If you consult an Ayurvedic physician or vaidyar about any health problem, be it bronchitis, jaundice, skin rashes, arthritis or hives, he will first make a detailed examination and take an exhaustive personal history. The purpose of this is to determine which of the three doshas or vital energies in the body is causing an imbalance that is at the root of the illness. Once the diagnosis has been made, Panchakarma therapy is started, to achieve the balanced state of body, mind and consciousness that is essential for good health.
Panchakarma means ‘five actions’ or five ‘treatments’. It is one of the cornerstones for disease management in Ayurveda, for it corrects the essential balance of the three doshas in the body, vata, pitta and kapha. Panchakarma is also beneficial to the body during seasonal changes, for it cleans the body, improves digestion, and boosts the metabolic process. Thus Panchakarma is useful not just in alleviating disease, but in maintaining good health as well.
Vaman and Virechan
The first of Panchkarma’s five treatments is Vaman or therapeutic vomiting. This is especially useful when there is congestion in the lungs, leading to repeated bouts of bronchitis, coughs, colds or asthma. Three or four glasses of salt water are administered, and then vomiting is induced by rubbing the tongue. Vaman helps in expelling the excess mucus caused by an imbalance of the kapha dosha in the body and gives relief from blocked sinuses, breathlessness and wheezing.
Virechan is the second panchakarma treatment that is indicated in nausea, jaundice, acne, chronic fever and other problems that are the result of excess bile being secreted because of an imbalance of the pitta dosha. Virechan involves the administration of a therapeutic laxative like flax seeds, triphala or senna leaves, depending on the constitution of a person.
Basti, Nasya and Raktamoksa
The third line of Panchakarma treatment is Basti or enema therapy. This involves the introduction of a liquid into the rectum to clean out the colon. Basti is especially indicated in disorders caused by an imbalance of the vata dosha in the body and relieves constipation, joint pains, kidney stones and other ailments. Basti can be done with different herbal decoctions, oil, and even warm milk and broth depending on the purpose for which it is given.
The fourth type of treatment is nasya, which is the administration of medication through the nose. Dry powders, ghee, salt, and herbal decoctions are all used in nasya to give relief from sinus congestion, migraine headaches, convulsions and other disorders Finally there is Raktamoksha, the fifth therapy. This is indicated in toxemia, hypertension and other problems related to the circulation of blood. Releasing a small amount of blood relieves the tension caused by accumulated toxins, stimulates the spleen to produce anti-toxins, and improves the immune system.
The Panchakarma Destination
Panchakarma is most effective done in a serene atmosphere, amidst the lushness of nature. Kerala, situated on the southern coast of India is indeed blessed with the perfect environment for Panchakarma – breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, pure air, a salubrious climate and legendary vaidyars who have an ayurvedic lineage stretching back to the beginning of recorded history. It is therefore not surprising at all that Kerala has become the ‘panchakarma’ destination for the world today.