Purvakarma is derived from the words Purva (Foremost) and Karma (Action). It is the first set of actions that are taken ahead of a Panchakarma therapy, and lasts for three to seven days. At this stage the body is prepared for treatment by loosening toxins and excess doshas.
The cause of diseases is amam, or undigested toxins, that get formed in the system due to external factors, and spread to different parts of the body. Through Purvakarma these toxins are channelized and collected for easy removal at Pradhanakarma stage.
Important Purvakarma techniques regularly used across the Pentads of Panchakarma are Pachana (digestion), Snehana (oelation) and Swedana (sudation). They prepare the body for detoxification and revitalization. Panchakarma treatment is impossible without Purvakarma.
Snehana, or Oleation Therapy, is one of the most important therapies that prepares the body to receive specialized Panchakarma treatment. It involves the application of medicated oils, ghee and herbs to the body internally and externally for three to seven days. Snehana is crucial as it loosens amam, or toxins, and doshas in the body, thereby facilitating their expulsion during Pradhanakarma stage.
Bahya Snehana (External Oleation) and Abhyantara Snehana (Internal Oleation) are the two primary types of Snehana. During Abhyantara Snehana, the patient is given special herbal preparations to ingest regularly. Medicated oil massages are given to the disease-affected and surrounding areas of the body for Bahya Snehana. Both are aimed at channelizing and collecting the toxins within the body. Any body cavity may be used to introduce the medicinal herbs into the system.
Swedana, or Sudation Therapy, involves inducing sweat in the patient. It channels amam, or pent-up toxins inside the body, to places from where they can be easily ejected by the system during Pradhanakarma. It is usually conducted as the last stage of Purvakarma after Pachana (Digestion Therapy) and Snehana (Oleation Therapy). But it is important as a stand-alone treatment as well.
Swedana is a cleansing-cum-stress relieving therapy recommended for patients suffering from ailments such as asthma, weight and digestion issues, and body inflammation.