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What is panchakarma?

Panchakarma is a term used to refer to five specific intensive treatments which are mostly purificatory in nature. The five treatments are:

Vamana - emesis or induced vomiting
Virecana - purgation or induced bowel movements
Asthapana Vasti - medicated decoction enema
Anuvasana Vasti - medicated oil enema
Nasya - medicated oil instilled through the nose

However the treatment does not commence or end with these five treatments. Each of these intensive treatments has three phases - 

preparatory phase
main treatment phase
recuperative phase

The preparatory phase where the patient is got ready by the use of internal medicines and external oil and heat applications as decided by the physician these treatments can include abhyanga, snehapana, elakizhi podikizhi, udvartana, shirodhara and pizhichil. This phase can last for anywhere between 7 to 14 days or more.

When the physician is convinced that the patient is ready for the main treatment, it is administered. For treatments like vamana and virechana, the main treatment is a single day treatment. For treatments like vasti and nasya, several main treatments are administered over a period of 3, 5 , 7 days (or more) depending on individual need.

After the treatment is over, then there is the recuperative phase where again the patient is kept under very close observation to ensure that he/she gets the full benefit of the treatment. This phase can again vary between 7 to 14 days or more. During this period, abhyanga, dinacharya and other similar treatments are rendered along with the internal medication.

During this entire period, the physician advises maximum physical and mental rest to enable the patient to get the full benefit from the treatment. The physician gives the dietary and lifestyle advice which the patient should strictly follow.

These five treatments can be done in sequence one after the other or as is more often done, they are administered individually based on the particular patient’s condition. They are not normally done in sequence since the time period required for this is quite long (around 70 days at the minimum which is again followed by 70 days of rest). Hence, based on the individual’s condition, the physician selects the appropriate treatment and administers it under strict supervision.

For more information on panchakarma, please click here.