Ancient Ayurvedic Panchakarma is the greatest mind-body healing experience for detoxifying the body, strengthening the immune system, and restoring balance and well-being.
Hence, I knew immediately this was the right next step to detox my body from harmful chemicals following 6 months of chemotherapy for stage 4 bowel cancer. And so, after a great deal of research, I headed to South India for one month. Clinic of choice, Ayurveda Yoga Villa. Renowned Ayurvedic Hospital and Research Centre, high in the hills of Wayanad, Kerala.
“You paid how much? To do WHAT?!” Such was the sentiment shared by friends after telling them that of healing practices that included projectile vomiting, and drinking warm cows urine and medicated ghee. Did I mention enema and purgation? To say there was a lot shitting going on is an understatement.
Sometimes the diarrhea was so bad, I didn’t even make it to the sanctity of a toilet. Par for the course apparently. Staff doesn’t bat an eyelid at such indiscretions, happily cleaning up after you. Well, ‘happily‘ might be an exaggeration, but Indians are way too polite to ever consider embarrassing someone. Excuse my crassness, but a month in such conditions leaves you free of inhibitions. Or is it dignity?
The Process – What To Expect
First up, I’m asked to write a list:-
1. every place I ever lived and worked,
2. ALL the emotions experienced in those environments (going all the way back to childhood),
3. lifelong dietary habits. and
4. ALL your ailments. During your stay, every ailment treated.
Why is this necessary? Ayurvedic Panchakarma healing works on the premise that years of emotional suppressions create blocks to the body. While diet and exercise might be great, these suppressions unknowingly create a pathology inside the body. My only other health concern (besides cancer) is my Thyroid. That was hardly a surprise since Thyroid is connected to the throat. I had spent many years, a lifetime of years, suppressing my voice, not speaking my truth.
Yoga, Pooja, Meditation…..
For healing to occur on all levels, participants must attend daily rituals such as Yoga, meditation, and pooja rituals.
♥ Twice daily yoga. Gets the whole body realigned and corrects energy flow physically and mentally.
♥ Meditation. For calming the mind and instilling mindfulness practices.
♥ Pooja fire ceremony. Held at 5am and 6pm. Works on the theory that the light (fire) stimulates the eyes and brain (the optic neural effect as in NLP), while the smoke has a neural cleansing effect. The chanted words carry a vibration which creates a neuro effect by restoring biochemicals of the brain cells.
Dr Vipin explained that when our words that cause pain in others, this causes disharmony which leads to the formation of viruses in our own body. Always words should make another feel uplifted. Hence there is a loosely enforced rule for NOT TALKING while you are eating.
Healing Through Food
Food is also an important part to healing and if taken with lots of conversation and subjective talk, it will not nourish the mind or energy body. Dependant on conversation, a further energy block or suppression may be created. All food provided at the Villa is grown on their organic farm . A transfer of energy takes place through the food. Before serving at each meal sitting, cooks and serving staff chant over the food, thus setting the intention that they are using the food to ‘heal’.
Even the cooking vessels are intended for healing (no aluminium or teflon which create toxins if used for cooking over long periods).
Panchakarma detox can bring up deeply repressed emotions. It’s best to simply ‘allow’ them to pass without analysing. Very Vipassana-like. While I didn’t have any such cathartic episodes, I did have a few crazy dreams (also to be expected). Dr Vipin interpreted these as indicating that I hadn’t fulfilled the male side of my nature. True of course, and something I’ve been working on with vigour.
Giving and Receiving With Gratitude
Everything is offered in an environment filled with loving, healing intentions. Just as food is blessed, so too are you being blessed before receiving every treatment, when being given herbal remedies at the pharmacy, during yoga, pooja and meditation. Throughout the day, an elderly woman sitting in the main courtyard chants about our healing and wellbeing. Love is considered a vital part to healing and you can feel it in every corner of the Villa.
