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What is Pancha Karma?

Ayurvedic Cleansing Method


Updated December 31, 2011

Pancha karma is an Ayurvedic cleansing and rejuvenation plan. It was developed for royalty in India to prolong life and health by removing physical impurities, bringing awareness to destructive thoughts and behaviors, and releasing old patterns.

Pancha Karma is typically done once a year for disease prevention and for emotional and spiritual growth.

Pancha Karma is divided into three phases:

Phase 1: Purva Karma, the Preparation Phase
The goal of Purva Karma is to prepare the body tissues for the cleanse and release of toxins. One to three weeks before the actual cleansing phase, you eliminate all processed foods, sweets, stimulants such as coffee, and most dairy products from your diet.

One week before the cleansing phase, the diet is further modified, becoming predominantly vegetables and whole grains. These foods, especially the vegetables, create a more alkaline (vs. acid) environment in the body, which supports the cleansing and detox process.

During this preparation phase, a person's activity shifts to become more internally-focused. This means letting go of some day-to-day activities and speding time meditating and taking walks in nature. Deep breathing, focused on the exhalation phase helps to rid the body of old ideas, emotions, and blockages.

Khichadi Recipe
Khichadi is a simple, easily digested stew that can prepare the body for cleansing. It is also suitable for coming off of a cleanse. Here is one type of Khichadi:
1 part brown basmati rice, soaked for at least 1/2 hour and drained
1 part mung beans, soaked in water for at least 1 hour and drained
1 part vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, spinach and other green vegetables
6 parts water

Heat ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil in a pan over moderate heat. Add cumin or coriander seeds. Then add 1 medium onion, finely chopped, chopped ginger and garlic and saute until golden brown. Stir in 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder, 1/4 tsp. of black pepper powder, and 1 bay leaf. Add mung beans, water, vegetables, and rice.

Cook for about an hour. When the beans are completely soft, add a pinch of salt. Serve this dish with ghee and chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Ghee (Clarified Butter)
Ghee is made by placing unsalted butter in a pan and letting it melt and simmer on very low heat. The butter may look cloudy and there may be foam at the top. In the first five minutes, stir the butter occasionally. Leave the butter to continue simmering for another 15 minutes. You will see the particles sink to the bottom of the pan and foam will settle at the top.

As soon as the sediment at the bottom starts to brown, remove the pan from the heat. Skim off and discard the foam. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve or muslin into a glass jar.

Phase 2: Pancha Karma, the Cleansing Phase
Originally, this phase consisted of five practices: nasal cleansing, enemas, laxatives, emesis (vomiting), and blood-letting. Although the five practices are followed in India, the practice of emesis and blood-letting is omitted in North America.

A cleansing fast is often used during this period.

The Fast
1. The fasting herbal drink is taken throughout the day.

Herbal Drink Recipe
8 cups of water
4 teaspoons each of cumin and coriander powder
8 cardamom pods
4 teaspoons of crushed fennel seeds
2 pinches of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder (or 3 slices fresh ginger)
Mix all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and keep covered for another 15-20 minutes. Strain through a sieve and drink it warm throughout the day.

2. Have 1-2 teaspoons of ghee with hot water in the morning on an empty stomach. This is believed to release toxins.

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