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What is Basti in Panchakarma?

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Basti karma or Vasti is a very unique and powerful therapy. This is one of the Panchakarmas where the medicines are administered into the body through the anus (sometimes through the urethra or the vagina also).

Except for the administration route, basti is very different from the enemas given with water/glycerine etc. Basti is a therapeutic enema which does much more than cleansing the bowels.

The preparation of the basti dravya/medicine is a scientific, methodical and elaborate process. It is a completely painless procedure.

The word Basti/Vasti means bladder. In the olden times, urinary bladders were used as enema bags to hold the medicines. Thus, the procedure came to be called Basti.

Basti is the treatment of choice in all Vatha diseases. It also reaches the main seat of Vatha dosha, which is the colon directly, without having to pass through the upper part of the digestive system.

Basti in Panchakarma | Shreshtha Ayurveda

Basti is hailed in the Ayurvedic classics as one of the most important among the other therapies. The Acharyas call it ‘Ardha Chikitsa’ -half of the all the total treatments and therapies mentioned. Here is some more information about this unique therapy called Basti.

  • Vatha dosha is the most important dosha of the Tridoshas and is the primary moving force of the body. Hence the balance of Vatha Dosha is imperative for health and harmony. Basti regulates Vatha dosha and therefore helps in the treatment of multiple diseases.

  • The Pakvashaya or the pelvic region is the main seat of the Vatha dosha. Since, Vasti is administered into the colon, it is acting directly in the seat of Vatha dosha, making it capable of controlling all the 5 kinds of Vayu (Prana, Uadana, Apana, Samana and Vyana). This makes Basti a very effective line of treatment for the treatment of many Vatha rogas.

  • The guda (the rectum and the anal) region is identified as a marma sthana by Acharya Sushrutha. Being a marma sthana means that this region is richly embedded with Vathawaha, Pittawaha, Kaphawaha and Raktawaha siras (the vessels connected to the tridoshas and the rakta). As a marma sthana, this region is also highly sensitive, and even the slightest stimulation by the basti dravyas, can affect the doshas in the entire body.

  • Basti demonstrates immediate and all pervasive action. Owing to the sthana and the guna of the basti dravyas, it first corrects the Vatha dosha which in turn impacts the correction of the Pitta and the Kapha dosha.

  • The colon, where the exchange of water, minerals and electrolytes happen through absorption and readsorption, is naturally a very suitable location for absorption of medicines. The direct absorption through this innermost lining of the large intestine is perfect to increase the bioavailability (the percentage of the medicine made available to the body by entering the blood stream) of the medicines given as basti. As against the oral medicines (55-60%), the bioavailability of the medicines given through Basti ia about 90-95%.

  • The oral medications inevitably go through several chemical changes due to its exposure to the bile, stomach enzymes and acids. Sometimes, they can make the oral medicines less effective and also useless. Administering the medicines through basti bypasses this and provides maximum benefit to the patient.

There are several studies and theories to explain the action of basti.

  • One of them, (Sadanad et al 1961) opines that the Basti dravya may be absorbed by diffusion,filtration, osmosis and/or adsorption. This study also theorised that Thiamin, responsible for nerve conduction and is produced in the large intestine may be stimulated by the basti dravya.

  • Another study (Shah et al 2006) states that basti works on the nervous system through the enteric receptors. This study also explains the basti dravya may influence the bacterial intestinal flora and thus increases the synthesis of Vitamin K, B12 etc., and improves the overall metabolism.

  • The Basti dravya bypasses the action of the stomach acid and enzymes. So, when the basti dravya is given in the trans rectal route, is absorbed by the rich blood and lymph supply and is able to have an impact on the whole body.

We can safely say, Basti is a unique and powerful Ayurvedic therapy with astonishing results. We, at Shreshtha Ayurvedic Center have been exploring and harnessing the basti therapy with very satisfying results. Write to us to explore Basti treatment for your health concerns.

What are the different types of Basti?

There are several classifications of Basti. The most important are given below.

Based on the medicines used:

  • Kashaya/Asthapana/Niruha Basti: In this the principle medicine is mostly decoctions of herbs given on empty stomach

  • Anuvasana Basti: In this, the medicine is in the form of oils and is given after food

Based on the number of Bastis administered in a course

  • Karma Basti: 30 bastis are given totally: 18 Anuvasana bastis and 12 Kashaya bastis are given

  • Kala Basti: 12 enemas are given totally: 9 Anuvasana bastis and 6 Kashaya Bastis are given.

  • Yoga Basti: 8 Bastis are given totally: 5 Anuvasana Bastis and 3 Kashaya Bastis are given.

What is Basti dravyas?

Basti is a therapy which demands systematic and diligent processes to be followed both in terms of the medicine preparation and administration.

Basti dravyas referred to the various forms of herbs/medicines/oil which are mixed in a specific order and quantity.

All Bastis will have 5 basic ingredients. But the quantities will vary according to the type of Basti.

  1. Makshikam- honey

  2. Lavanam- Rock salt

  3. Sneham- some form of fat like oil or ghee

  4. Kalka- Herbs in the form of paste

  5. Kwatha- Decoctions of the herbs

What are the diseases treated using Basti?

Basti karma has high potential to treat a number of diseases. It again depends on the Vaidya to choose the right medicines as per the prakriti and vikruti of the patient.

Some of the diseases which can be very effectively treated with Basti are low back ache, male and female Infertility, all kinds of Arthritis, neurological problems, Irritable bowel syndrome, Paralysis, Spondylosis, Sciatica, Muscular dystrophy, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Gynecological disorders, Ulcerative colitis, psychiatric disorders and chronic constipation.

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