Panchakarma – the five types of Shodhana

Shodhana or purification therapy is a core system for creating wellness within Ayurveda tradition. If our bodies are out of balance, due to unhealthy diet, stress and other factors, it becomes harder to maintain good health. In Ayurveda, the three doshas (the primary elements that constitute the body and mind) must be balanced for optimal health to be reached. Shodhana are widely used to rebalance doshas. The group of five therapies, collectively called panchakarma, helps purify the body and expel excess doshas. These are the five core shodhanas that make up the panchakarma:

Vaman (induced vomiting)

Vaman or emetic therapy is an Ayurveda therapy indicated for those who suffer from respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, coughs and asthma. This treatment helps to reduce the watery kapha dosha, which is associated with mucous accumulation. Several natural emetics (substances that induce vomiting) are used for this treatment. One of the most common is salt water which is combined with physical stimulus that activates the gag reflex to produce the desired effect.

Virechana (laxative therapy)

Virechana is a therapy involving the use of mild, natural laxatives. An excess of bile in the digestive system often underlies nausea, inflammation and other uncomfortable symptoms. Virechana is used in Ayurveda to purge excess bile and pitta, the dosha associated with this physical state. Common natural laxatives used in virechana include psyllium husks and prunes.

Basti (enema therapy)

The vata dosha is the main dosha affecting the colon and the digestive process. Imbalances in vata can lead to digestive discomfort, including constipation and gas. Basti is an Ayurveda treatment involving introduction of herbal preparations to the colon in liquid form. In addition to relieving digestive problems, this therapy also is used to alleviate conditions associated with vata such as arthritis, muscle spasms, fever and backache.

Nasya (nasal therapy)

 In Ayurveda the nose is seen as being the pathway to the brain and to consciousness. Medication given nasally is called nasya. There are six core types of nasal therapy. Pradhamana uses powders rather than oils, and these are given via the nose for head colds, nasal congestion and sinusitis. Bruhana Nasya uses ghee, oils, and other preparations. This is used for vata imbalances that contribute to headaches, anxiety and other problems. Your Ayurveda practitioner will inform you about the other nasya therapies and which will be best for your ailments.

Raktha Mokshana (blood-cleansing therapy)

Toxins that enter the bloodstream contribute to chronic infections and circulatory problems. Raktha Mokshana is an Ayurveda therapy involving controlled blood-letting. Extracting a small amount of blood stimulates the body to produce antitoxic substances which help to purify the blood and eliminate toxins.

For each therapy of the panchakarma, there are contra-indications – circumstances in which the therapy is not advised. For this reason, always use a trained Ayurveda practitioner who will put your health and your unique medical profile first.

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