Pancha karma can be translated as 5 step kriya or program to nourish the body and detox the body and mind at the same time.  It has three stages:


Stage 1 - Purvakarama (Preparing for an Ayurvedic Cleanse)

Ayurveda does not believe in a quick detox. One must prepare the body and mind.

This Preparing the body for Detoxification  with an herb plan and diet plan for one's dosha is referred to as Purva Karma.

Sometimes, Ayurvedic snehanam (oil and ghee) are given at this time. For example, tikta ghritum (Bitter ghee with deeply detoxifying herbs like turmeric, neem, kutki etc) may be suggested by the practitioner at this time.  External and Internal oleation is suggested. . For Kapha, udvartana or herbal detoxification and dry herbs exfoliation is suggested along with herbs. Agni dipana or agni increasing herbs may be given at this time as well. Some herbs like trikatu, triphala may be given to help agni. 

*Oil Pulling
*Netra Tarpana
*Internal Oleation with Ghee

Preparing for a Cleanse

Ayurveda believes that in order to do a cleanse, one must prepare the body, mind and spirit and gradually introduce the herbs, diet plan, meditation, yoga leading upto mono-diet of soups or khichdi, and, even fasting from grains all together.

However, to reach that point of eating only soups, or fasting, one must prepare mind and body. This ancient preparation plan is called Purva karma. It prepares the body for deep detoxification and supports the pulling of metabolic wastes from the GI tract.

During a comprehensive consultation, we determine your prakrti (Constitution), vikrti (current Imbalance), and, stage of Agni (Digestive fire), Dhatus (Tissues), and, Mala (Elimination).

We try to understand your stress triggers. Triggers that set off the imbalance in terms of food habits, daily regimen or lack thereof, seasonal regimen, work or exercise routine.

After a comprehensive consultation, a personal CLEANSE plan is then prepared. Purvakarmauses detoxifying and rejuvenating herbs prepared in clarified butterfor lubricating the body externally as well as internally.


Two spoonfuls of Herbal Ghee (Herbal decoctions have been cooked and processed in Ghee) may be given, along with Ayurvedic detox herbs. Internal Oleation and External Oleation through Oil Massage is suggested at this time. This process of intake of Herbs with Good Fats, is called Snehana. This is a time for nourishing and preparing the body and mind for the deep detox that is to come later. Soups and Khichdi (Mung beans and basmati rice gruel made with ghee and Vata spices) are suggested.


Panchatikta Ghee (Bitter Ghee with herbs), and, deeply detoxifying herbs that have an affinity for Pitta organs like Liver, and, gallbladder, as well as cooked dark green leafy vegetables like Kale, Spinach, and Khichdi is suggested. Cooling herbal beverages are suggested at this time.


Herbs like triphala, trikatu, pippali rasayana along with friction massage with gloves and drying herbs and spices are suggested for Kapha. Diet suggested is semi liquid with soups.

Purvakarma is customized for each individual. Here are some examples of bodywork and therapy that may be customized for an individual.

Shiroabhyanga (Warm Oil Massage on Scalp)


Warm herbal oil is poured on the Brahma Rundhra Chakra on the top of the head, where the three cranial sutures meet. This is rubbed onto the scalp in a rhythmic manner for 20 minutes-30 minutes. Sometimes special herbal oils may be poured and rubbed around the ears ears.

Abhyanga(Warm oil Massage on body) Warm herbal oil is poured on the body and gently rubbed with long strokes till absorbed. This takes usually 45 minutes. Sometimes special herbal oils may be poured and rubbed around the ears. Usually followed by Svedanam for 10 minutes. (See below)

Sweat Therapy (Svedanam)

Induced sweating is called svedanam. This includes heat lamps, hot towels, sweat chamber etc. In Ayurveda, Head is never heated, so, neutral to cool wet towels saturated in herbs or essential oils may be kept on the head post bodywork. Or, a person may be put in a steam tent.

Stage 2- Shodhana and Shamana (Primary Cleanse)


Panchakarma - This is divided further into mild detoxification or shamana. Or, deep detoxification (shodhana). Shodhana  can be called forceful expulsion and cleaning of doshas and ama, or pacification. Our focus is pacification or shamana or pacification of dosha and igniting the natural digestive fire, not on forceful expulsion of dosha. 



*Strict Khichdi Soup Diet (Oleation my be stopped)

​Stage 3 -PaschataKarma (Post Clense Tonification)


Paschatkarma- Now, that your body has cleansed, Ayurveda suggests you take a few days to go back to your normal routine. This is also the time that tonic herbs may be suggested that increase ojas. Some centers suggest  post therapies stage which is to bring the physical and mental body back into normal routine.