Detoxing is all the rage these days. You can’t visit Facebook without hearing about some new juice cleanse or detox. Yet detoxing is not new by any stretch of the imagination. Semi-annual cleanses have been a part of Ayurveda’s vocabulary for 5,000 years. Suffice it to say, millenniums of experience have produced one of the most effective (and safest) means of detoxing the body, with specific recommendations to help customize the process based on body type, health, time of life and season of the year. In fact, many people with severe digestive disorders and other chronic conditions, cancer even, have benefited from the wisdom of Ayurveda’s five cleansing actions (Panchakarma in Sanskrit).
WHO NEEDS PANCHAKARMA (PK)?
If you feel depressed or worn down or are experiencing joint pain, digestive issues or a chronic health condition, Panchakarma can help re-balance your body in support of greater vitality. If you have food allergies or food cravings, Panchakarma can help reset your body’s intelligence to put you back in control of your diet. Ayurvedic Practitioner, Allison Bransfield Morse, explains “When the energetic forces known as vata, pitta, and kapha get out of balance, it lowers our digestive fire (agni), and toxins (ama) are created. The ama enters into the blood stream, clogging the channels, and lodges into joints, muscles, organs, and reproductive tissue, etc. This is detrimental to our prana (life-force or energy), tejas (metabolic energy), and ojas (immunity).” Panchakarma is a purification therapy that helps draw the toxins out of the blood and deeper tissues of the body, moving them into the digestive system. Once they are in the digestive system, they can easily be removed from the body. Panchakarma resets digestion and allows the body to do what it’s supposed to do—detox naturally.
Essentially, everyone can benefit from Panchakarma. If you’re already healthy, why not stay that way? Doing semi-annual cleanses in the Spring and the Fall help your body transition through the changing seasons, keeping you in balance for the long haul. A Spring cleanse helps release the lymph that has built up over the cold, winter months. A Fall cleanse helps release excess Summer heat from the body to minimize dryness during the windy Fall season. Semi-annual cleanses represent one of the most reliable ways to maintain healthy body weight and prevent joint pain and general disease.
HOW DOES PANCHAKARMA WORK?
The basic process involves consuming a mono diet, generally kichari, to help draw the toxins from the deeper tissues into the digestive system. Internal and external oleation with healthy, medicinal oils, and fomentation, using heat and steam, are employed to help loosen and mobilize the toxins from fat cells, the blood stream and other tissues of the body. Once the toxins are in the digestive system, they can then be released easily using Panchakarma’s five namesake cleansing actions:
- Basti—enema therapy, to eliminate excess vata
- Virechana—purgation, to eliminate excess pitta
- Nasya—elimination of toxins through the nose, to eliminate excess kapha
- Vamana—therapeutic vomiting, to eliminate excess kapha
- Rakta Moksha—detoxification of the blood, to eliminate excess pitta (not done in the U.S.)
After the cleanse has been completed, the most important part begins–rebuilding the digestive fire so it can handle harder to digest foods again. It is essential that an individual add back food groups slowly, keeping a keen eye on digestive symptoms that arise.
As Panchakarma can be a very depleting process, the elderly, children and people with wasting conditions should do more palliative versions of PK under the direct supervision of a professional Ayurvedic Practitioner.
If you are interested in embarking on an Ayurvedic detox, consider the following steps:
- Consider how many days you can clear your schedule to get the most out of the process. Three, five, seven or two weeks are the most common in the U.S. Two weeks to one month is quite common in India.
- Make an appointment with an Ayurvedic practitioner who can help design the right process for you.
- Begin slowly eating cleaner and with mindfulness to help prepare your body for the cleanse.
- Purchase the ingredients for your prescribed kichari recipe and have your daily preparation routine worked out.
- Obtain the ghee, triphala and any other digestive herbs recommended by your practitioner.
- Begin your daily routine and diet.
- Schedule your Ayurvedic body treatments to support the oleation and fomentation process of cleansing.
- Prepare to follow your practitioner’s recommended elimination process (one of the five actions for your condition)
- After you have completed the cleanse and the elimination process, slowly begin adding food groups back.
- Once your digestion is back to normal, return to the proper food plan and mindful eating habits for your body type. For those with chronic conditions, the food plan may include herbs to help rebuild healthy tissues now that the ama is cleared out.
Obviously, the longer the cleanse and the more relaxed your schedule during the process, the deeper the results. If you don’t have the time, however, something is better than nothing. Just make sure you allow time on the back end to re-stoke your digestive fire properly. If you do not, it is likely that your body will simply build up ama again from the remains of food that is not being digested.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.