Ayurveda originated in India and evolved over centuries to its present form. Panchakarma, the rejuvenation therapy expounded in Ayurveda is perhaps the most misunderstood of all the Ayurveda practices. Due to ignorance, it is often perceived as just another system of oil massage. Contrary to this belief, Panchakarma is a holistic rejuvenation therapy. This book intends to introduce the layman to the various stages of Panchakarma. Practice of these therapies should always be done under the guidance of qualified and competent physicians and trained attendants.
It is in Kerala that the rejuvenation therapy of Panchakarma grew and flourished. There are regional variations in therapy procedures and also the equipment used. We hope this book will make you familiar with Panchakarma therapies as practiced in Kerala, and will generate interest in this unique rejuvenation therapy of Ayurveda. We are grateful to Dr. P. Sankaran Kutty, formerly Director, Ayurveda Medical Education, Govt. of Kerala, Dr. C.N.N. Nampoothiri, Dr. Sathish and Mr. Anoop of Dhanwantari Vaidyasala, Thodupuzha for sharing their expertise on the subject.
Our gratitude also extends to Relax Herbals & Exports Pvt. Ltd. for their co-operation in the project.
For five thousand years, people of India and China have been using a variety of plant products to treat almost every disease known to mankind. Why this art of healing survived for millennia?... because it works. Modern science attempts to explain how it works. Before you undergo “Panchakarma” treatment, you must know the answer to two important questions: I How our body function? 2. How does the herbal therapy heal our body? Before answering the first question, let me tell you why traditional scientists have become interested in Ayurveda.
I work in the largest biomedical center in the world called NIH (National Institutes of Health) l9cated 15 miles from Washington in USA. About ten years ago! a group of traditional scientists became interested in Ayurveda and asked US Congress to provide funds to investigate the nature of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, an ancient healing process of Ayurveda. US Congress authorized ten million dollars for initial investigation-Many traditional scientists thought this effort will fail. The initial success was so remarkable, during the past ten years, US Congress increased its budget more than ten times to over one hundred million dollars and also approved it to become the 27th institute of NIH known as NCCAM, National Center for Complementary, (means in addition to the traditional therapy) and Alternative (means in place of the traditional therapy) Medicine. The success of NCCAM is based on the completion of the Human Genome Project (HGP) in which we read the book of life of a human being. U-you understand HOP, it will be easier to understand how herbal therapy you receive in “Panchakarma” works.
Let me answer the first question, how our body function?
On April 14, 2003, we completely read the book of life of a human being, letter-by-letter, word-by-word and sentence-by-sentence. We learned that the entire text book of Life (of living creatures including humans, plants and animals) is written in four letters (Computer uses only two letters zero and one). You and late the loving union of our parents. Same four letters are contributed by fathers, and same four letters are contributed by mothers. These letters are information molecules called nucleotide. They combine in pairs. These four nucleotides combine in 64 different ways. A single string of three thousand million nucleotides comes from the father and another three thousand million comes from mother forming the entire book of life as three thousand million pairs. Chapters of the book of life are written using thousands of pairs of nucleotides called genes. Genes have instructions to make proteins. Genes are information molecules, but proteins make cells work and carry out body functions. Proteins are made of 20 building blocks of life called amino acids. They combine in thousand different ways to give proteins. Billions of proteins combine to make a cell Billions of cells combine to make a tissue. Thousands of tissues combine to make an organ and several organs to make a human. Although our life begins as a single cell, by the time we are grown up that single cell has replicated, divided and differentiated into a 3 trillion cell human being. Each cell in our body has the complete instructions to make our clone.
There are 30,000 genes in our body. The collective interactions of these genes give us life. Normal function of genes keeps us healthy. Genes are sensitive to environmental pollution. Exposure to radiations, chemicals and viruses alter their functions, we call mutations. A mutated gene makes the wrong protein and makes us sick. All diseases have genetic origin. In Phase H of the Human Genome Project (called the Genome to Life Project) we will study how gene functions individually and collectively. This will be a massive effort, which we will be launching shortly.
What we know so far is that genes are switched on and off as we age. When a gene is switched on, it makes a protein and carries out a function, and when it is switched off, it stops making protein. As we grow old, some genes are switched on and others are switched off.
Let me answer the second question, how does the herbal therapy heal our body?
Almost three million plants are known and ten times as many remain unknown. Plants develop a variety of toxins (we call drugs) to protect themselves against the insects’ bites. Insects rely on plants as their source of food. Many insects totally destroy a plant. Over millions of years, plants fight back with insect by developing toxic drugs. Those plants that produced toxins survived and those that refused died. These toxins have unique ability to bind to our genes. They either switch on or switch off a gene. Both methods provide healing. When a gene is switched on, it produces a protein. The protein floats around in our blood not doing anything until it comes in contact with a receptor site. As soon as it binds to the receptor site, it brings an action. If the action is desirable, it has healing effect. What if it is a bad protein made by a mutated gene. The drugs do not bind to the receptor site. The protein produced by a mutated gene has no receptor site to bind. It floats and finally filters out of our body.
Now, it is easier to explain why Panchakarma therapy works. The washing and massages removes all debris from your skin. Cells open to receive drugs. The herbal products that are used in this therapy are known to bring healing for a longtime. The herbal paste contains hundreds of products; some are soluble in fat; some are soluble in water and others are soluble in combination. For that reason, you receive oil extract massage; water extract massage and milk extract massage. Which has the ability to extract partially soluble drugs in both water and oil extracts. Some active ingredients are extracted under boiling condition and others are soluble at room temperature. Penetration through skull is very rapid. Oil extract accumulated in an overhead cup, absorbs only those mild ingredients, which are soluble at body temperature. Panchakarma Therapy lasts for one to two weeks because every attempt is made repeatedly to saturate all receptor sites to bring complete healing. Many areas of healing remain a mystery to us. During the Phase II of the Human Genome Project, we have two challenges: First, to remove one by one all 30,000 genes from a human and insert them into mice to see what do they do individually and collectively. Second, to isolate every active ingredient from the herbal product used today and to test them individually. I strongly recommend reading this section about our knowledge and our ignorance of the healing process before taking Panchakarma Therapy.
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