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What is Panchakarma?

After the 2022 NFL Superbowl, we all might have seen how some athletes prepared nutritionally; one athlete followed a diet/cleanse called Panchakarma. What is Panchakarma you may ask? Well, to be simple, it is a type of holistic health practice.

Panchakarma was founded by the traditional medicine system of India, Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a system that follows a holistic approach of treatment, which involves the body, mind, and spirit.1 In this practice, Panchakarma is believed to rid the body of toxins and impurities that lead to disease by using cleanses.1

The cleanse is completed in 3 parts: a phone consultation with an Ayurveda practitioner, 5-day retreat, 2-week at-home cleanse. Panchakarma uses five cleansing methods, listed below, to achieve its goal of cleansing.1

Five Basic Shodanas2:

Vamana: therapeutic vomiting

Virechan: purgation

Basti: enema

Nasya: toxin elimination via the nose

Rakta Moksha: blood detoxification

After the cleanse, the body is thought to continue with natural function and participants are then provided recommendations to maintain their desired lifestyle balance.1

Do cleanses work?

There is no evidence to support that this cleanse rids the body of toxins. However, it has been reported in a study that participants felt improved anxiety, depression, social support 3 weeks post-intervention, but it is important to note that this study did not investigate biochemical effects of Panchakarma.1 Cleanses can be very low in calories, giving us less energy; and cleanses that involve vomiting, laxatives, etc. can deplete our bodies of important nutrients, such as electrolytes and vitamins that are important for everyday functions.

Naturally, our kidneys, liver, and GI tract all work together to help rid our bodies of toxins, without the help of an outside cleanse. The liver filters our blood from toxins and produces bile to break down wastes. The liver then transports these toxins and waste products to the kidneys and GI tract to be excreted as urine or feces.3

What should I do?

Before starting any diet, cleanse, or detox, it is important to talk with your doctor and healthcare team to see if it is right for you. Remembering that our organs function to naturally detox our bodies, and to function properly, it is important to fuel our bodies. Eating balanced meals and staying hydrated can help us feel our best and keep our bodies functioning the right way.

Do you think this practice will become more mainstream? If so, how do you think it will affect the idea of wellness?

*It is important to note that traditional Panchakarma is usually administered in a hospital setting over two weeks.*



1. Conboy L, Edshteyn I, Garivaltis H. Ayurveda and Panchakarma: measuring the effects of a holistic health intervention. ScientificWorldJournal. 2009;9:272-280. Published 2009 Apr 27. doi:10.1100/tsw.2009.35

2. Lad V. Introduction to panchakarma. Ayurveda. Published November 30, 2021. Accessed March 2, 2022.

3. Liver: Anatomy and functions. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed March 2, 2022.

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