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 Ayurvedic Medicine: An Introduction to Panchakarma  
 

There are eight main types of basti, according to traditional texts, each with their own indications and contra-indications as listed below.

1. Anuvasana (oil enema) is used in pure vata disorders and when a person is having excess hunger or dryness related to vata imbalances.

2. Niruha-Asthapana (decoction enema) is used, among other conditions, for evacuation of vata, nervous diseases, gastro-intestinal vata conditions, gout, certain fever conditions, unconsciousness, certain urinary conditions, appetite, pain, hyperacidity and heart diseases.

3. Uttara Basti (through the urethra with men or vagina with women) is used for selected semen and ovulation disorders and for some problems involving painful urination or bladder infections. This is not to be used for someone with diabetes.

4. Matra Basti (daily oil enema) is used by someone emaciated by overwork or too much exercise, too much heavy lifting, walking too long of a distance, too much sexual activity or someone with chronic vata disorders. It does not need to be accompanied by any strict dietary restriction or daily routine and can be administered, in the appropriate cases, in all seasons. It gives strength, promotes weight and helps elimination of waste products.

5. Karma Basti (schedule of 30 bastis),

6. Kala Basti (schedule of 15 bastis; 10 oil + 5 decoction)

7. Yoga Basti (schedule of 8 bastis; 5 oil + 3 decoction).

In karma, kala and yoga bastis, it is better to give both types of basti in combination and not the oil and decoction separately. The conditions under which these are recommended are too detailed to be able to list in this article. In general, the indications and contra-indications that apply to basti also apply here.

8. Bruhana Basti (nutritional enema) is used for providing deep nutrition in select conditions. Traditionally, highly nutritive substances have been used, such as warm milk, meat broth, bone marrow soup and herbs like shatavari or ashwagandha.

General Indications for Basti:

  • constipation
  • low back ache
  • gout
  • rheumatism
  • sciatica
  • arthritis
  • nervous disorders
  • vata headache
  • emaciation
  • muscular atrophy

    General Contra-Indications for Basti (include but are not limited to the following):
    Enema therapy should not be used if the patient is suffering from diarrhea, bleeding of the rectum, chronic indigestion, breathlessness, diabetes, fever, emaciation, severe anaemia, pulmonary tuberculosis, old age or for children below the age of seven years.

  • for oil enemas: diabetes, obesity, indigestion, low agni, enlarged liver or spleen, unconsciousness, tuberculosis and cough.
  • for decoction enemas: debility, hiccough, hemorrhoids, inflammation of anus, piles, diarrhea, pregnancy, ascites, diabetes and some conditions involving painful or difficult breathing.
  • for nutritional enemas: diabetes, obesity, lymphatic obstruction, ascites.
  • for urethra or vaginal enemas: diabetes

    Nasya: Nasal Administration
    The nose is the doorway to the brain and it is also the doorway to consciousness. The nasal administration of medication is called nasya. An excess of bodily humors accumulated in the sinus, throat, nose or head areas is eliminated by means of the nearest possible opening, the nose.

    Prana, life force as nerve energy, enters the body through the breath taken in through the nose. Prana is in the brain and maintains sensory and motor functions. Prana also governs mental activities, memory, concentration and intellectual activities. Deranged prana creates defective functioning of all these activities and produces headaches, convulsions, loss of memory and reduced sensory perception. Thus nasal administration, nasya is indicated for prana disorders, sinus congestion, migraine headaches, convulsions and certain eye and ear problems.

    Breathing also can be improved through nasal massage. For this treatment, the little finger is dipped into ghee and inserted into the nose. The inner walls of the nose are slowly massaged, going as deeply as possible. This treatment will help to open the emotions. (Nose tissue is tender and for this application the fingernail must be kept short to avoid injuring the delicate mucus membranes.) Since most people have deviated nasal septums, one side of the nose will be easier to penetrate and massage than the other. The finger should not be inserted forcibly. The massage should proceed by slow penetration, the finger moving first in a clockwise, then counter-clockwise direction. By this means, the emotions that are blocked in the respiratory tract will be released. One may use this treatment each morning and evening. In this way breathing patterns will change as the emotions are released and the eyesight also will improve.

    There are six main types of nasya, as listed below.

    1. Pradhamana (virechan) Nasya (cleansing nasya) uses dry powders (rather than oils) that are blown into the nose with a tube. Pradhamana nasya is mainly used for kapha types of diseases involving headaches, heaviness in the head, cold, nasal congestion, sticky eyes, hoarseness of voice due to sticky kapha, sinusitis, cervical lymph adenitis, tumors, worms, some skin diseases, epilepsy, drowsiness, Parkinsonism, inflammation of the nasal mucosa, attachment, greed and lust. Traditionally, powders such as brahmi are used.

    2. Bruhana Nasya (nutrition nasya) uses ghee, oils, salt, shatavari ghee, ashwagandha ghee and medicated milk and is used mainly for vata disorders. It is said to benefit conditions resulting from vata imbalances such as vata-type headaches, migraine headache, dryness of voice, dry nose, nervousness, anxiety, fear, dizziness, emptiness, negativity, heaviness of eyelids, bursitis, stiffness in the neck, dry sinuses and loss of sense of smell.

    3. Shaman Nasya (sedative nasya) is used according to which dosha is aggravated but mainly for pitta-type disorders such as thinning of hair, conjunctivitis and ringing in the ears. Generally certain herbal medicated decoctions, teas and medicated oils are used.

    4. Navana Nasya (decoction nasya) is used in vata-pitta or kapha-pitta disorders and is made from decoctions and oils together.

