Snehapanam is the oral intake of fats like ghee or oil for 3-7 days. The procedure is done as a preparation for panchakarma or purification therapies. Panchakarma therapy is aimed at removing any imbalances in the three doshas. The Snehapanam or oleation procedure helps to mobilize the doshas and prepare the body for further therapies.
There are two different types of Snehapanam. In Achapana Snehapanam, the fat is administered orally without mixing it with food or any other medication. The purpose is to solely lubricate and soften the body for the panchakarma procedures. In Vicharana Snehapanam the oral intake includes ghee as well as medicines and is prescribed for treating certain ailments.
Fats used for Snehapanam
Different kinds of fats may be used for Snehapanam depending on the objective of undergoing the procedure. According to Ayurveda texts, the fats used for Snehapanam must have specific qualities. It has to be heavy, cold, fluid, mobile, oily, soft and liquid. Physicians in Kerala, where Ayurveda is a precious legacy inherited from our forefathers, normally choose between cow ghee, sesame oil, animal muscle fat and bone marrow. Ghee is considered the best fat for Snehapanam due to its power of assimilation and the ease with which it can be digested. Ghee also has miraculous softening and cooling powers. Marrow is the most difficult to digest.
Physicians can also prescribe a combination of different fats to be ingested. Yamala Sneha is a combination of any two varieties of fat substances like ghee or oil. Trivrit Sneha includes any three varieties of fat and Maha Sneha is a mixture of all four fats – ghee, oil, muscle fat and marrow. The combination of fats used will depend on the body type (Vata, Pitta or Kapha) as well as the physical condition and life style of the patient. The season also plays a major role in the kind of fat selected. Oil is preferred during the rainy season and ghee in autumn. Muscle fat and marrow are suited for spring.
Preparation for Snehapanam
The preparation for Snehapanam begins a day or two in advance. The patient’s diet is modified and portions are reduced. Hot, liquid and non-sticky food is preferred as it avoids obstructions in the digestive and circulatory systems. It is important that the food be eaten slowly and calmly. Talking or laughing while eating should be avoided. The physician also has to take into account any possible medical emergency or side effects that may arise. This may include nausea, vomiting, giddiness and indigestion. Some people complain of pain. All medications needed to treat these symptoms should be kept handy. Celibacy should be observed during Snehapanam. Sleeping or napping during day time, physical exercises, angry outbursts and exposure to the sun, wind or cold should be avoided.
The first step is to determine the dose of sneha/fat to be taken by the patient. This is determined by the individual’s digestive power, state of the disease and physical condition as assessed by the physician. The prescribed amount of fat has to be taken orally on an empty stomach early in the morning. Most practitioners prefer to give patients their dose of sneha within 15 minutes of sun rise. The patient is made to sit on a knee high chair and an effort is made to calm him/her down to remove any lingering fear or doubt. He/she may be asked to pray or meditate depending on the individual’s religious beliefs. The selected sneha is warmed slightly and mixed with medicines (if required) before the patient drinks it. The patient is watched carefully and hot water or liquids are given at regular intervals.
The dosage of sneha is increased daily based on the discretion of the physician and the patient’s response. Normally 50 ml is given on the first day. This is increased to 100 ml, 150 ml, 200 ml, 250 ml, 300 ml and 350 ml over the next six days.
Terminating the Snehapanam
Snehapanam should not exceed seven days. The patient’s condition should be closely monitored. During the treatment the patient will have headaches, dizziness, fatigue, thirst, lack of appetite, restlessness and a burning sensation in the body. As the treatment continues, these symptoms will disappear. The patient will be refreshed, rejuvenated and will feel light in body and mind. The digestive system will work more efficiently. This state is known as Samyak Jirna Lakshana. An experienced physician can assess these milestones correctly. Once these objectives are attained – normally within seven days – Snehapanam is terminated and the patient can proceed with the remaining panchakarma treatment.
Snehapanam without Panchakarma
Oleation or Snehapanam may be prescribed as a stand-alone therapy for various ailments. These include individuals with Vata imbalances, rough skin, excessive alcohol consumption, mental stress and tension. It is also recommended for the elderly to cope with age-related debilities. Snehapanam is useful in relieving fatigue and sexual dysfunction in men. It is also suggested to treat vision-related problems, gout, skin diseases like psoriasis, urinary disorder, ulcers, constipation and diabetes mellitus. However, not everybody can undergo Snehapanam. Overweight or obese people should refrain from it. Those suffering from diarrhoea and blood disorders are also forbidden from oleation.