Ayurveda’s Panchakarma Therapy

Ayurveda’s Panchakarma Therapy

by Julie Wardwell April 05, 2023


Panchakarma therapies are an ancient Ayurvedic healing method that is becoming increasingly popular in modern times. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know about Panchakarma therapy.

Panchakarma is Ayurveda’s therapeutic purification process that removes ama, or metabolic waste that accumulates in the body. Usually, ama is created from poor digestion that is caused by eating foods that are not suitable for your digestive capacity or eating too large of a quantity. Panchakarma is a therapeutic cleansing therapy that aims to remove the ama that has built up and also helps the body restore it’s normal functioning of the dosha.

Panchakarma is derived from two Sanskrit words, "Pancha" meaning five and "Karma" meaning action. Thus, Panchakarma refers to a set of five therapeutic procedures aimed at cleansing and rejuvenating the body. The five procedures include vamana, virechana, basti, nasya, and raktamokshana.

Five Therapies of Panchakarma

  1. Vamana: therapeutic vomiting 
  2. Virecana: therapeutic purgation 
  3. Niruha basti: therapeutic herbal enema 
  4. Anuvasana basti: therapeutic oil enema 
  5. Nasya: therapeutic nasal cleansing

Ama or metabolic waste accumulates when the foods we eat are improperly digested. Our digestion becomes weak when we consume foods and drinks improperly, have too little or too much exercise, poor quality sleep, and poorly managed mental stress. Also, as we age digestion naturally becomes weaker and then it becomes even more important to undergo Panchakarma therapy on a yearly basis to help maintain good health and a strong immune system.

Benefits of Panchakarma Therapy

Panchakarma, when performed correctly removes ama or metabolic waste from its location, improves the function of digestion and metabolism, brings clarity to the sense organs, mind, intellect, and restores strength and virility. Panchakarma is recommended before any type of rejuvenation therapy can be successful, this is also known as rasyana therapy.

Three Stages of Panchakarma Therapy

First Stage: Purva Karma

This stage includes four therapies before the actual panchakarma procedures. These therapies start the process of moving the ama from its root location by melting and liquifying it to move toward the gut for expulsion. Theses therapies remove obstructions and pacify vata dosha to move in its normal downward direction. 

  • Dipana: stimulating digestion and metabolism with herbal preparations.
  • Pacana: digesting undigested waste with herbal preparations.  
  • Snehana: internal and external oleation with oily herbal preparations.
  • Swedana: fomentation with steam heat to induce the body to sweat.

Second Stage: Pradhan Karma 

This stage is the main panchakarma where the five therapies are administered. The five therapies are prescribed based upon the persons symptoms, site of dosha vitiation and the nearest orifice for expulsion. Not everyone who undergoes panchakarma will be given all five therpaies. For managing symptoms usually one or more procedures are performed until the morbid dosha are brought back to their normal state.

  • Vamana (therapeutic vomiting) is recommended when there is excess kapha dosha accumulated in the respiratory system. Symptoms such as chronic sinus and throat congestion and difficulty breathing are helped by eliminating excess kapha dosha from its main site in the stomach. Vamana is usually administered with three to four glasses of different ingredients such as salt water, milk, or yashtimadhu phanta.
  • Virechana (therapeutic purgation) is recommended when excess pitta dosha has accumulated in the gall bladder, liver and small intestine. Excess pitta dosha produces symptoms such as skin rashes, chronic fever, nausea, indigestion, acidity, burning sensation, and inflammation. virechana is generally administered with herbal preparations like Avipathi Churnam, Trivril Leham, Triphaladi Churnam or castor oil in combinations appropriate for each person.
  • Basti (two types of therapeutic enema) is recommended to pacify vata dosha in its main location the colon. The herbal preparations are prepared with sesame oil and enema is administered and held for a period of time depending on the persons symptoms. Basti is one of the most effective healing therapies for vata disorders and usually a series of bastis over a period of time is recommended. Basti’s are useful for constipation, bloating, sexual disorders, back, joint and nerve pain caused by inflammation, muscle spasms and chronic headache. Two types of bastis are given during panchakarma, niruha basti is an herbal preparation given to cleanse and anuvasana basti is an herbal oil given to rejuvenate.
  • Nasya (therapeutic nasal cleansing) is given because the nose is the doorway to the brain and consciousness and the site where prana vayu enters the body. Prana vayu governs sensory and motor functions, memory, concentration, and all intellectual activities. Imbalanced prana vayu causes headaches, loss of memory, and reduced sensory perception. The herbal preparation is warmed to body temperature and the eyes are covered with a cloth. The tip of the nose is raised, and the herbal preparation is administered to each nostril. When the preparation comes to the throat, the patient should hold for 10 seconds then spit the contents till the entire herbal preparation is expelled. Nasya therapy brings clarity to the mind, sense organs and restores proper sleep.

Third Stage: Pascat Karma 

There is a specific regimen to follow once the main panchakarma procedures are complete, this stage is called samsarjana krama. Digestive strength is weakened due to the expulsion of dosha and to regain the correct digestive strength there are certain guidelines for foods and lifestyle habits that must be followed. In total there are 28 types of gruels that may be recommended to help restore digestive strength. The gruels are made from rice or barley with herbs like amalaki, bilva, and ginger. Dhumapana (medicinal herbal smoke) is also administered to help the dosha return to their normal state.

If you have any questions about how to use Kottakkal products, you may schedule a free 15-minute consultation here.

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Kottakkal Ayurveda products and information are not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. If you have serious, acute, or chronic health problems, please consult a trained health professional. If you are seeking the advice of a trained Ayurvedic professional, call (800) 215-9934 or email us at We will provide you with information to consult with Ayurvedic professionals. Always check with your doctor before taking herbs when pregnant or nursing.


Julie Wardwell
Julie Wardwell

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