And just as you are being given with love, you must also receive everything with gratitude, by setting your own intention to heal through respect and faith. In the first few days I had made exaggerated facial expressions to show my dislike of the medicated Ghee which I was given to drink. I was politely told that when I do this, I am showing a lack of gratitude to the person who planted the herbs, harvested them, prepared them, and served them.
More importantly, making negative comments or even thinking negatively about the treatments or herbal remedies sends a signal to the body to reject their healing properties.
Once I understood this, I ceased immediately. It’s amazing how much easier it was to endure all sorts of herbal potions and treatments with a small adjustment in attitude. And so, before each healing event, we set our own intentions. This is known as auto suggestion.
With one hand on head, and another on head (a neural linguistic approach), we chant to ourselves “For the purpose of living longer and healthier, I am hereby subjecting my body for this process to get healed in body, mind, and spirit.” This chant changes dependant upon the treatment, but this is the general idea..
During a one month stay, the process of detoxification is being introduced into the body. The process continues fo another 90 days after returning home. Plus following a strict alkaline diet and lifestyle change (i.e. no stress, living pure of heart and deed), and taking any herbs which have been given.
There are 5 processes in Panchakarma Detox.
2. Vomiting Therapy (Vamana )- for clearing toxins from the chest area – upper body
3. Nasal Therapy (Nasya) – clearing the head and sinuses
4. Purgation (Virechana) – eliminating toxins from the liver and stomach
5. Enema (Basti) – eliminate toxins from the lower intestinal areas
Every single day commences with a massage prior to any other treatment. The purpose of the oil massage is to eliminate toxins from the cellular level, improve lymphatic drainage, enhance blood circulation. Next, a warm fermented liquid made of herbs and cows urine is poured all over you. This opens minute channels and alkalies the body.
Butt naked, doused in oil, and laying on a thick wooden slab, a masseuse stands on either side of you. In perfect rhythmic flow, they move from one end of your body to the other. Up, and down. Up and down. Its magical.
Day 1 – 4 Ghee Preparation (getting ready for vomiting)
In preparation for vomiting therapy, I drink of warm ghee, blended with 30 local herbs. Ghee saturates your body inside and out and to bind with toxins which can then be removed from the cells.
First day’s dose is 60ml. This increases each day – 120ml, then 180ml etc. Minimum consumption is 3 days. An oil patch appears on the forehead when the process is finished working it’s way through your system. You can be stuck drinking this concoction for up to 7 days if your skin is dry (like mine). I endured 4 days of ghee.
It’s very thick and difficult to get down. One small sliver of ginger is consumed 3 hourly. This increases the digestive capacity for metabolizing the ghee. Only eating if really starving, weight loss begins. The fact that ghee makes your bowels move bigtime is another aid in weight loss!
Sleep during the day is discouraged. It slows the metabolism and the ghee has to metabolize and get digested. This is really difficult because you become very tired despite doing nothing. The plus side was that I read a couple of novels – something I haven’t done in a long time! As with chemo, my body coped well with the treatment, and unlike many residents, I didn’t suffer headaches and nausea.
Day 6 – Let The Vomiting Begin!
Vomiting Therapy eliminates toxins collected in the body and the respiratory tract. No amount of neuro linguistic programing could have prepared me for vomiting therapy. Of all the procedures in Panchakarma, this is the only one nobody talks about. Ever. There’s a reason for that.
Treatment begins at 5am. Two doctors and two assistants are present. A large bucket is placed in front of me. Did I say large? I meant HUGE. First offering is a small bowl of rice with ghee and sweetener. This balances the dosha in your stomach to help you accommodate the liquid. That’s a lie for starters because nothing helps you accommodate the amount of liquid that’s coming your way!
The rice is yummy, and for the briefest of moments lulls me into a false sense of security. A spoonful of the most hideous paste is next. Dark black, chewy, and incredibly bitter. I’m retching and gagging, unable to get it down .
