Shodhana and Shamna

Suppose you are not taking care of your garden properly; what will be the result? There will be lots of weeds and other unwanted plants in the garden. These will suppress the growth of the plants which you have grown. Now you have two options with you; either cut these unwanted plants or get ready for a hard work and uproot these completely. The first one is an easy fix and necessary when you have no time e.g. in evening you are planning to through a party in the garden.

But when you are not that much busy and have time with you instead of easy fix of the problem you should clean the unwanted growth completely.

Both of these solutions are also possible for health problems. When you are planning for an easy fix it is termed as Shamana i.e. palliative therapy. As per Ayurveda all the diseases are the resultant of the aggravation of the Doshas, So in Shamana, the Doshas are suppressed within the body. While in other type of treatment Shodhana – purification therapy; the aggravated Doshas are expelled out of the body. From this you can understand that the Shodhana is better than the Shamana as the disease causing factors are removed from the body. But in Shamana treatment these are still inside the body; as soon as there will be favourable conditions for their aggravation; these will aggravate and again cause disease.

But it never means that the Shamana therapy is of use. At certain moments when the fellow is not having enough time to go through Shodhana treatment or he is too much disturbed by the health problem it become necessary to give some relief and that is possible only by Shamana therapy.

Shamana is a palliative approach that, rather than expel the Doshas, merely normalizes them through seven approaches.

  • Digestive, carminative herbs,
  • Hunger-producing herbs,
  • Avoidance of food,
  • Avoidance of drink,
  • Physical exercise,
  • Sunbathing,
  • Exposure to wind.

Palliative therapy is used by people with diabetes, poor digestion, excess watery conditions (e.g., congestion, overweight), toxic build up (ama), and fevers. These measures are also used for stiff thighs, skin diseases, herpes, abscesses, spleen, head, and throat and eye problems; and are provided to people during the cold season (shishira—mid Jan. to mid March).

Those people who are only mildly overweight, and of medium strength, and those who have medium strength and have Dosha excesses, are advised to control their thirst and hunger. For people who are weak and ill, and are not yet able to withstand the stronger therapies, mild therapies are initially suggested (i.e., sun and wind bathing and mild exercise).

Shodhana Therapy: Shodhana itself means to purify. Here purification is regarding expelling out the aggravated Doshas from the body. It consists of five purificatory procedures which are indicated for different Doshas.

First, through palliation and purification, one loosens toxins lodged in the body. This allows the toxins to return through the bloodstream to their origin sites in the gastrointestinal tract. Once there, the toxins can be completely expelled from the body through five methods known as Panchakarma. Panchakarma (five actions) actually includes three stages:

  • Preliminary (palliative) employing oil and sweating methods (snehana and svedhana). [Often used   throughout the year as a general maintenance and preventive program]
  • Primary purificatory practices (Panchakarma) use emesis, purgation, enemas, nasal therapy.
  • Post Panchakarma therapies rejuvenation and tonification.

Pitta and Kapha disorders follow Shodhana (strong) therapies of purgation and emesis. Symptoms include the presence of toxins, obesity, fever, vomiting or nausea, diarrhoea, heart disease, constipation, heaviness, and excess belching. People with moderate symptoms of weight gain and medium strength are first given digestive herbs like ginger, cardamom, or cinnamon. Persons who need to boost their appetites are also given hunger producing herbs like bibhitaki and guggul. Once the person is strengthened and digestion is improved, then both groups of herbs are administered, along with the other purificatory therapies, for a more thorough detoxification.