Panchabhautik chikitsais a unique branch of Ayurveda. It is based on one of Ayurveda’s core philosophies – macrocosm and microcosm.
Panchabhautik chikitsais a principle of analysis and treatment. It was brought into practice by Vaidya Raj Atmaram Vaman Datar Shastri who we’ll refer to as Datar Shastri.
Panchabhautik chikitsa is based on the basic concepts of the great classical texts of Ayurvedic medicine. TheBrihattrayees (three great literary works), are the Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhitaand theAstanga Samgraha.
Here’s a breakdown of what we’ll cover in this article. Scroll ahead for more information.
Macrocosm + Microcsom
Tri-Dosha Siddhanta + The 5 Basic Elements
The Doshas + Panchamahabhutas
pH Levels + Panchabhautik Chikitsa
Diagnosis In Panchabhautik Chikitsa
Examination Of The Liver
Examination Of The Spleen
4 Step Analysis In Panchabhautik Chikitsa
Like Increases Like
Medicines In Panchabhautik Chikitsa
Phalatrikadi Guggulu: Special Formulations Of Panchabhautik Chikitsa
Normalizing The Digestive System
Rules For Preparing Medicines
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Datar Shastri belonged to the state of Maharashtra in India. He emphasized that both the human body and nature are created from the the five elements, or the Panchamahabhutas. While treating the human body, equilibrium of the five elements should be considered.
Ayurveda believes that everything that exists in the universe, the macrocosm, also appears in the internal cosmos of the human body, the microcosm.
The Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita says, “Man is the epitome of the universe. Within man, there is as much diversity as in the world outside. Similarly, the outside world is as diverse as human beings themselves.”
In other words, all human beings are a living microcosm of the universe and the universe is a living macrocosm of the human beings.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, all substances found in nature are therapeutic provided that they are used for specific indications and with appropriate formulations.
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Panchabhautik chikitsa utilizes a wide range of materia medica including herbs, minerals, animal products and marine originates. They are used in different conditions of health and disease in order to restore the state of health.
Living an Ayurvedic life is about maintaining an equilibrium of the five basic elements, or panchamahabhutas.
The classical Ayurvedic therapy is based on tridosha siddhanta, the theory of three humors or doshas. Like all matter in the universe,tridoshas are also a permutation and combination of the five states of matter, the five basic elements.
Ether (Akash), air (Vayu), water (Jala), fire (Agni), and earth (Prithvi) are thepanchamahabhutasin Ayurveda.
The panchabhautik manifestation of the three doshas are as follows.
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Vata dosha is the most powerful of the doshas. It controls the basic bodily functions as well as the mind.
Vata dosha influences all types of movements in the body, from the movement of prana and nerve impulses, to thoughts and body fluids. TheVata doshais a combination ofAkash and Vayu mahabhuta, or space and air.
Understanding the space (Akash) and air element (Vayu mahabhuta) and how they work in the body is very important. With understanding the elements, any imbalance in their functioning can be understood properly.
Pitta dosha is responsible for metabolism, digestion and hormones linked to appetite. Pitta is a combination of the water and fire element.
Kapha dosha is responsible for strength and stability, muscle growth, weight and the immune system. Kapha is a combination of the water and earth element.
The equilibrium of these five elements in the body denotes health. Their imbalance or disturbance denotes disease.
Panchabhautik chikitsa is a unique branch of Ayurveda which is based on analysis and treatment according to this principle.
Specific sites in the body have a dominance of specific mahabhutas.1
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Another very interesting concept given by Datar Shastri is the concept of a combination of acidic pH and alkaline pH in nature which brings about a balance in nature.
Similarly, this same concept of acidic pH and alkaline pH brings a balance in the human body as well as nature and the human body are reciprocal to each other.
The amalgamation of acidic pH and alkaline pH helps maintain the balance in nature. Life on earth depends on appropriate pH levels in and around living organisms and cells. Human life requires a tightly controlled pH level in the blood serum to survive (about 7.4, a slightly alkaline range of 7.35 to 7.45).2
Datar Shastri adopted the process of diagnosis inPanchabhautik chikitsa through a special technique called Nada pariksha. Nada parikshais percussion or sound examination. It’s used in addition to the famousNadi Pariksha or pulse diagnosis.
In sound examination, abdominal sounds are examined on the basis of the properties of increased or depletedpanchamahabhutas (five elements) in the body giving rise to a specific symptom of a disease.
