Panchakarma Treatment | Ayurveda

Published: Feb 20, 2021 | Updated: May 30, 2021

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Panchakarma Treatment | Ayurveda
© Picture courtesy Amila Tennakoon

Panchakarma is a popular, important and widely used treatment procedure within traditional Indian Ayurveda medicine. The phrase Panchakarma consists of two words put together: Pancha (which means five) and Karma (which means action or treatment).

Subsequently, the Ayurvedic Panchakarma treatment refers to five distinct main actions or treatments (the Pradhanakarmas) done to detoxify and cleanse the body in order to alleviate or treat diseases or discomforts.

These five treatments are known as: Vaman, Virechan, Basti (Vasti), Raktamokshan, and Nasya. Nevertheless, some other treatments are involved also, which in fact makes the actual number of procedures go beyond five.

The additional procedures are called the Upakarmas or Purvakarmas, which are considered helpful to the main Panchakarma treatments. Think of Snehana (external oleation of the body to prepare for Panchakarma), Abhyanga (a Snehana oil massage as a pre-procedure) and Swedana or Svedana (medicated steaming to induce sweating, also used as a pre-procedure for Panchakarma).

Another extra procedure that may be applied during the Panchakarma process is Shirodhara, used to relax, balance and stabilize the mind, which is applied by pouring warm herbal oil in a thin steady stream directly onto the forehead.

In any case, the main Pradhanakarmas actions of Panchakarma are:


Vamana is a medicated emesis, which means induced and controlled therapeutic vomiting.


Virechana is medicated purgation (laxative cleansing) where toxins are brought out through the anal canal.

Basti (Vasti)

Basti is a medicated enema and involves bringing in via the rectum herbal concoctions and certain herbal preparations in a liquid medium.


Nasya is herbal medication given through the nose by dropping, pouring, steam or smoke or blowing herbs into the nostrils.

Raktamokshana (Rakta Mokshana)

Raktamokshana is so-called Blood Letting, done by cutting a vein, incisions, using leeches, or by other methods.

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