Panchakarma Detox: A Whole Body Flush Down

Isn’t it frustrating when the kitchen pipes get clogged? All that wasted food and rubbish floating around the kitchen sink is oh so disgusting!


Your kitchen practically becomes non-functional and forbidden despite there being seemingly functional areas (like the stove or microwave).

According to Ayurveda, our bodies work on similar lines.


If you have arthritis, conventional treatment would target the painful joint. Ayurveda dares to be different.


Instead of only targeting the affected organ or area of the body, it advises a more systemic approach. It suggests that the build up of toxins in the body is the primary indicator of disease or poor nutrition. If you can remove these toxins floating around in your body, you can lock in your security for a healthier, happier life.


First, let’s think Ayurveda…


Our bodies are a whirlpool of energies — pitta, kapha, and vata. One of the three dominates in each individual, determining your personality and the way your body works. Toxin buildup in the body aggravates pitta, kapha, or vata causing that dosha to be in excess. That is when you feel ‘uneasy’ and desperately need a whole body detox.


What is panchakarma?

Panchakarma is a rigorous, five action detox therapy that aims at preventing the recurrence of disease by tackling the root cause — toxins. Toxins are believed to be the triggers for most diseases and health problems. By cleansing the body of toxins, panchakarma restores doshas to their normal states. Normal doshas = healthy again!


The offensive strategy is to knock well-rooted toxins (that are a bit too comfortably sitting for a long time) loose from their affected organs and then, using herbal extracts, force them out of your body via the mouth, anus, or skin pores.

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The intensity of the treatment (including the strength and type of herbal decoctions used) will depend on your body constitution (prakruti) and, hence, on the predominating dosha in your body, your body strength, your age, the severity of the disease, the season, etc. The season because different seasons aggravate different doshas.


So, your panchakarma therapy should ideally be carried out at the start of the season that is linked with your imbalanced dosha. It is, thus, advised that even healthy individuals succumb to panchakarma at least once yearly. This serves as a preventive measure. However, you may also carry it out as a cure after you have contracted a disease.

That brings us to the starting point…

Once you have realized that your body needs a thorough detox (think migraines, headaches, joint pain, insomnia, mood changes, fatigue, nausea, constipation, skin rashes, depression, and just ‘not feeling right’), you’ll need to prepare for panchakarma. Purvakarma or the preparation phase requires you to do whatever it takes to ease your body into the thorough scrubbing it is about to undergo. This involves identifying your body constitution (read: your dosha),…


…drinking warm ghee early morning,…

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…going on a dosha-pacifying diet (only whole vegetables with no stimulants, artificial sugars or alcohol),…


…indulging in full body oil massages and herbal steams,…

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…and basically just relaxing.

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Next, the real deal…

The following are the five actions (hammering you down till your toxins yield and leave the body) that panchakarma uses:

Vamana: therapeutic vomiting to remove toxins and excessive kapha from the stomach.
Virechana: purgation or laxative therapy to remove toxins and excessive pitta from the small intestines, colon, kidney, stomach, liver, and spleen.
Basti: medicated enema to remove excessive vata from the colon.
Nasya: nasal administration of medication.
Raktamokshana: therapeutic withdrawal of blood from the body, specifically useful for blood-related diseases like eczemas and leukoderma.

A typical panchakarma therapy involves a dosha-specific action i.e. depending on which dosha has gone out of bounds — vamana for kapha, virechana or raktamokshana for pitta, and basti for vata — and nasya.

This is what your daily therapy would look like: Vamana/Virechana/Vasti/Raktamoskshana + Nasya + full body Ayurvedic Abhyanga body massage + full body steam + application of herbal wash

What should you do after the therapy is over?

You need to allow your body to recover from the beating its taken and ease it back into your normal lifestyle. This phase is called pashchatkarma and includes sansarjan karma (specific diet to boost agni or your digestive fire), dhumapana (inhaling of medicinal herbal sticks), and a few other restrictions. Eat puffed rice and khitchadi during this time. It will help you bounce back faster.

What is the duration of the entire treatment — Purvakarma to Paschatkarma?

The duration varies depending on the actions being employed.

Vaman and virechan: 12-15 days
Basti: 30 days for karma basti: 30 days, 15 days for kala basti, and 8 days for yog basti
Nasya: 45 minutes per session
Raktamokshan: Duration varies depending on whether it the detox is local (specific body part) or general (whole body)

Are there any side effects?

You may feel a little unsettled and ‘not yourself’ for a couple of days after panchakarma therapy. That is just your body swooning from being pushed a little overboard. With counseling and rejuvenation therapy advised by an Ayurveda expert, you will find the strength (both physical and mental) to restore a sense of equilibrium soon.

Who is panchakarma not suitable for?

Panchakarma is best avoided for children (babies), pregnant ladies, lactating mothers, and old people above 80 years of age. An Ayurvedic expert should definitely be consulted before even thinking of such treatment for such individuals.

Terrified by the very sound of it?

As scary and unfamiliar as panchakarma may sound, you must know that this time-tested therapy has proved effective in the treatments of so many medical conditions (obesity, arthritis, asthma, and so on). It is an intense procedure that requires discipline and dedication on your part preferably with the help of a vaidya (a practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine). With the constant guidance and support of your vaidya, you will have nothing to fear or worry about.

Because of the precise restrictions that need to religiously be followed, it is generally recommended that you be hospitalized from purvakarma to paschatkarma. However, if that is not feasible, you should at least try and admit yourself to an Ayurvedic medical facility for the actual panchakarma.

What if you don’t have an Ayurvedic facility in your vicinity and you still want to execute a panchakarma detox?

You may do so in your home by yourself. By toning down the intensity of the methods and making a personal commitment to yourself, you can take your detox into your own hands.

Focus on the benefits.

As children, most of us (not talking to the post-90s technology-stricken kids) loved to jump into mud puddles.

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We would then shamelessly stroll into our homes, very matter-of-factly get scolded by our mothers, and then be marched off to the bathroom for an almost skin-peeling scrub. Remember that feeling of being clean? Squeaky clean. That’s the impact panchakarma has not only on our bodies, but on our minds and soul as well.