Panchabhautik chikitsa is an easy method to heal chronic diseases successfully.
In Ayurvedic disease diagnosis, primary importance is given to Udara Pariksha or abdominal examination. The liver (Yakrita), spleen (Pleeha) and kidneys (Mutrapinda or Vrikka) is also examined through this process.3
The demands of today’s work culture take a toll on people’s health. Tremendous stress, deadlines and cutthroat competition leads to excess mental pressure which in turn vitiates theVayu mahabhuta or air element.
When it gets depleted of its qualities of mobility, subtleness, coldness and lightness, it hampers the function ofVata dosha in the body. Remember, Vata dosha is responsible for all forms of movement in the body.
Vitiated Vata dosha steals away all the parthiva or earthy and watery element from the liver. It increases the space element (akashiya) and air element (vayavya) in the liver resulting in a tympanic sound on percussion over the liver region.
If there is derangement in the functioning of the liver the entire digestive process gets disrupted giving rise to various diseases.
Excessive use of mental faculties may result in digestive disorders leading to metabolic derangement in the dhatus or various systems of the body along with an accumulation of Ama, undigested matter.
This is the cause of all ailments.
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Pliha dushti or derangement of the spleen also has various causes, the main one being travel.
Professionals whose job requires them to travel frequently experience a change in sleep timings, food habits, water quality and environment. These changes affect not only the body but also the rakta dhatu or circulatory system and the functioning of the spleen (pliha).
Tenderness around the spleen region is felt upon abdominal examination. This also results in diminished metabolic fire, restlessness and lethargy.
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The process of analysis and treatment inPanchabhautik Chikitsa typically has the following four steps.
Imbalance of the five elements in the human body can cause different symptoms in accordance with characteristics attributed to the imbalance. This is calledGuna Dvanda (duality of attributes).
The shareera or body as well as the universe or loka is made up of the Pancha Mahabhutas. The variation in theseMahabutaha will cause the disease.
Let’s look at an example.
Intake of substances dominant in the earth elementand water element will increase the same qualities in the body. This concept is known as the Samanya Vishesha Siddhanta.So in this condition substances dominant in the fire element and air element are used for treatment to balance the earth and water elements in the body.
Like qualities cause an increase; dissimilar qualities cause a decrease.
When the earth element (Parthiva Guna) is in a vitiated state it causes stiffness (Kathinyata) in the body. Due to indulgence in causative factors, dosha vitiation takes place.
The vitiation of the earth and water element occurs in body parts where the earth (Prithvi) and water (Jala) element are dominant. The symptoms are found predominantly in the lower body below the umbilicus (Adho shakha) and pelvic region.
So to normalize the earth and water element, medicines dominant in the fire element (Agni), air element (Vayu) and space element (Akasha mahabhuta)are used for treatment.
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Ayurvedic medicines in Panchabhautik chikitsa are selected not only on the basis ofrasa, guna, virya,and vipakas is in the case of conventional Ayurvedic medicine.
The composition ofPancha mahabhuta present in the ingredients of the medicine is also considered.
There are a few, very special compositions researched and formulated by Datar Shastri which are effectively used in Panchabhautik Chikitsa.
Some medicines are known as the first line of treatment.
They are used by Panchabhautik practitioners on large scale because of their potency and multifarious benefits to the body. Such a preparation isPhalatrikadi guggul.
Phalatrikadi guggul is found to be a very effective formula in clearing the srotarodh (obstructed body channels) which is the main cause of the diseases.
Guggul (purified) has the ability to sustain for long periods the properties of the medicinal substances it’s mixed with. Guggulu enhances the properties of the ingredients mixed with it.
Phalatrik is a combination of Triphala along with Guduchi, Nimba chal, Chirayata and Vasa. Each ingredient is selected on the basis of its Panchabhautik combination. It primarily works on the liver.
Normally, the liver secretes Pitta which mixes with the Annarasa, the first juice of consumed food, which helps in the formation of the Rasa and Rakta dhatus, two of the body’s seven systems, according to Ayurveda.
Due to a variety of causative factors, the equilibrium of tridoshas is vitiated along with the waste products, called malas, and blockage in the srotas or body channels results.
Secretion of Pitta is hampered so the liver gets enlarged.
Tenderness is noticed and constipation, fever, anorexia, cough and headache result. Triphala, Kutkiand Chirata have qualities that clear off the abnormal doshas.
