By Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya
Ayurveda has hundreds of tools to help clean out these obstacles before they create imbalances that provoke disease. Panchakarma is one of the most famous and is a pillar in the annual schedules of families that have seen its benefits.
Panchakarma (Pancha, five; karma, action) are the five actions that provide deep cleaning to the body. They include Vamana, therapeutic emesis guided and fully supervised by a physician monitoring mucous output, once the upper gut is cleared; Virechana, therapeutic purgation using powerful laxatives, guided by and stopped when needed, once the lower gut is cleared; Basti, therapeutic nourishing and cleansing of the lower gut through careful placement of herbal medicines in the rectum and lower intestines, either oil-based or water-based; and Nasya, therapeutic cleaning of the HEENT, all the channels in the head, and sense organs above the collar bones.
When done carefully and properly, panchakarma therapeutically removes obstacles from large channels in the body that then provoke further removal of toxins from deeper channels inside the cells of the trunk, limbs, head, and neck, restoring natural flow and bringing relief to the body. Chronic diseases resolve.
While mainstream medicine has not yet acknowledged the phenomenal healing ability of panchakarma and its underlying theories rooted in Ayurveda, plenty of celebrities, politicians, physicians, and many health professionals secretly go on “medical tourism” vacations to India and Sri Lanka. They book a stay at a panchakarma center, usually referred by friends, family, or colleagues who have had extremely successful outcomes.
One of the reasons that mainstream medicine has not yet been able to grasp the power of panchakarma is that its theories depend on molecules and biochemistry, with a heavy emphasis on technology. Systems that function as a whole, and patterns of disease that can only be seen when looking at simultaneous, dynamic, and constantly evolving pathways are not the way modern medicine works today. Super specialists generally specialize in one specific area of the body and have structured their business models around deep profits from a set of procedures and billing tactics. They cannot correlate any drugs, procedures, or physiology that do not work with their usual patterns of practice.
In addition, many — though not all physicians — are closed-minded, fearful, and wary of any other medicinal practices, especially if the procedures are unfamiliar and will heal patients that then take away from their business.
Panchakarma focuses on the patient. It is the ideal system of individualized, patient-centered care. Every step is tailored to at least 10 variables that are systematically calculated by the team working with the patient. When implemented properly, panchakarma is probably the best model of interventive care for chronic diseases, terminal illnesses, and even urgent or emergent conditions.
To plan a panchakarma treatment module, the ayurvedic physician carefully examines the current symptoms and mental state of the patient. The patient must have the strength and presence of mind to withstand many long days of hot oil therapies warm acidic acid baths decoctions that are often not pleasant in taste, food that is usually blander than a person with the disease is accustomed to, time in nature with no distractions of TV or phone, and often, the emergence of dreaded mental and emotional issues that have been stuck in the heart or mind or secretly suppressed in the crevices of the body-mind.
Often, people cannot understand the association of one life event with the current disease they have been holding in their bodies. It is precisely the fact that they cannot understand that has kept the disease alive inside of them! Once they realize that something that was a part of their personality or a key aspect of how they define themselves is not serving them, they need to be guided to let go.
While panchakarma is ostensibly a therapy that works with materials on the body level, its extreme successes show that the body and mind are inextricably linked, but also that a spiritual self-concept is crucial for health.
Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya