation therapy. Kayakalpa applies several physical and mental disciplines as well as special medicinal preparations to rebuild the body cells and tissues after the panchakarma treatments are over.
Kayachikitsa is a highly specialized branch of Ayurveda , and its treatments require proper guidance from a highly trained and skillful Ayurveda practitioner. This is why Kerala, the home of Ayurveda, is a favoured destination for those seeking specialized treatment in Ayurvedic internal medicine. Kerala has many great vaidyars who are masters of kayachikitsa. They adopt an all embracing approach that can involve changes in food and clothing, lifestyle and location, according to the seasons, as well as exertion and exercise in the right proportion The result is that the body is cleansed and purified, the balance of the doshas or vital energies in the body is restored, and the mind, body and soul are once again in perfect harmony, bringing good health and happiness to the individual.