Expectations Surrounding Panchakarma
It is important to address the issue of what one can expect from this therapy. While Panchakarma alleviates symptoms of disease, its real objective is to eliminate their cause. In itself, the absence of symptoms does not always indicate a complete cure. Symptoms can often be quickly eliminated, but cure usually takes more time.
If a person has been storing the seeds of degenerative disease in his body for fifteen or twenty years and suffering from symptoms for five or tea years, it is unlikely that they will be completely healed in ten or fifteen days of Panchakarma. It takes time and repeated treatments to rid the body completely of ama and to rebuild and rejuvenate the dhatus. The length of the treatment varies with the type of illness and the adverse effects created by previous treatment procedures. Individuals also respond differently to Panchakarma treatment because of differences in their individual constitutions.
In his elaboration of the science of rejuvenation, Charaka prescribed the following Panchakarma regimen:
Seven days of snehana, swedana and nasya Eighth day: vamana
Three days of samarajana krama after vamana Second Cycle
Seven days of snehana, swedana and nasya Eighth day: virechana
Three days of samarajana krama after virechana Third Cycle
Eight, fifteen or thirty days of snehana, swedana, nasya and basti therapy, depending on the nature and severity of the illness. Nasya treatment can be performed separately from basti, but is still combined with snehana and swedana.
Sushruta Samhita confirms the effectiveness of the Panchakarma regimen, and in addition adds raktamokshana.
Though Charaka has provided this schedule as a general framework for the administration of Panchakarma, he categorically states that the Ayurvedic physician should use his own knowledge and expertise to design a treatment regimen which is appropriate for the patient and his or her illness.
Based on more than fifteen years of clinical experience and over 9,000 Panchakarma protocols, I have found the following month-long program to be very effective:
Days 1-7: Snehana, swedana, nasya (cleansing) and basti (various combinations of nirooha and anuwasan)
Day 8: Vamana
Days 9-10: Samsarajana krama and rest
Days 11-15: Snehana, swedana, nasya (cleansing) and basti (same as above)
Day 16: Virechana
Days 17-18: Samsarajana krama and rest
Days 19-26: Snehana, swedana, nasya (nourishing) and basti (bruhan and anuwasan)
Days 27-28:Samsarajana krama and rest
As you can tell, a strong emphasis is placed on nasya and basti karma to cleanse the body and to pacify and nourish vata; as we have mentioned so often in this book, vata is the prime mover of all functions in the body. When we control vata, we control health.
The whole treatment takes twenty-eight days, but I generally advise my patients to set aside a few days before and after the treatment program for reasons described above.
In the West, however, few people seem able to take this much time away from their work and responsibilities, so one-and two-week programs have been tailored. These abbreviated programs focus mainly on pacifying and nourishing vata and helping cleanse ama and mala from the pitta and vata zones of the body.
In this regimen, the preparatory procedures of snehana and sivedana must be given for a minimum of seven days before administering virechana. This insures that all seven dhatus are completely oleated. During this seven day period, there is extensive use of shodhana or cleansing nasyas and bastis.
This one-week or two-week program is highly recommended once or twice a year for preventative purposes. It is even more beneficial when it can be performed around the change of seasons since this is the time when the doshas can most easily become imbalanced in their functioning. However, in cases of chronic or degenerative diseases, a longer-term treatment of at least one month is highly recommended. Depending on the seriousness and duration of the disorder, a series of such longer treatment programs may be necessary to remove the basis of the disease.
It is not always possible to take time away from one’s family and profession to engage in Panchakarma therapy, even if we are in need of it, The following articles offers some simple shamana (palliative) and shodhana (cleansing) procedures that you can do yourself when imbalances arise.