Nothing prepared me for 9 litres of liquid now coming my way. It’s to be drunk as quickly as I possible without stopping. Except when stopping to vomit!
First comes three litres of medicated milk. By the 2nd glass I’m complaining that my tummy is full, but they counter I need to be full to my neck. The assistant gently holds my elbow with his fingertips so that I can’t put the glass down. The doctor gently rubs my back while I slump against her. I think I may be crying cause there’s no turning back at this point.
It Just Never Seems to End….
My treatment gown is soaked. Partly from all the liquid I’ve spilled over the edge of the glass, and partly due to perspiration. Or is it tears? Suddenly I’m doubling over, gripped by an unbearable piercing pain in my solar plexus. The doctor assures me it’s toxins coming up, and I projectile vomit. Litres and litres of vomit and yet I’m only on my 2nd glass of liquid!
4 litres of a medicated liquorice concoction follows. Same as before…. I cry, sweat, double over in pain, and vomit after every 2 glasses. Half way through I add a little ‘surprise‘ of my own. I’m sweating so profusely that I don’t realise I have soiled myself! Yes, diarrhea! A residual effect from several days of drinking ghee. Your sphincter becomes so loose that you have no control.
They assured me it happens all the time but nonetheless I’m embarrassed. On the plus side, it gave me a respite from the process while I cleaned myself up. A fresh gown, the procedure resumed. Crying, sweating, pain, vomiting.
The 3rd and final batch is 2 litres of salt water. Rubbing the back of my tongue with two fingers releases the last dregs of vomit. Then we’re done. I’ve filled the bucket almost to the brim. A good days work. The piercing pain in my solar plexus is completely gone. I’m utterly exhausted.
For those who can’t vomit?
There are many people who don’t manage to vomit at all. They will be in their rooms dry reaching all day. While sitting on my porch I can hear them. All day long. On occasion I thought to summon a doctor because the sounds were so violent. Again, all par for the course.
I feel so blessed to have a strong body. Although this particular treatment was incredibly challenging, I walked away without any residual negative effects. It was that way with all the treatments I received. Originally the doctor suggested it might be a year before my body fully responded to the panchakarma detox.
Day 8 – You want me to drink what?
Cow’s Urine Medication for 20 days
No kidding. For the remainder of my stay, I’m sent to the Pharmacy twice daily for my glass of warm cow’s urine, which is boiled with herbs and served warm. Yum. NOT. Imagine a day when your own pee smells highly acidic (and dark yellow in colour), multiply it by 10 – that’s how it tastes and smells – only thicker.
The pharmacy cafe is full, and we joke about it being ‘happy hour’ at the local. Nobody looks happy though. Fortunately I have the ability to open my throat in such a way as to pour the liquid down while barely having to touch my taste buds. Not always possible when anxiety closes the channels involuntarily, but some people could only manage to sip it slowly. Oh so slowly. And as with all the treatments, those who systems can’t tolerate the natural herbal remedies will spend a good part of the day feeling nauseous.
Why Cow’s Urine? In theory it prevents cancer from returning by preventing cancer cells activating any stage further. EVER. Cow’s urine medicine contains nano trace particles which purifies your system by extracting the alkali (it’s powerfully alkaline). Strong herbs, which work on the deep levels of the cells, are boiled in the urine, making them deeply penetrating. The Villa uses fresh urine from its own pure-bred indigenous cows who are fed only fresh natural food and clean water.
Day 8 – 14 Nasal Therapy
This is by far the easiest of the treatments. Nasal therapy:-
1. enhance mental and sensory acuity,
2. promote mental clarity and emotional happiness,
3. clear the nose and sinuses of obstruction,
4. promote cleansing and flow of lymphatic fluid,
5. bestow a clear voice,
6. promote lightness of the body,
7. soothe dryness in the nose, and
8. aid insomnia.
