Panchakarma literally means "five therapies". These five therapeutic means of eliminating toxins from the body are Vaman (emesis), Virechan (purgation), Nasya (nasal insufflation), Basti (enema) and Raktamoskshana (blood-letting by using leech and different instruments). This fivefold therapy is aimed at Shodhana i.e., the eradication of the basic cause of disease and later to achieve Shamana which means the mitigation of the disease and its symptoms.

Panchakarma is essentially applicable to all cases covering a wide range of preventive, curative and promotive conditions. Panchakarma is advocated in a healthy person to combat seasonal imbalance of tridosha. Ayurveda describes that the disorders treated with this mode of therapydo not recur while those treated with other palliative methods might re-appear. These measures are preceded by oleation therapy (snehana) and sudation therapy (svedana) and are followed by special diet recommendations (samsarjana karma).

Emesis has been claimed as the best treatment for diseases of Kapha, purgation for diseases of pitta and enema for diseases of vata. Classically panchakarma therapy is prescribed and practiced through following schedule viz., (1) Preparatory measures or purva karma, (2) The principal measures or pradhana karma (3) Post therapy measures of paschat karma.