Herewith I intend to discuss the topic sweda, the fomentation. A topic which comes under the shadavidha upkrama as mentioned in Ashtanga Sangrah, sootra sathan, chapter number 24, and Ashtanga Hridya, sootra sathan, chapter number 14, where Acharya says, that there are two therapies as Laghana(which induces lightness in the body), and Brinhana(which induces stoutness to the body). As per his statement there, all the treatments finally fall under this classification, and same implies for the shadavidha upakrama(six fold therapeutic treatments). As per his classification of treatments, he states that depending upon mahabhoota involvement and their functioning on the body and end product of the treatment, either they will be increasing or decreasing in nature. And as per the basic principle of the treatment, that says, to reduce the increased dosha/ element and to increase the reduced dosha/ element is the law for maintaining a balance among vitiated factors, above rule of classification holds the truth.
Space/ Air/ Fire predominant Water/ Earth predominant
As per above classification, it is very clear that Sweda therapy falls under the category of langhana i.e. it helps in the reduction and induces lightness in the body.
Definition of Sweda
Stambha Gaurav Sheetaghanam, swedanam sweda karkam!!
As per above definition of sweda, ghanam word have been added in the end of word sheeta, and being a sanskrita word, it is a single word. So when we read, it has to be
Steam Chamber - Lying type
Utility of Sweda therapy
Sweda sadhya prashamyanti gada vata kaphatmka!!
Charaka, sootra, 14/ 3.
As per above classical quote from charaka, he says that sweda therapy pacifies the diseases created by vata, and kapha. If we go by definition of sweda karma, it is evident that signs, like stambha, gaurava, sheeta belong either to kapha or vata. Stambha (stiffness), and Gaurava (heavyness) belongs to kapha, while sheeta is integral part of Vata. So this therapy effectively can manage Vata and Kapha disorders. To be more precise, one can practice sweda in Vata, Kapha, and Vatakapha diseases.
Benefits of Sweda
Agne Deeptim Mardvam Twaka prasadam Bhaktashradham Srotsam Nirmalatvam!
Kuryat Swedo Jadya Tandra Aphartaram Stabdhan Sandhin cheshtayati Ashu chasya!!
Ash. San. Su. 26/ 33
In above verse, acharya Vagabhatta describes the benefits of sweda therapy, they are as following:
- Agne deeptim- It increases digestive capacity/ strength.
Being similar to the Agni (fire element).
- Mardava- this effect is seen on the skin i.e. softness.
Fomentation induces sweat, which helps in the irrigation of the skin making it more soft.
- Twaka Prasad karam- Enhances the nutrition to the skin.
It helps in activation of the Bhrajaka pitta, which is responsible for the complexion, lustre of the skin.
- Bhakta shradham- increases the desire of the food.
By increased digestive capacity, and it’s cleansing effect increases the desire of the food. As sweda sweeps away the ama.
- Srotasam nirmalatvam- cleanses orifices/ channels.
By heat, sweat is produced which results in the cleaning of the channels, sticky doshas are liquefied and clears the blockages.
- Jadya Apaharta- removes lazyness,
- Tandra Apaharta- removes sleepiness/ stupor.
Both above signs belong to kapha increase, as said earlier it removes the same.
- Stabdhan sandhin cheshtayati ashu- removes stiffness from the joints quickly.
As already been explained, stiffness is a sign of Kapha increase and a little artefact of vata involvement, hence by removal of the same helps in the restoration of movements quickly.
Steam Chamber- Sitting type
Types of sweda
Depending upon various factors, utility, mode of action etc, sweda therapy have been classified in different types.
A) On the basis of Methodology:
1. Agneya (with the use of direct heat/ fire)
2. Anagneya (without the use of direct heat)
In agneya sweda, direct heat/ fire is used to provide the fomentation, for example steam/ sauna. Fire being a strong source of heat generation, this kind of fomentation automatically becomes a stronger choice. So sweat production will also be more, so would be the utility as well. Under this classification, different types of sweat producing measures have been mentioned as Jentaka sweda, Kuti sweda, Patra panda sweda etc.
Utility of Agneya sweda
- Agneya sweda can be used in people with strong physical and mental strength.
- It is useful in the state of severe aggravation of kapha (force of cohesion), Vata (force of propulsion), and Kaphavata collective aggravation.
- It can well be practiced in the winter season, atmosphere being cold during this period.
- It is used as a poorva karma (preparatory measure) for the Vamana (emesis), Virechana (purgation). As doshas have to be liquefied well before the execution of the same, thus used.
- It can be used in both forms i.e. local as well as general.
Precautions for Agneya sweda
While executing the agneya type of sweda, following points should be kept in mind:
- It should not be practiced in Pitta personalities, if not mentioned otherwise specifically, and given the condition of Strong dosha aggravation, an extra care should be taken while doing so, for example vitals should be monitered time to time, and duration should be reduced.
- Agneya sweda or fomentation therapy is completely contraindicated in case of Pitta diseases, thus not to be practiced in same.
- It should not be practiced in the summer season/ hot weather.
- People suffering from Hypertension, Cardiac diseases, Dehydration etc. should be excluded for the treatment, if required other methods of sweat production should be adopted in these cases.