A thorough clean out – detox part. 1 (Do It Yourself Panchakarma)

I wrote fairly recently about this treatment, last spring to be precise (see ‘Spring Cleaning: a Purification’). It’s definitely the best time for sorting all sorts of things. However, whether it’s your house or your body which needs to be kept in good condition, regularity is the key.

It’s definitely a good idea to give your body a rest and a clean out; by means of either a diet or some form of fasting, ideally:

  • 1 day per week
  • 3-10 days every three months (esp. during change of seasons)
  • 10-40 days a year

I will write more soon on healthy fasting, but for now I would like to focus on two fundamental methods used by many cultures and religions once a year. Below is the first – the Ayurvedic PANCHAKARMA.

What is Panchakarma?

Ayurveda proposes an annual cleansing program aimed at balancing the doshas, reinforcement of the agni (digestive fire), cleansing the body of ama, strengthening physical and mental resilience. It is also an effective method for dealingn with health problems. This process includes preparation procedures and 5 types of purification.
The first step is an internal oil application to help remove ama from even the deepest tissue. Then apply oil externally, by means of massage and steaming, which leads to moisturising, relaxation, relaxation of tissues. It helps to remove toxins and strengthens the nervous system.

The aim of this preparation is to concentrate toxins, ama and excess doshas, in places where it is easiest to remove them (eg, the gastrointestinal tract). The length and course of the procedures used relates to the individual patient’s condition, and must be initiated and managed by an experienced therapist, covering patient care and constant observation during and after treatment. It is advisable to use clinics – and not necessarily those replete with “a beach, palm trees and a drink”.

Purification procedures – which are selected individually by the therapist according to the particular dosha imbalance and how much time the patient has been undergoing therapy – are as follows:

  • therapeutic vomiting (Vamana)
  • laxative therapy (virechana)
  • therapeutic enemas (basti)
  • nose and head treatment(nasja)
  • purification of blood (rakta moksa)

Contraindications are: anemia, fatigue and pregnancy. If in doubt, especially if you have a chronic or serious underlying condition, you should always consult your doctor.

How to DIY at home

In recent years Panchakarma treatment trips to India and to Sri Lanka have become fashionable. Hotel packages offered by other Asian countries also claim to provide Panchakarma. However, even in India the offer can often have little in common with the original. Clinics in Europe are now also bringing in experienced physicians from Asia – and also a high standard of service –and with resultant very high prices. That is why many people choose to go to Asia, combining treatment with a desire for adventure.

It’s best to choose a quiet time, right for you, for your treatment. Do not rush and try to avoid distractions. Panchakarma should take a minimum of 10 days, but is actually recommended for over a period of one month or longer. However, for the busy I have a bite sized version: short, safe, and for easy application at home.

Panchakarma at home

Vasant Lad, in his book ‘Ayurvedic home remedies’ offers a recipe for Easy Homemade Cleansing, appropriate in situations where we have no easy access to the services of professionals.

Stage I – internal oil application

– For 3 consecutive days drink approx 60 grams of warm liquid ghee (see how to prepare here) on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. For Vata type patients it’s possible to add a pinch of salt to the ghee; for Kapha types a pinch of ginger and pepper.

If you have high cholesterol, triglycerides or blood sugar levels, ghee should be substituted by linseed (flaxseed) oil. Drink 2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil, 3 times a day before meals over three days.

Stage II – external oil application

– For the next 5-7 days apply 200 g of warm sesame oil over the whole body from head to foot, rubbing it in thoroughly for about 10-20 minutes (see here how to perform a self-oil massage). Then take a hot shower or bath, using a mild soap, allowing the protective layer of oil to remain on the skin.

Stage III – the elimination of toxins

– In the evening, approximately 1 hour after dinner, take one tablet of Triphala. Alternatively take a mild laxative tea (eg Senna), for the duration of treatment.

– For the final 3 days of treatment, apply an Ayurvedic enema after a bath or shower. Enema kits can be bought at many pharmacies and application is not as difficult as you might think.

– when applying Panchakarna yourself you should rest as much as possible. It is advisable to practise yoga and meditation. A vegetarian diet with plenty of water or herbal teas is also recommended, as is abstinence from alcohol, coffee, tea, sweets, swimming and sex.

– from about 5 days to the end of treatment it is advisable to eat only Kitchari (recipe below), three times a day; with the exception of the last day of treatment when this should be eaten together with steamed vegetables.

Recipe for Kitchari (kiczeri)

From 5 days to the end of treatment (except on the final day of treatment, as above) eat only Kitchari (mix basmati rice and mung dal in equal proportions, cooked with cumin, mustard seeds and coriander, with 2 teaspoons of ghee). Kitchari is a wholesome, easily digestible dish, indicated for all three doshas, which not only cleanses but also balances the doshas.


  • 1/2 cup basmati rice (or millet)
  • 1/2 cup mung beans (pre-soaked) or shelled yellow mung dal
  • spices (cumin, mustard seeds, coriander)
  • 2-3 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or oil

Lightly cook the spices by adding to the ghee, then add the beans and rice and fry. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook, covered, over a low heat for about 15-20 minutes (until all the water is absorbed and the beans are soft). The dish can remain covered or, to really reach its best, left ‘under the pillow’. Eat three times a day hot or cold.

The specifics of the dish as well, as of cleansing dishes in general, mean that both your taste and appetite reduce in expectations, causing kitchari to become somewhat of a delicacy; indeed every time I prepare this I think I could eat it for the rest of my days! I tend to cook a large portion in the evening, dividing it into three consecutive meals (as the whole family is not on the diet the entire portion doesn’t vanish right away;)). So I have a hot dinner and breakfast and lunch cold or warm depending on how I feel or time available. Also, every other day I swap mung dal for mung beans; which averts any risk of monotony.

Keeping in mind the purpose and beneficial results of the diet and treatment process, planning it well, as well as encouraging yourself with your own end goals and little rewards. all make the treatment easier to endure, while strengthening your will power.


Cleansing is not enough in itself. The purification process needs to be supported by rejuvenating and restorative treatments. This little ‘maintenance’ prolongs the life of the cells – and thus human health and life. Ayurveda recommends taking herbal pills such as Ashwagandha or Chyavanprash. You can also use other well established supplements. Your body needs time to rejuvenate – sometimes a few days, sometimes several months. It is therefore necessary to continue on a healthy course of diet, exercise and meditation.

(polish version)


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One Response to “A thorough clean out – detox part. 1 (Do It Yourself Panchakarma)”

  1. All Posts « NaturAsia Says:

    […] in English « A thorough clean out – detox part. 1 (Do It Yourself Panchakarma) […]

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