    5. Marshya Nasya (ghee or oil nasya)

    6. Prati Marshya (daily oil nasya) is performed by dipping the clean little finger in the ghee or oil and inserting into each nostril, lubricating the nasal passage with gentle massage as described above. This helps to open deep tissues and can be done every day and at any time to release stress.

    Substances Used in Nasya: brahmi, ginger, ghee oils, decoctions, onion, garlic, Piper longum, black pepper, curry pepper, rose, jasmine, mogra flowers and henna.

    Indications for Nasya:

  • stress
  • emotional imbalances
  • stiffness in the neck & shoulders
  • dryness of the nose
  • sinus congestion
  • hoarseness
  • migraine headache
  • convulsions

    Contra-Indications for Nasya:

  • sinus infections
  • pregnancy
  • menstruation
  • after sex, bathing, eating or drinking of alcohol
  • should not be used below 7 years or over 80 years of age

    Raktamoksha: Traditional Ayurvedic Method for Purification and Cleansing of the Blood
    Toxins present in the gastro-intestinal tract are absorbed into the blood and circulated throughout the body. This condition is called toxemia, which is the basic cause of repeated infections, hypertension and certain other circulatory conditions. This includes repeated attacks of skin disorders such as urticaria, rashes, herpes, eczema, acne, scabies, leukoderma, chronic itching or hives. In such conditions, along with internal medication, elimination of the toxins and purification of the blood is necessary. Raktamoksha is also indicated for cases of enlarged liver, spleen and gout.

    Pitta is produced from the disintegrated red blood cells in the liver. So pitta and blood have a very close relationship. An increase in pitta may go into the blood causing toxicity, and thus many pittagenic disorders.

    Extracting a small amount of blood from a vein relieves the tension created by the pittagenic toxins in the blood. Bloodletting also stimulates the spleen to produce antitoxic substances which helps to stimulate the immune system. Toxins are neutralized enabling radical cures in many blood born disorders.

    Bloodletting is contraindicated in cases of anaemia, edema, extreme weakness, diabetes and in children and elderly persons. It is also an illegal procedure within the United States.

    Certain substances such as sugar, salt, yogurt, sour tasting foods and alcohol are toxic to the blood. In certain blood disorders these substances should be avoided to keep the blood pure. Burdock root tea, sandalwood, saffron, manjista, guduchi, rose and lotus are herbs that help to purify the blood. Turmeric, goldenseal, pomegranate juice, neem, oranges, beets and raisins can also be beneficial for blood disorders.

    For raktamoksha treatment other than blood-letting, there are blood-purifying practices involving herbs, gem therapy or color water therapy.

    For blood purifying therapy look for substances that are bitter and astringent and have blood thinning properties. Burdock root tea is the best blood purifier. For blood carried disorders such as allergy, rash or acne the patient should take a milk laxative and the next evening begin burdock root tea therapy. The tea is made from one teaspoon of powder in one cup of hot water. If taken every night, the action of the herb will begin to purify the blood.

    Beneficial gems and crystals are pearl, coral, amethyst, rose quartz and jade.

    In the practice of colored water therapy, red should be used in vata disorders, blue for pitta and purple for kapha.

    For any raktamoksha treatment or related alternative treatment it is beneficial to refrain from yogurt, salt, sugar, alcohol, marijuana, sour and fermented foods.

    Indications for Raktamoksha:

  • urticaria
  • rash
  • acne
  • eczema
  • scabies
  • leukoderma
  • chronic itching
  • hives
  • enlarged liver or spleen
  • gout

    Contra-Indications for Raktamoksha:

  • anemia
  • edema
  • weakness
  • young children
  • old age
  • during pregnancy
  • during menstruation

    During any step of panchakarma therapy traditional Ayurveda recommends certain lifestyle and diet guidelines.

    It is advised to get plenty of rest during the panchakarma experience and to avoid strenuous exercise, sexual activity, late nights, loud music, television and other such stimulating experiences. It is also advised to take particular care to keep warm and away from the wind and to observe one's thoughts and experiences during this time.

    A mono-diet of kitchari and ghee is recommended, as well as essential restrictions on cold drinks, cold food, caffeine, white sugar, recreational drugs or alcohol and dairy products--all substances which should not be resumed (if at all) until some time after panchakarma is completed. The reason for this diet is that during the cleansing process the digestive fire (agni) takes a rest. Also, as toxins move back into the gastrointestinal tract the power of digestion is further slowed. Kitchari will provide adequate nourishment, nourishes all the tissues of the body, is very easy to digest, is excellent for de-aging of cells and assists in the detoxification and cleansing process. Kitchari is a seasoned mixture of rice and mung dal, and is basic to the Ayurvedic way of life. Basmati rice and mung dal both have the qualities of being sweet and cooling with a sweet aftertaste. Together they create a balanced food, that is an excellent protein combination and is tridoshic.

    Panchakarma is a very special Ayurvedic operation requiring proper guidance from a highly trained and skillful Ayurvedic practitioner. This should not be undertaken just from information in this article. One should consult with an Ayurvedic physician, not just someone with a modest amount of training. Panchakarma is done individually for each person with their specific constitution and specific disorder in mind, thus it requires close observation and supervision. It is also done to best advantage, although not always, at the junctional period between two seasons, thus helping a person to prepare their internal environment for the oncoming season.

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     About The Author
    Dr.Vasant Lad Vasant Lad is an Ayurvedic Physician and Executive Director of the Ayurvedic Institute. Dr. Lad brings a wealth of classroom and practical experience to the United States. A native of India, he served for three years as......more
     
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