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​How to Perform an At-home Seasonal Ayurvedic Cleanse (Pancha Karma)

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There is a special cleanse recommended in Ayurveda that should be performed 1-3 times per year during the change of seasons (In Spring, Fall, and Winter in January after the new year are the best times.) This cleanse is simple, effective, and only takes 4 days which makes it very easy to do in our busy western culture. It should be started towards the end of the work week so that the last day of the cleanse falls on a day when you can be home all day. For instance if the work week is Monday-Friday, you would start the cleanse on Thursday and finish it on Sunday.

There are several steps to this cleanse:

  1. Daily oleation, where melted Ghee is consumed first thing in the morning in increasing amounts
  2. Eating a mono-diet of a split mung bean and rice soup called kitchari 3 meals per day for the duration of the cleanse.
  3. Skin brushing with a cotton washcloth or raw silk gloves designed for this purpose, prior to evening bath or shower
  4. 20 minute evening bath or shower
  5. Self massage with organic food grade raw sesame oil or coconut oil during or after evening bath or shower.
  6. Laxative therapy on Day 4 to expel toxins from the body
  7. Support herbs

Step 1. Oleation

Every morning of the cleanse after scraping tongue with a tongue scraper and cleaning teeth, melted ghee will be consumed in increasing amounts for 4 mornings. The doses are as follows:

Day 1: 2 tsp Ghee

Day 2: 4 tsp Ghee

Day 3: 6 tsp Ghee

Day 4: 9 tsp Ghee

You may drink the melted Ghee plain, or mix it in a small amount of warm unsweetened almond or rice milk, and a pinch of ginger and cardamom for taste. Do not eat or drink anything for 30 min. After 30 min, drink a glass of warm water with 1/4-1/2 of fresh lemon squeezed into it. Or, if nausea occurs, sip ginger tea. This is not uncommon, especially on days 3 & 4.

Step 2. Mono-diet of Kitchari

Kitchari will be eaten 3 meals per day for the duration of the cleanse. This is a detoxifying meal that allows the digestive system to rest while still nourishing the body and keeping blood sugar levels stable. Eating the recipe below is the most cleansing option, but if blood sugar does not feel stable seasonal vegetable may be added and cooked with the mung beans and rice. If this is still does not help blood sugar levels remain stable, a small 2 oz or less portion of lean protein such as chicken may be added to the lunchtime meal. It is very important that no oils are added to the meals, and fatty foods such as avocados be avoided. The only oil that should be consumed is the ghee in the morning. You should eat enough at each meal that you do not need to snack in between.

Kitchari Recipe

The recipe below makes enough to last for 3 or 4 meals. You can play with the mix of spices. Traditionally, kitchari is eaten more like a soup than a pilaf. This is why this recipe includes more water than you would normally add for cooking rice.

1 cup uncooked split yellow mung beans (**It is important to get SPLIT mung beans, not whole, because they are easier to digest and more detoxifying. These are usually available at Asian and India grocers and sometimes labeled as Split Moong Dahl. It is also possible to order organic split mung beans online)

1/4 - 1/2 cup uncooked white basmati rice

1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger root

2 bay leaves

1 tsp each black mustard seeds, cumin, and turmeric powder

1/2 tsp each coriander powder, fennel, and fenugreek seeds

1 pinch hing (also called asafoetida or asafetida) - Optional

7 - 10 cups water

1/2 tsp salt (rock salt/himalayan pink salt is best)

1 small handful fresh chopped cilantro leaves


1. Rinse the mung beans until the water runs clear.

2. Par boil the mung beans: bring them to a boil in 4 cups of water and then turn them off. Allow to rest for 1-4 hrs in the boiled water, then drain and rinse.

3. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear

4. Heat a large pot on medium heat and then add all the spices (except the bay leaves) and dry roast for a few minutes, stirring constantly. This dry roasting will enhance the flavor. Keep a close eye on the spices to make sure they do not burn.

4. Add mung beans and rice and stir again.

5. Add water and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

6. Boil for 10 minutes.

7. Turn heat to low, cover pot and cook until mung beans and rice become soft (about 30-40 min)

8. Add cilantro leaves as a garnish just before serving.

9. Add salt to taste

Step 3. Dry skin brushing with cotton washcloth or raw silk gloves

This technique stimulates lymphatic drainage, which is one of the most important elements of detoxifying your body effectively. It is performed just before taking a hot bath or shower in the evenings of each day of the cleanse.


Using a dry soft washcloth or raw silk gloves, begin rubbing your body in circular motions starting with your scalp, then around the forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, and cheeks. You can be vigorous with the scalp, but then be gentle with your face. Next, use quick firm but gentle strokes towards the heart from your neck, arms, hands, upper back wherever you can reach easily, and up the torso. Motions should always be towards the heart. From there, proceed to lower back, buttocks, upper thighs, knees, calves, and feet. Spend a little extra time brushing the feet, as there are many lymph nodes located there.

Step 4. Hot Bath or Shower in the evening

After brushing your skin you should preferably relax in a hot bath for 20 min. If this is not possible, then a shower can substitute. Add 1/4 cup of epsom salts if you wish.

Step 5. Self Massage with Sesame or Coconut Oil

Certified Organic, food grade oils should be used for this massage. These can be purchased at natural food stores. This massage also helps lymphatic drainage while also nourishing the nervous system and helping your body metabolize the old stored fatty tissues in the body. The oils also increase the production of sebum in your skin which in turn feeds the good bacteria that live on it and that strengthen our immune system.


1. Prior to the evening bath, place your jar of oil in a pan or bowl of hot water from your sink. It should be large enough for at least 2/3 of the bottle to be submerged in the hot water. This will warm the oil so that your massage is more effective. You can perform your massage in the bath if you wish (be careful - you will be very slippery!) or just after getting out of the bath. Also, you do not need a huge amount of oil for this - Only about 2-4 TBS for your whole body.

2. Start with the scalp: Use just a small amount of oil on your fingertips and using gentle but somewhat vigorous motions work the oil into the scalp, as if you were using shampoo. If possible do not rinse this oil out of your hair. If you really feel too greasy, then rinse with water. (If you have long hair it helps to keep it up in a ponytail or braid for the 4 days of the cleanse to hide the oil in your hair and keep it from getting grease on your clothes. Also, sleep with an old towel or cloth over your pillow so that you don't get oil on them.)

3. Move to the ears and then face, using gentle circular motions.

4. Move to the neck using gentle but brisk downward strokes towards your heart.

5. Firmly circle each shoulder, elbow, and wrist on the front and back 3-5 times

6. Firmly stroke up each arm on all sides 3-5 times

7. Circle the palm of each hand 3-5 times, and then firmly stroke each finger from the base of the knuckles to the tips of the fingers.

8. Firmly circle the middle of the chest over the heart 3-5 times

9. Gently but firmly circle the abdomen 3-5 times

10. Use brisks strokes over the lower back in an upward motion on each side of the spine in the low back. Only stroke up your back as high as you can reach comfortably.

11. Firmly circle the upper thighs, knees, and ankles 3-5 times

12. Firmly stroke up each leg on all sides from ankle to upper thigh 3-5 times.

13. Gently but firmly circle the soles of the feet 10 times, then stroke each toe from base to tip.

Step 5. Laxative on Day 4

Flush to digestive system of toxins that may be accumulated during the cleanse.


1. Eat a light and early supper

2. 2 hrs after eating, take a 20 min hot bath. If a bath is not possible, take a shower then rest with a hot water bottle on your abdomen for 10-15 minutes.

3. Take one of the following laxative options:

  • For sensitive digestion, loose bowels, or liver and gall bladder issues: drink 1 1/2 cups warm prune juice
  • For normal digestion: Use 1 tbsp epsom salt dissolved in 1 cup of warm water, add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp lemon juice, and drink.
  • For constipated bowels: Use 1 1/2 tbsp epsom salt dissolved in 1 cup of warm water, add 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tsp lemon juice. Drink.

4. Laxative effect will likely occur in 1-15 hrs (usually 4-6 for most people). If you do not experience a laxative effect it is ok. It is possible that your bowels were effectively cleansed during the previous days. Do not eat anything until the laxative effect has worn off. Sips of hot water may be taken to stay hydrated.

Step 6. Support Herbs

Herbs may also be used during this cleanse to enhance and support it's effect. The best herbs are:

1. Turmeric Formula, 1-2 capsules with meals

2. Amalaki, 1 capsule with meals

3. Neem, 1 capsule between meals.

Happy Cleansing!  

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