The samshodhana Chikitsa (bio-cleansing therapy) of Ayurveda, which includes Panchakarma treatment, basically intends to eliminate the toxic elements from the body and thereby enhances the immunity of the body. The toxic products of body metabolism can be broadly divided into water soluble, fat soluble and volatile substances. The volatile substances like carbon dioxide can easily be removed from the body through lungs. While there are number of mechanisms available to get rid of the water soluble toxic materials through kidney, sweat and other body secretions, removal of fat-soluble toxic materials is very difficult and only liver can play a small role. Hence it is likely that, there would be accumulation of fat-soluble toxic products in the body. Liberal use of oil and ghee in various Panchakarma procedures makes it possible to eliminate these fat soluble toxic products. In modern day medicine, we understand that molecules move from higher concentration to lower concentration when separated by a diffusible membrane. The skin and the mucus membrane provide an excellent opportunity for this manoeuvre.
While skin of an average adult only provides a surface area of less than 2 m2, the gastrointestinal tract is many meters long with a highly permeable mucus membrane. The mucus membrane of gut has many folds and projections in the form of villi and microvilli, which help to increase the total exchange area, equivalent to a tennis court. Various Panchakarma procedures like Vamana (therapeutic emesis), Virechana (therapeutic purgation) and Anuvasana (medicated oil enema) use oil liberally, thereby removing toxic fat-soluble waste materials. Prior to the five Pradhana Karmas (main procedures), Svedana procedure using hot steam increases the local skin blood flow, thereby enhancing the exchange process. The Ayurvedic medicines added to the oil might give additional benefits.