Nimba chal and vasa belong to Guduchyadi Varga which has the property to give sthirata, stability. Guduchi and Triphala are rejuvenating and Pitta pacifying.
In brief, it can be said thatPhalatrikadi guggulis a Vata Akash pradhana formulation. That means, it is dominant in the air and space elements.
It is helpful in getting rid of metabolic waste which blocks the body channels. The Akash property of the body channels which was blocked is cleared and the liver regains its normal functioning.
In Panchabhautik chikitsa, Datar Shastri did not limit the meaning of shodhan or purification to Panchakarma procedures only. According to Datar Shastri, by normalizing the digestive system (Agni Sansthan),nature carries out supply, nourishment and excretion.
If the important organs in the digestive system, the liver, spleen and kidneys, are not doing their functions normally, the equilibrium of the doshas is lost.
Abnormal toxic material is accumulated around these vital organs and all these culminate into diseases. The main aim of Panchabhautik Chikitsa is to remove the blockages and clear the minute doshas in these organs and vicinity. This is calledShuddhi karma, cleansing action, at the micro level.
This is the objective and achievement ofPanchbhautik Chikitsa.
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Datar Shastri followed certain rules in respect of preparation of medicines and storing them.
According to his Panchbhautik Chikitsa, the period of collecting various herbs, should be strictly observed as the maximum natural properties can be tapped during that period. Delicate herbs should be dried in the shade. Others in full sunshine. Herbs should not be exposed or open at night. Selection of the raw herbs should be done carefully.
Manually prepared medicines are preferred over machine-made medicines. Manually made medicines have more potential and are preferable. Wooden vessels are used for preparing the medicines instead of metal vessels. Stainless steel discolors the recipes and changes the properties of the formulas.
These rules of combining ingredients in a formulation should be observed. Combination should be done by properly rubbing with due time.
Medicinal preparation are best started in the third week of October, after the appearance of the Agasti star. They should end by the third week of May on the setting of the Agasti star.
A clean, cloudless sky with full sunshine is essential for potent medicines. Cloudy weather is harmful. Keep the final recipes in bottles for six months before dispensing them as medicines mature in respect to properties by that time.
Datar Shastri says medicines are for the cure first. Their appearances are a negligible part for effectiveness. When making medicines, don’t make deceptive appearances for commercial purposes.4
Datar Shastri did great research regarding the pathogenesis of disease (vyadhi samprapti). He attained demonstrable results with his patients.
The words Panchabhautik chikitsa encompasses various aspects of health including diet, exercise, profession, environment, drugs, preparation of medicines, diagnosis and treatment.
The core concept involves interpretation of the scientific knowledge and disease management on the grounds ofPanchamahabhutatheory.
Panchabhautik chikitsaachieved very good results with treatment. It includes a rich history, plentiful references in the ancient texts and wide research work done by Datar Shastri himself and his disciples, especially in Maharashtra. Despite all of this, Panchabhautik chikitsa has been well accepted by very few outside the state of Maharashtra and rarely practiced until today in other parts of India.
Datar Shastri encouraged the growth of Ayurveda in the age of antibiotics. His thorough study and analysis of the ancient Ayurvedic texts led him to this special approach to diagnosis and treatment in Ayurvedic medicine. He practiced, taught and spread Panchabhautik chikitsa among his students. He was quite methodical in his approach of diagnosis and treatment.
If you’ve got questions about Panchabhautik chikitsa or Ayurveda, please leave them in the comments below.
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1. Panhabhautika Chikitsa part 1 edited by Vaidya Atmaram Waman Datar Shashtri published by Vaidyaraj Datar Panchabhautik Chikitsa and Samshodhan Kendra, Sangli, chapter 15, 3rd Edi.2000 pp.138
2. Waugh A, Grant A.Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness. 10th edition. Philadelphia, Pa, USA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2007
3. Panhabhautika Chikitsa part 1 edited by Vaidya Atmaram Waman Datar Shashtri published by Vaidyaraj Datar Panchabhautik Chikitsa and Samshodhan Kendra, Sangli, chapter 2, 3rd Edi.2000 pp.9
4. Panchabhautik chikitsa Selected medicines, Dr. S.K. Haldavanekar, Dec 1999, Vaidyaraj Datar panchbhautik Chikitsa & Sanshodhan Kendra
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