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Why and When: The Skinny on Panchakarma Detoxification

Although Panchakarma can be technically referred to as a detox, it’s very unique compared to any other known detoxification process. Panchakarma is one of the most successful healing modalities in Ayurveda—a 5,000-year-old ancient comprehensive healthcare practice from India. The Panchakarma detox is tried and true and has helped millions of people find healing and balance. 

Most modern detox methods can be really harsh on our system. These can include the use of drastic measures like extended fasting or coffee enemas or methods that target just specific parts of the body that don’t take into consideration the entire system. Other methods may tamper with the body’s digestive capacity, leaving the body weak and depleted.

Why Detox with Ayurveda?​

The body is naturally fairly resilient and works to remove toxins on it’s own. However, the repeated exposure to poor nutrition, environmental toxins, poor exercise, and poor lifestyle choices that we experience in our society today can cause the body to struggle to rid itself of these impurities. Not only does Panchakarma aid the body and mind in removing toxins, it also helps to strengthen the immune system and restore the body back to its natural state. 

Types of Toxins and Impurities

Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, a classically trained Ayurvedic physician from Pune University, identifies two impurities or toxins in Ayurveda—water-soluble and fat-soluble. While water-soluble impurities can be purged by drinking herbal teas, steam treatments, and improving urinary functions, the more toxic fat soluble impurities, including heavy metal residues, are more stubborn. 

In Maharishi Ayurveda, toxins and impurities are broken down into three different categories: ama, amavisha, and garavish.  Ama is the sludge-like substance that builds up in the digestive tract due to improper eating or inability to properly digest. When undealt with ama sits in any part of the body, it can mix with tissues and waste products and become the more toxic amavisha. The third type of toxins, garavish, are environmental toxins such pesticides, chemical fertilizers, processed and engineered foods and those that contain preservatives, lead, asbestos, chemicals in detergents, household supply chemicals, poisons, air and water pollution, chemicals and synthetics in clothing, and recreational drugs.

Did you know? 

Even if you have a perfect diet lifestyle, toxins from our food and environment can still build up in our bodies creating imbalance and potentially illness. 

Symptoms of Toxic Build Up

  • Heaviness and lethargy
  • Sluggish pulse
  • Mucus build-up
  • Lowered immunity; colds and flu
  • Stiff joints
  • A white coating on the tongue
  • Unpleasant body odor
  • Feeling dull and sleepy after eating
  • Skin diseases
  • Wear or dull digestion
  • Foggy mind
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Sadness

Ama clogs the channels of circulation in the body which can prevent the flow of nutrients to the cells and organs leading to potential mal-absorption. It can clog the channels that rid waste from the body’s cells and tissues via the digestive tract, resulting in toxic build-up. 

How Toxins are Created

According to Ayurveda principles, the causes of toxic build-up are

  • Poor lifestyle and behavior choices
  • Insufficient digestion, diet, and nutrition
  • Stress
  • Environmental factors.

Ayurveda provides insights to get the body in tune with what’s most natural. Because each body is unique, identifying the constitution helps dictate best choices when it comes to lifestyle, behavior, diet, nutrition, stress management, and handling environmental factors. Ayurveda also helps to tune into the natural circadian rhythm of our bodies and provides guidelines to live more balanced. Although ancient Ayurveda medicine was documented more than 5000 years ago, its principles are easily applied in today’s modern world. 

The Importance of Panchakarma

As previously mentioned, toxins can get lodged in our digestive system or in different tissues in our bodies. In Ayurveda, the seven layers of tissues, or structure, in the body—referred to as dhatus—are plasma (rasa), blood (rakta), muscles (mamsa), fat (medas), bones (athi), nervous system (Majja), and the reproductive tissue (Shukra). These are the areas which disease can appear when imbalance exists. Almost everyone experiences toxic build-up at some point in their lives; it’s important that these toxins are removed before disease can manifest. 

The Panchakarma Process

An Ayurvedic Panchakarma detox has three phases: preparing your body, loosening impurities, and purging impurities. The process itself takes a couple of weeks, with a 7-day pre-cleanse at home, a 6- or 8-day cleanse at the retreat center that includes gradually loosening impurities and a purging process, and then a post-cleanse at home. Toxins and impurities are purged by ingesting oils and saturating the body with the right kinds of fat through trans-dermal oil massages and consumption. Impurities are loosened and expelled from the body. The entire process involves a specific mono diet, various skin and spa treatments, and medicinal herbs. 

What’s the best time to Panchakarma?

Panchakarma should be performed each season and at least once a year in a professional setting. It’s also important to adjust your cleanse based on the current state of the body and particular imbalances. Each cleanse is tailored to an individual’s dosha and imbalances as well and adjusted for age, digestive strength, current immune state, and many other considerations. Specially trained therapists create the plan and perform treatments to avoid any adverse affects. 

Panchakarma detox is a gentle and effective way of purging impurities using organic, natural, and herbal treatments and processes that have been tested over thousands of years for their effectiveness. A Panchakarma detox takes time and commitment. Unravelling long-term damage done to the body by poor nutrition, environmental toxins, poor exercise, and poor lifestyle choices is not something that happens over night. Panchakarma should be performed annually, or even twice a year, to maintain balance.