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How often can someone go for a panchakarma procedure?

Ever done an Ayurvedic cleanse or Ayurvedic panchakarma treatment before? 

Maybe you’ve done one and you felt so amazing afterwards that you’re hooked and can’t wait to do another! 

Or you have a health concern that you’re wanting to support through regular panchakarma therapy, but you’re unsure how often you can do it.

Maybe you’re hearing about Ayurvedic cleanses and panchakarma treatment procedures for the first time! 

Whatever the case, we’ve got you.


What is Panchakarma therapy?

Panchakarma is a traditional Ayurvedic cleanse – a detoxification program designed to remove accumulated toxins and dosha from the body, which are ultimately the root cause of dis-ease and imbalance. 

Panchakarma is something we should all be doing at least annually if we desire optimal health and longevity.


What do you eat during Panchakarma?

Pre-cleanse: you slowly wean off of heavier foods like dairy, gluten and meat as well as processed foods and sugars, caffeine, and alcohol in order to gently begin the process of detoxification (and thus make the following week a bit easier on your body, mind and spirit).

Mono-diet: throughout the cleanse you eat only kitchari – a combination of mung daal, rice, ghee and spices. It’s a complete protein that’s easy to digest, which means you’re fully nourished yet your body has the energy it needs to work on toxins.

The ins and outs of Panchakarma therapy:

Internal and External Oleation: You will be taking ghee internally and applying oil externally to help loosen the sticky toxins lodged in the deeper tissues and guide them back to the GI tract to be eliminated.

Purgation: you will take some sort of purgative such as castor oil that serves to empty the intestines and bowels of these accumulated toxins.

Bastis and Other Therapies: After resting post-purgation, it’s time for a sequence of herbal tea enemas to support in cleansing any residual toxins from the system as well as nourish the colon. You may also receive other wonderful panchakarma basti procedures such as netra basti, where the eyes bathe in melted ghee, or kati basti where a ring of dough is placed over the sacrum and filled with warm oil. 

Panchakarma Procedures

Panchakarma directly translates from Sanskrit as “five actions” or procedures: 

  • Vamana – therapeutic vomiting for excess kapha dosha
  • Virechana – therapeutic purgation for excess pitta dosha
  • Basti – therapeutic enema for excess vata dosha
  • Rakta moksha – therapeutic bloodletting for pitta dosha
  • Nasya – nasal administration of herbs or medicated oils for residual dosha

As you can imagine just from seeing these five panchakarma procedures, the process of panchakarma therapy depends on the unique individual and their prakruti or constitution as well as their current state of imbalance and requires proper guidance from a highly trained and experienced Ayurvedic practitioner. 

Currently in the United States, the panchakarma procedures most often used are virechana, basti and nasya.

Which month is best for Panchakarma? 

The optimal month for panchakarma therapy depends on the climate where you are, since each dosha is predominant in a particular season:

vata – fall and early winter season – ether and air elements 

pitta – summer season – fire and water elements

kapha – later winter and early spring season – earth and water elements

You want to undergo Ayurvedic panchakarma treatments at the junctions between these three major seasons (rutu sandhi), the timing of which uniquely depends on the environment where you live.

How often can you do panchakarma?

Ideally, panchakarma is done three times a year at the junction between the three seasons when the dosha of that particular season is utklishta or excited and ripe for removal from the system.

As certain qualities increase in the external environment around us, they increase in the microcosm within us, which is primetime for panchakarma procedures.

Why do we cleanse 3 times a year?

Cleansing three times a year allows the body to remove this ripe, accumulated or utklishta dosha at the end of its respective season and prevents excess accumulation of both dosha and ama, which are commonly the root cause of disease.

How long does the effect of panchakarma last? 

The beauty of Ayurveda is that each person is unique, so the length of time you experience the benefits of panchakarma will depend on your state of health going into the process as well as how slowly and effectively you transition out of it and the diet and lifestyle you resume afterwards.

The post-cleanse transition, particularly with regards to your diet, is often revered as the most important part. It is essential to slowly reintroduce the heavier, more difficult to digest food items so that your digestive fire isn’t immediately overwhelmed, thereby re-creating an abundance of toxins.

Eating only when you have true hunger and favoring warm, cooked, spiced foods is generally a safe guideline, particularly right after undergoing panchakarma therapy.

Are there any side effects of panchakarma?

One of the best ways to minimize or avoid the common detoxification symptoms of headaches, fatigue, aches and pains is to spend more time in the pre-cleanse period slowly weaning off of everything but whole, plant-based foods. This elimination includes gluten, dairy, meat, caffeine, alcohol and all processed foods and sugars.

This is particularly important for those who don’t tend to follow a healthy, plant-based diet and lifestyle with regular exercise and sleep, as your symptoms of detoxification will likely be much more intense.

It is also very common to experience a wide array of emotions and interesting dreams over the course of panchakarma since undigested toxins are released at all levels of our being, including undigested thoughts and emotions. It is always wise to let your loved ones know you may be extra sensitive at this time and to be very gentle with yourself, simply witnessing as feelings flower and flourish.

For some individuals, the mono-diet of kitchari can be constipating, but your supervising practitioner will make appropriate modifications in terms of fiber, hydration, ghee, and herbs to ensure you’re properly eliminating.


When to Not Cleanse

In order to undergo panchakarma therapy, your body and mind should have enough strength for physical, mental, and emotional cleansing and detoxification.

In other words, you don’t want to do panchakarma if you are sick or feeling weak, depleted, or if you just experienced a major trauma, incident, or loss.

It’s always best to consult with your doctor to know if undergoing panchakarma is right for you.

Should you have any other questions or concerns about receiving panchakarma, please call our office and they will be happy to support you.

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The spiritual journey starts here

Picture of Alex Rice, CAP

Alex Rice, CAP

Alex is an Ayurvedic Practitioner with AyurPrana, she supports Vasant Lad in his consultations, and she moderates AyurPrana’s seasonal cleanses. Alex is also a faculty member at The Ayurvedic Institute, where she teaches Clinical Assessment of Srotamsi and Pathophysiology II and manages student clinic. Alex loves kids, hot drinks, and frolicking in the sunshine.