It is a fact that the functioning of the body suffers as impurities and toxins accumulate in the cells and tissues. Such impurities can come from both inside and outside the body. From inside the body come internal metabolic and cellular waste products, such as free-radical-damaged cells and tissues. From outside come external impurities and toxins, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants. In the history of mankind, never before have we been faced with such high levels of toxicity in our environment. A variety of man-made toxins often find their way into the deep tissues of our bodies and can wreak havoc on our immune systems. All these impurities (collectively referred to by Ayurveda as “ama”) block the free flow of our body’s inner intelligence. If left to accumulate, such impurities can lead to degenerative disorders and life-threatening disease. While the body has its own effective self-purifying mechanisms, these prove increasingly inadequate as we age, due to our ever-increasing toxic burden.
Western medicine has, for the most part, focused on putting substances (e.g. pharmaceuticals) into the body rather than taking unhealthful substances out. One of the specialties of the ancient science of Ayurveda is Panchakarma, a group of therapies that work together to purify the body of impurities, and thus avert or reduce the development of disease and aging. Panchakarma treatments are designed to first loosen impurities from bodily tissues, then eliminate them from the body altogether.
All Panchakarma treatments are individualized, depending on the doshic balance and specific imbalances of the person receiving the treatments. The treatments can result in a relief from a wide range of disorders, because the series of procedures free the bodies own self-repair mechanisms and remove blockages that are at the foundation of many symptoms and disorders.
The efficacy of these traditional treatments was shown in a two-month longitudinal study on subjects undergoing five days of Panchakarma treatments at The Raj. Researchers Robert Herron, PhD, and John Fagan, Ph.D. compared to tests taken prior to treatment showing blood levels of the highly toxic PCBs and Beta-HCH. These substances, which are known to attach to the lipid layers that surround our cells, were reduced by 46 and 48 percent respectively. Without this detoxification program, the natural expected drop in PCB and Beta-HCH over a two-month period is only a fraction of one percent. No other method has been scientifically verified to reduce fat-soluble toxins in the human body without causing negative side effects. Normally these fat-soluble substances remain in the body for many years, but Panchakarma allows us a healthy alternative for coping with a toxic world.
Once toxins are loosened from the fatty tissue, they need to be safely eliminated from the bloodstream and the body. Panchakarma treatments include specific steps that take care to properly remove the toxicants from the blood stream without so that they are not reabsorbed or able to create more damage. At the end of each day, after impurities from different parts of the body have been loosened and drawn into the intestinal tracts, a gentle internal cleansing treatment, called a basti, is given. These treatments essentially warm herbalized oil enemas that lubricate, and nourish the colon, as well as induce eliminative action. According to the original Ayurvedic texts, “by basti alone, 50% of illness can be cured.”
Panchakarma can be taken for as few as three consecutive days, and as many as 30. It can be done in-residence, or you can visit an Ayurvedic center for a few hours each day and return to your home afterwards. These treatments are most effective when done regularly each year.
Our bodies are designed to maintain a balanced state in which everything functions properly. Both fasting and these drastic detox regimens can alter this homeostasis, often in a harmful way. Liver glycogen stores can become depleted, alterations can occur in the mineral and electrolyte balance in the blood, muscle and bone tissue can begin to break down, changes can occur in the acid-alkaline balance, and immune function may be impaired. Extreme detox can also overtax adrenals, which means that the body will hold on to the calories we ingest after the fast and store it as fat. In Ayurvedic terms, an extreme fast creates high pitta/low agni. This can start a whole new cycle of imbalances.
While Panchakarma can bring big results, the process itself is gentle and even luxurious. In essence, Panchakarma is an integrated sequence of procedures that, together, dislodge impurities from the cells and then flush them from the body. The doshas are brought into balance and the natural healing mechanisms of the body are “freed” to resume full functioning.
For more information of Panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site: