The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine

Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D. (Ayurveda) Medical Director, Jupiter Medical Center Dept. of Integrative Medicine Division of Education and Research






Lake Mary Clinic, Gerson Ayurvedic Spa, and Panchakarma Facility: at 635 Primera Blvd. Lake Mary, Florida 32746

Jupiter Medical Center at The Calcagnini Center for Mindfulness
1210 S. Old Dixie Highway, Jupiter, Florida 33458, Suite M-117.2




 Telephone: (561) 263-MIND (6463); option 2 (407) 549-2800

Basic Principles Of Ayurveda

Swedana Karma (Sweat or Fomentation Treatments)

Swedana Karma is simply the group of procedures used to induce sweating. Charaka eloquently tells us that swedana is "whatever relieves stiffness, heaviness, and cold in the body and produces sweat" (CS Su.22/11). The word swedana is derived from the Sanskrit root word swid meaning "to sweat, perspire; foment; soften". The word sweda refers to the "internal excreta of the body" which is a byproduct of meda or fat tissue (CS Ci.15/18). Swedana karma is instrumental in helping to liquify the sticky and adherent doshas which have become lodged in the peripheral tissues. Properly timed, Swedana will soften and melt these toxins sufficiently for the body to efficiently expel them with the assistance of the pradhanakarmas (main therapies) which then directly follow. Sweating leads the doshas to fluidity, making it easier for it to flow out of the system. It opens up the pores and rids the body of impurities through the sweat glands. There are two principal ways of inducing the sweat: using or not using fire.

Classification of Swedana Techniques

Fomentation therapies are classified according to several different criteria by different Ayurvedic schools. The general and most practical classification for clinical practice is as follows:

  • With or Without the use of fire
  • Applied to the entire body (Sarvaangasweda) or to one individual area (Ekasweda)
  • Wet (unctuous) or dry fomentation
  • Intensity of fomentation: mild, moderate, or strong

Examples of swedana with fire include:

  • Sankara Application of a hot herbal bolus to a clothed or unclothed patient.
  • Prasthara The patient lies on a bed of leaves of Ricinus communis and Calotropis gigantea, corn, pulse, pippali, ginger, maricha, and ghee. Paayasa (a milk preparation) or krushara is also added. The patient is covered with silk or wool blankets.
  • Nadi Medicated steam is directed through a hose or tube (nadi) to the entire body or to specific areas of the body.
  • Parisheka Hot herbal decoction is showered over the body from a pitcher, pot, or pipe which has many small holes in it.
  • Jentaaka The patient enters a circular room built near a pond or small lake which has an oven burning special herbs to heat it; similar in some respects to an Indian "sweat lodge".

Examples of Swedana without fire include:

  • Vyaayaama (Exercise)
  • Ushnasadana (Being inside a warm chamber)
  • Gurupraavarnam (Wearing of heavy clothing)
  • Kshudha (Hunger)
  • Bahupaanam (Excessive drinking of alcohol)
  • Bhaya (Fear)
  • Upanaaha (Application of thick poultice)
  • Krodha (Anger)
  • Aahata (Wrestling)
  • Aatapa (Exposure to the sun)

Plants such as ginger root, castor root, punarnava, barley, sesame, kulattha, black gram, jujube and the drumstick plant all encourage the body to sweat more easily.

Swedana therapies are contraindicated in persons who are pregnant, persons with bleeding disorders, who have used alcohol recently, persons who are very fat or very thin, persons with diarrhea, jaundice, anemia. It is also not recommended for people who are very angry, hateful or jealous. Patients suffering from fainting, dizziness, nausea, fever and similar ailments should also not use this treatment.