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Basic Therapies of Ayurvedic Medicine
By Dr. Kumar Pati

Six basic therapies of ayurvedic medicine - lightening, nourishing, drying, oleation, fomentation, and astringent therapies - were discussed in Part 1 of this series. This article discusses the five elimination therapies.(Pancharakarma) that are part of lightening therapy.


According to ayurveda, many diseases are the result of functional or anatomic disorders of internal organs, particularly the gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas, endocrine glands, and nervous system. On the other hand, certain inflammatory processes due to infection may result in hepatic, digestive, and other visceral disturbances. Internal disorders may occasionally constitute concomitant expressions of some underlying systemic disease. For the management of some diseases, pancharakarma - the five elimination therapies - is indicated in ayurvedic medical texts.  

Ayurvedic classics mention emetic, purgative, nostril, enema, and blood-letting as permanently eradicating diseases with no chance for relapse. These systemic and scientific procedures were mostly practiced up to the fourth century A.D., but with the advancement of drug therapy in ayurvedic medicine, these practices declined. Today, they are not widely practiced in northern India, however a few ayurvedic medical hospitals in southern India extensively apply all five elimination therapies.

For proper treatment of disease, ayurveda attempts to determine the exact nature of the malady with reference to the three basic elements (air, fire, and water), the seven tissues (food juice, blood, flesh, fat, bone, bone marrow, and semen). The following factors are considered:

1.  Nidana - the cause of the disease.

2.  Purvarupa - the premonitory signs and symptoms that manifest before the appearance of the disease.

3.  Rupa - symptomology. Rupa describes the actual signs and symptoms of the disease.

4.  Upasaya - exploratory therapy. Some of the drugs, diets, and regiments by acting directly against the cause of the disease, the disease itself, or by producing such effects indirectly are called upasaya. Upsaya is a diagnostic aid for diseases that are otherwise difficult in diagnosis.

5.  Samprapti - the full extent of the disease. Samprapti describes the mode of the disease manifestation.

Examination of Patients  

To ascertain the exact nature of the disease, the ayurvedic physician for the most part depends on eight types of examinations: 1. pulse, 2. urine, 3. stool, 4. tongue, 5. voice, 6. skin, 7. eyes, and, 8. general physical features. The physical examination is conducted in view of the fundamental principles of ayurveda, which include tridosa (three basic elements), the five elements theory, and the seven tissue elements theory.  

Lightening Therapy  

Lightening therapy is thought to be successful when the normal elimination of flatus (gas), urine, and feces is restored; when the body feels light; when the throat and mouth become cleared; when perspiration and taste reappear; when hunger and thirst return; and when the mind recovers its sense of ease.  

Pain in the joints, body aches, cough, oral parching, loss of hunger, anorexia, thirst, weak hearing and sight, confusion, frequent eructation, fainting, loss of body temperature and strength are the consequences of overdone lightening therapy. The difference in the variation of tridosa (air, fire, and water), medical drugs, location, time, strength, diet, condition of the body, mental situation and age should be considered while administering these therapies. Elimination therapy extracts vitiated air, fire, and water, eradicates diseases, restores normal strength and rejuvenates.

Lightening therapy includes five elimination techniques which will be discussed in detail:


1. Emetic Therapy (Vamana)

2. Purgative Therapy (Virechan)

3. Enima Therapy (Basti)

4. Nostril Therapy (Nasya)

5. Blood-Letting Therapy (Raktamokshona)


Ayurveda provides rational means for the treatment of many internal diseases which are considered to be obstinate and incurable in other systems of medicine. Ayurveda places a great deal of emphasis on the maintenance of positive health for normal and healthy persons by following prescribed regimens during day, night, and different seasons. It thus is both disease prevention and a cure.  

According to ayurveda, humans are exposed to disease because of many internal and external factors. Recognizing the existence of viruses and bacteria, ayurveda acknowledges that the individual must ensure health by proper maintenance.  

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