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Ayurveda > Ayurvedic Treatment > Ashtang-Ayurved: Purva-karma
By Dr. Satish Kulkarni.

We have seen in the last article that one way of classifying Ayurvedic treatment is purva-karma (pre-procedures), panch-karma (five important procedures) also known as pradhan-karma (main procedures) and pashchat-karma (follow-up treatment). Amongst these three procedures, purva-karma includes snehan (olation therapy) and swedan (fomentation therapy).

Ayurveda believes that the cause of chronic diseases is deep rooted faults in the dosha (basic body elements)-dhatu (body tissues)-mala (waste products) system of the body and a diseased person needs one or more panch-karma to cleanse the body so as to achieve a status of health again. Nonetheless, the desired effect of panch-karma can be achieved only after proper purva-karma i.e. preparation of the body to receive panch-karma or pradhan-karma.

Purva-karma is done by snehan and swedan under the supervision of an Ayurvedic therapist. In scheduled treatment, snehan is followed by swedan.

Snehan: This can be done in two ways:

  1. Internal snehan:
    1. In this type of snehan, sidhdha ghrut (medicated clarified butter) or sidhdha taila (medicated edible oil) is given by oral route in the dose recommended by the Ayurvedic therapist. This ghee (ghrut) or oil is called sneha. It works as a lubricant to the body system. Snehan helps in reducing dryness. It enters the dhatu (body tissues) and strotasa (body passages). This ultimately helps in driving impurities out of the body during panch-karma. Snehan mobilizes unwanted stuff lodged in the body and adds to the results of panch-karma. Elimination of ama (toxins) becomes easy if purva-karma is carried out properly, which can otherwise be a difficult task. Ghee (ghrut) prepared from cow milk is the best according to Ayurvedic scholars.
  2. External snehan:
    1. This comprises all kinds of partial and total body massage done with the help of sneha in a guided manner. Sidhdha ghrut or sidhdha taila is applied to the skin. Our skin, being a semi permeable membrane, accepts some amount of sneha. A chartered program of body massage for 1, 3, 7 or more days as needed, is executed to achieve the desired level of snehan. Lustrous skin is a marker of external snehan. This type of snehan is beneficial for skin problems, for body wasting, for prolonged bed ridden conditions, etc.

Swedan: This is generally executed after snehan. Swedan means dry or wet fomentation or heat therapy. Different types of fomentations are possible. These include taking a sunbath, sitting in a specially prepared wooden sweat box, pouring warm water on the body, sitting in a bath tub or taking a steam bath. Variations like swedan for the whole body (below the neck), for the diseased part of the body (e.g. only extremities), sitz’s bath (for perineal region) can be used according to the need of the patient.

Many kinds of warm solids like cloth, sand bags, heat pads and liquids like warm water, water with milk, herbal decoctions and medicated oil can be used for fomentation. Here too, the decision of the Ayurvedic therapist is essential.

To summarize, snehan and swedan are purva-karma (pre-procedures) which help in liquefying the accumulated ama (toxins), in cooling the irritated dosha (basic body elements), in opening the blocked strotasa (body channels) and in lubricating the passages of mala (waste products). Effective purva-karma adds to the results of the panch-karma or pradhan-karma.

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Ayurvedic Milestones
Ayurvedic Thought
 Vaat, Pitta, Kafa, Dosh
 Dhatu, Mala, Fire
Pathology - Ama
 Ashtang Ayurved
 Agad Tantra
 Kaumar Bhrutya Tantra
 Shalya Tantra
 Shalakya tantra

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 Bleeding per anum
 Hair Loss
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 Senile Debility
 Solution To Baldness
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