Panchakarma: the art of Ayurvedic detoxing

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Ayurvedic detoxing: panchakarma
Panchakarma: the art of Ayurvedic detoxing

Ayurveda – the science of life

Ayurveda is thousands of years old, and still relevant to this day. Today it’s maybe even more relevant than say 50 years ago… The processed foods we eat, the fumes we inhale and the office jobs we have – sitting many hours in meetings, staring at a computer, and our stress levels permanently raised – do nothing for our health, on the contrary. We humans are not designed to live life this way!

There has never been more cancer (recently Belgium sadly ranked #1 in the world for breast cancer in women), diabetes type 2, obesity, arthritis, heart disease,… A lot has to do with our current lifestyle. Science as we know it is slowly discovering -and proving!- the knowledge that has been around for thousands of years in Ayurveda. Eating healthily, exercising moderately, relaxing and good sleep are basics that we skip so easily, thinking it is not important, or we can do without for a while.

Lifestyle choices affect our health slowly

The results of not taking care of yourself while you are young are only felt in old age. If you would eat something that was way past its due date, you would feel immediately the response of your body: wow, no, that wasn’t good, and you learn to never eat it again. Not so with skipping exercise, eating that biscuit, or party way into the night. That is why it is so hard to motivate yourself to have those extra veggies, go for that run, and go to bed at a decent time: you will feel the result – and especially see it – when you are older.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone should start to eat raw food, become a gym bunny and go to bed at 9 every day :). Even small changes in your lifestyle can do a lot for your health. Detoxing once in a while is one of those things that can reset your body – after all, your body has the capacity to heal itself, IF it is not constantly bombarded with bad stuff!

Experiencing panchakarma for the first time

Even though I have little complaints and feel very healthy, as part of my course I wanted to experience panchakarma, the art of ayurvedic detoxing. According to your body type and your ailments there are many therapies available. I had a bit of neck pain (old stress), a muscle pulled in my leg (too much stretching in yoga class) and some hormonal imbalances (find me one woman who doesn’t).

Starting the treatment

My panchakarma treatment started with eating ghee before every meal. Yes, ghee! It is clarified butter, so it is a fat, and it was AWFUL to eat it like that, with a spoon. It had some detoxing herbs added and I had to do this for a week. What it does is soften the toxins that are stored in your muscles, organs and fatty tissues and release these back into your system to be processed.

Ayurveda ghee
Mmmm ghee… Finished the whole bottle!

I also had a massage every day for 1 week (now I could get used to this!!). First with small bags with hot sand or herbs to relax my muscles – I never had this treatment but it really is divine. The soft pounding and heat on your sore muscles is amazing. This was followed by a traditional ayurvedic full body massage (abyangam), also aimed at relaxation and releasing of toxins.

During the detox

During the panchakarma course I started feeling very tired, lethargic, and I had very little energy. On day 4 after the massage I had to go into the steam cabin (really, this treatment is so hard ;) ). The toxins come out through the skin and by this time I felt like I was sweating ghee anyway… Slowly I started to feel better.

The grand finale

After one week of ghee and massages, the last part of the panchakarma treatment followed: therapeutic diarrhoea. Uhu, you read it! Self induced diarrhoea. To get rid of the rest of the toxins that by now should be in your gut. On the morning of the 7th day, I had to take two pills that would start the proces, and then wait and see…

But nothing happened. I wasn’t allowed to eat (people who know me a little bit know how I respond to food deprivation) and then these pills weren’t working: my mood went waaaay below zero :)

Next day: trying a different laxative – 50ml of castor oil. Again, such a pleasure to eat. I mean to drink. Ugh, whatever. And a few hours later… oh yeah, this worked. I’m not going to describe any of this, but it was… an experience.


Now the last step is finished – thank God- and I really do feel different. The panchakarma detox is supposed to be followed up by treatment with herbal medicine which can be digested and processed in your body more easily. None of this is promising miracles immediately but slowly I begin to feel a change. Without any chemicals, and most of the treatment is very nice to experience. Except the ghee maybe. And, yeah…

Ps please don’t do this without proper supervision!! :)

Related: What is ayurveda?

Related: The ideal way to start your day: upgrade your morning routine (according to ayurveda)

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