Winter is the time when problems like arthritis, sinusitis and bronchitis aggravate. Ayurveda physicians say this is the ideal time to undertake a Panchkarma treatment, an Ayurvedic technique using medicated oils and herbal decoctions.
Kerala is called the Cradle of Ayurveda and the Panchakarma system of treatment flourished in the state. Although Ayurveda gives durable solution to health problems without any harmful side-effects, the cost factor forces many a people opt for modern medicine. “The Panchakarma treatment is expensive owing to the fact that we use medicated oils prepared in coconut oil. For preparation of certain oils and medicines, scores of herbs go into them. Collection and processing of herbs and medicinal plants is a very costly and cumbersome affair. Also a huge quantity of oil is required for treatment,” says Dr Asokan, director and chief physician of Sudha Ayurveda.
Dr Asokan wants the government to take steps to promote Ayurveda so that it is made accessible to even poor people. “The poor should also benefit. The government should empanel private Ayurveda hospitals for providing treatment to Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) beneficiaries. Now they can avail treatment only from government-run Ayurvedic centres,” says Dr Asokan.
According to Ayurveda, a healthy person is composed of three bioenergetic forces which are vata (wind), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm). These three not only govern the metabolism of an individual but also manifest in certain physical traits. That means any imbalance in these forces can result in disease – both mental and physical.
Ayurveda is the only system that talks about restoration. All treatments are for restoring the balance of three humours in the human body, said Dr GG Gangadharan, noted Ayurveda expert. Dhara, Pizhichil, Jnavarakhizhi and Sirovasthi are some of the techniques used in the Panchakarma treatment. “These treatments purge toxic substances accumulated in the body and induces new life into it,” says Dr Vasudevan.
The treatment is decided by taking into consideration two factors – the state of the illness and the constitution of the patient. For instance, the treatment given to two patients for the same disease may vary.
For the cure of mental diseases such as hysteria, insanity and hallucination, dhara treatment is often prescribed, while for physical conditions like asthma and tuberculosis Pizhichil is recommended. Dhara treatment involves dripping of medicated oils or milk or a decoction from a certain height to the forehead of the patient and simultaneously massaging the body in rhythmic from either side by expert masseurs. The procedure of Pizhichil involves massaging the patient’s body with strips of linen dipped in medicated oil while the patient reclines on a specially-designed wooden bed (droni) made of wood with curative properties.
Njavarakhizhi, a method of massage using medicinal packs and oil, can cure even severe rheumatic complaints completely. The medicinal packs, prepared by filling njavara rice cooked in cow’s milk mixed with medicinal herbs are rubbed over the patient’s body after the application of medicated oils. Besides rheumatism, this treatment has proved to be effective for polio, paralysis and muscular dystrophy. A course in Sirovasthi can provide respite to sufferers of migraine, facial paralysis and other nerve disorders. In this technique, a cylindrical cap is fitted on to the head of the patient and medicated oil is poured into it and allowed to stagnate for some time.
Oil massage can also reduce excess fat, enhance complexion and relieve stress and strain. “It reduces fatigue and revitalises the body by improving blood circulation, digestive power and other physiological functions of the body,” says Dr Asokan. The duration of the treatment could range from seven to 14 days depending on the severity of the ailment.
Dr Asokan says, “Unlike modern medicine, Ayurveda is a holistic health care system – a way of life. Nowadays everyone is in a rat-race. In some professions, people spend about 18 hours at their workplace, and sometimes without even a break. They don’t get enough time to eat healthy and proper food and do exercises; water intake too reduces. Such lifestyle takes a heavy toll on the health. Environment pollution adds to their woes. Incidence of cancer and other life-threatening diseases has become a commonplace thing. We recommend people to spend at least 14 days a year for detoxification treatments. If they can’t do it at one go, they can do it in two spells of seven days each. This cleaning therapy has many health benefits and improves brain activity.”