For 7 days, I receive head, should and neck massage followed by steam infused with eucalyptus applied to face and back. Foul tasting medicated solution is dripped into each nostril. Herbal smoke is then inhaled through the nostrils and then the mouth via a pipe.
I didn’t know I couldn’t breathe clearly… until I could! Other than that, I’m thinking this therapy doesn’t live up to expectation. I haven’t had a full nights sleep in years, and Nasya didn’t improve my situation. Seven days seems an unnecessarily long time for this therapy – particularly when I’m not experiencing any real benefits. Believe it or not, I was in a hurry to get on with the more gruelling treatments. Shame there isn’t a therapy to cure impatience.
Day 15 Purgation Therapy
Medicated purgation therapy:-
1. removes ‘Pitta’ toxins accumulated in the liver and gallbladder,
2. completely cleanses the gastro-intestinal tract,
3. cleans lymphatic and circulatory systems at a cellular level.
This is the treatment I’ve been waiting for. But there’s a hitch….. It’s not been long since my chemotherapy finished (only a few months). Chemo has already given me Fatty liver so we tread with caution. More damage can be caused to the liver if chemo toxins are released into the body too quickly through detoxification processes.
For this reason, I am only given a mild dose of purgation herbal medications. A spoonful of bitter paste follows. Within an hour, I vomited it back up. Diarrhea in the form of a yellow sludge can occur between 14 to 30 times throughout the day.
When it runs clear as water, the process is considered complet . I managed only 8 minor evacuations which is somewhat disappointing.
Day 17 Buttermilk Therapy
Buttermilk Therapy. Cold buttermilk is slowly poured over your forehead for 10 minutes.
1. clears the thinking and
2. promotes sleep by stimulating the neurological and endocrine functions. Although very soothing, this process did nothing to help me sleep.
I found 7 days on this treatment frustrated me as it meant less days for Enemas. Is it odd that I wanted more days of enema treatment?
Day 24 – 28 Enema Treatment
Cleaning accumulated toxins from the colon and increasing muscle tone, Enema is considered the mother of all Panchakarma treatments. A Medicated oil and herbal decoction make up the mix. The tonic is infused into my rectum after a massage and steam application to the back, . It’s to be held-in for a maximum of 15 minutes. I take my meditation music with me to help distract me for the duration.
First day I last 10 minutes, and 15 each day after that. However, on the last day, I explode as soon as my feet touch the ground, leaving a trail of excrement from the table to the toilet. ll evidence is gone by the time I return to the room, and nothing is said. Even I’m use to it all by now!
This was my final treatment. I’m ready for home. No big cathartic moments. Not feeling ‘amazingly incredibly well’. Time will tell.
3-Months Post Panchakarma
Did Panchakarma work? Who knows? That’s like asking if chemo worked. So far, there’s no sign of the cancer one year on from diagnosis. The doctors tell me that’s pretty amazing for stage 4. I’m a firm believer in medical models working hand-in-hand with natural healing. So far so good.
By the time I leave the Villa, the only real difference is that my body generally feels stronger (despite losing another 4 kilos).
I didn’t go to the Villa thinking I’d be cured of cancer. But I can’t help feeling like it’s worked a little magic on me. The healing philosophies taught to me there have left me very conscious now of the words I speak, and wanting to only resonate love within me and around me. I’m more conscious of the food I eat, and the ‘environments’ I put myself in. I’m really particular about the people I surround myself with too. If Panchakarma hasn’t cured my cancer, at least I’ll feel fabulous while I’m dying. What could be better than that? !
Why not check out some of my Articles. I’d love to hear your story as well so leave a comment.
7 Steps to Dealing With Hidden Anger
Do You Have a Cancer Personality?
Chemotherapy Diet – Managing Side Effects
Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – Diagnosis and Treatment
Indian Ayurveda Detox Following Chemotherapy
Finding Life Purpose After Cancer Diagnosis