Panchakarma is a Sanskrit word that means 'five actions' or 'five treatments.' This is a process used to clean the body of toxic materials left by disease and poor nutrition. The waste matter created in the body is called 'Ama' in Ayurveda
, which is to be evacuated from the body as thoroughly as possible. The panchakarma are vamana, virechana, vasti, nasya and rakthamoksha
, all of which are not commonly practised in all diseases.
Vamana is emesis and virechana is purging. Vasti is enema, which is of two kinds, done with medicated oils and medicated decoctions and are called snehavasti and kashayavasti respectively. Nasya is advocating medicines through the nose by inhalation. Sushruta, regarded the father of surgery, emphasizes
rakthamoksha (the process of letting out the vitiated blood) as one of the panchakarma, taking the two kinds of vasti as a single karma.
The steps to be followed before doing panchakarma are called poorvakarmas. They are snehana (administering oily substances) and swedana (sudation). Snehana is done in two ways, by the application of snehadravyas (oily substances), internally or externally. Four types of swedana are used to promote sweat. The purpose of poorvakarma is to liquefy and guide the provoked doshas to the mainstream and thereby facilitate the purification or 'shodhanakarma'.
Panchakarma is not advisable for those below seven years or above 80 years. Proper administering of panchakarma ensures healing of the disease treated, along with clear intelligence, diligence, stability of the body, effective digestion and absorption, and prolonged youth.