A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO PANCHAKARMA
Modern India has experienced an unusual yet perfect blend of the traditional and the modern in both domestic as well as in the international arena. On one hand, Indian Information Technology is being hailed as a power to reckon with, and on the other, the traditional Indian knowledge systems like Ayurveda, Yoga, etc. are being considered seriously. More and more people from all over the world are flocking to India to get Ayurvedic opinion on their health issues. Panchakarma clinics can now be found everywhere, including star hotels and holiday resorts. It is important, at this juncture, to know what Panchakama is. As this write-up is mainly for the common reader, only minimum information has been imparted. For a more detailed study, one has to get in touch with an Ayurvedic physician or refer to the reference books on this topic. This material must not be expected to serve the purpose of a user’s manual.
The objective of Ayurveda is "Svasthasya svasthya rakshanam athurasya vikaraprasamanam"
which means to protect the health of the healthy and to relieve the suffering of the sufferer. To achieve this objective, Ayurveda advises different methods of treatment. One of the classifications is as follows.
Here are two types of treatment (upakrama) mentioned in Ayurveda -
These are also known as
Langhana or apatharpana (depleting) is divided into further two categories.
They are Sodhana (elimination) and Samana (pacifying).
Sodhana is the elimination of waste materials accumulated in the body through a series of treatment processes and samana is pacifying of the condition. Sodhana is done when there is prabhoota dosa (excessive accumulation of waste materials) where as, samana is done when there is alpadosa (less waste materials). In today’s Ayurvedic treatment most of the practices like taking medicines or massages and steam baths fall into the category of samana.
Langhana (depleting) Sodhana (purification) - 5 kinds
1) Vamana (emesis)
2) Virechana (purgation)
3) Vasti (enema)
4) Nasya (nasal medication)
5) Rakta moksha (blood letting)
Samana (pacifying) - 7 kinds
1) Pachana (using digestives)
2) Deepana (increasing digestive fire)
3) Kshut (hunger)
4) Thrit (thirst)
5) Vyayama (exercise)
6) Athapa (Sunlight)
7) Marutha (Wind)
WHAT IS PANCHAKARMA?
"Nirooha vamana kaya sirorekosravisrutaya iti panchakarmani" [Astanga hrdaya, sutrasthana, 14/5]
Panchakarma literally means five actions or techniques. They are vamana (induced vomiting/emesis) virechana (purgation), kashaya vasti and sneha vasti (two kinds of medicated enemas with decoction and unctuous material), nasya (nasal medication) and raktamoksha (blood letting).
A major therapeutic use of panchakarma is purification (sodhana) of the body. Though sodhana (purification) forms a major part of Panchakama. But Panchakama is not a purificatory technique (sodhana chikitsa) alone; The purificatory treatment in the form of Panchakama is quite unique to Ayurveda. According to Caraka samhita, one of the earliest writings on Ayurveda, if a disease is treated with sodhana, it does not recur. Thus Panchakama becomes an important part of Ayurvedic treatment modality.
There is a difference of opinion among classical authors on the techniques that come under Panchakama. Some include vamana (emesis), virechana (purgation), two types of vastis (enemas) and nasya (nasal medication). Here it is to be noted that even though there is a difference of opinion, most of the classical authors like Susruta and Vagbhata include raktamoksha (blood letting) in Panchakama apart from the other four techniques.
Panchakama is commonly used in treating broad categories of conditions – arthritic, rheumatic, neurological, neuromuscular, musculo-skeletal disorders, other degenerative conditions, mental disorders, insomnia, depression, menstrual irregularities, infertility, obesity, asthma and other respiratory conditions, irritable bowel syndrome, gastro-intestinal conditions, other chronic conditions, etc. Thus Panchakama has preventive, curative and promotive functions.
In Ayurveda, there are three methods of treatment. They are Hetu vipareetha (against cause), vyadhivipareetha (against disease) or ubhayarthakari (both the above). Panchakama includes all the three types of treatments.
TECHNIQUES IN PANCHAKARMA
Panchakama includes preparatory technique, five main techniques and a few post techniques.
Poorvakarma (Preparatory techniques)
Paschatkarma (Post – Panchakama regimen)
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