Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Swedana means sudation therapy in which sweating is induced in the body of the patient by providing heat or steaming. On the backdrop of producing sweating, swedana opens up all the channels of the body and clears their blocks. This in turn helps in flushing the toxins and waste materials from the cells, through the channels and ducts, into the stomach (gut) from where they can be expelled by administration of Panchakarma therapy especially Vamana i.e. therapeutic emesis and Virechana i.e. therapeutic purgation.
Swedana is an unparalleled remedy for many diseases either administered alone or in combination with Snehana (oleation) as a part of Purvakarma (pre-treatment procedure) of Panchakarma cleansing therapies.
There are many types of swedana. Swedana is classified into many groups and subtypes based on different criteria. In this article we will limit our discussion to the 4 important types of Swedana explained by Acharya Sushruta and Acharya Vagbhata.
4 types of Swedana
4 types of Swedana according to Sushruta and Vagbhata
Acharya Sushruta and Acharya Vagbhata have explained 4 types of swedana or sudation therapies. The names of these swedanas are also identical. Acharya Charaka has mentioned and explained 13 types of Saagni Sweda (sudation done with the help of or involvement of fire or head and steam induced by fire). Many of these 13 types of Charaka’s swedana types can be merged within these 4 types of swedana explained by Sushruta and Vagbhata.
The four types of swedana explained by Sushruta and Vagbhata are –
- Tapa Sweda
- Upanaha Sweda
- Ushma Sweda
- Drava Sweda
Tapa means to provide heat. In Tapa Sweda, the materials heated on fire are directly brought in contact with the afflicted body parts so as to provide sudation. In all types of swedana (sudation) heat is provided. The name tapa given to this swedana type probably means that comparably more heat or direct heat is provided in this type of swedana in comparison to the others. Probably direct heat is provided to the body or body parts in this swedana. In this type of swedana solid materials are used to provide heat. The dravyas or materials (herbs, medicines) used in this tapa sweda are probably made up of and enriched with guru (heaviness), khara (rough), kathina (hard), sthula (stout, big) and sanghatakara (cause obstruction) qualities.
Upanaha means tying something in a bundle or bolus (of cloth). In Upanaha na-ati-ghana (not too much solid) i.e. less solid or hard or semisolid materials are used in providing sudation. The medicaments are heated and tied in a sterile cloth and made into a bolus or bundle. This hot bundle is used to provide heat over the afflicted body parts.
Ushma means bashpa or vapours. Therefore sudation given by means of vapours is called Ushma Sweda. In Ushma Sweda, Vayaviya dravyas (materials and medicines having predominance of vayu mahubhuta or air element) are used in vapor form. The herbs or materials used in this type of sweda are rich in laghu (lightness) and chala (movement) qualities.
Drava means liquid. In Drava Sweda, the medicines are processed in the liquids like water, milk etc and that liquid is used to provide sudation. Thus, the medicines in drava sweda are used in a liquid form. The medicines (dravyas) used in drava sweda will be rich in drava (liquid), sara (to flow), manda (slow) and kleda (dampness) qualities.
Acharya Sushruta tells that all the other forms of swedana treatments are included in these 4 types of swedanas itself. Therefore these four types of swedana form the major classification of swedana or sudation therapies in which the other subtypes of swedana mentioned in the form of 13 types of saagnis swedas are included.
Acharya Dalhana’s opinion on inclusion of other types of swedana in 4 types of swedana
Tapa Sweda inclusions
Swedana types which can be included under Tapa Sweda are:
- Jentaka Sweda (Sudatorium Sudation)
- Karshu Sweda (Trench Sudation)
- Kutee Sweda (Cabin Sudation)
- Kupa Sweda (Pit Sudation)
- Holaka Sweda (Under Bed Sudation)
Depending on the materials used for sudation, pani or hasta sweda (sudation through hot hands), kanduka sweda (hot ball sudation), kapala sweda (hot earthen piece sudation), valuka sweda (hot sand sudation) etc may be included under tapa sweda.
Upanaha Sweda inclusions
Swedana types which can be included under Upanaha Sweda are:
- Sankara Sweda (Bolus Sudation)
- Pradeha lepa (Poultice, not among the 13 types of swedana)
- Bandhana (bandaging, not among the 13 types of swedana)
- Potali sweda (bolus sudation, not among the 13 types of swedana)
Ushma Sweda inclusions
Swedana types which can be included under Ushma Sweda are:
- Sankara Sweda (Bolus Sudation)
- Prastara Sweda (Stone Sudation)
- Nadi Sweda (Tube Sudation)
- Ashmaghana Sweda (Stone-Bed Sudation)
- Kumbhi Sweda (Pitcher Sudation)
- Bhu Sweda (Ground-Bed Sudation)
Depending on the sudation materials used, kapala sweda (hot earthen sudation), pashana sweda (hot stone sudation), ishtika sweda (hot brick sudation), loha panda sweda (hot iron ball sudation), pamshu sweda (sand sudation), tusha sweda (hot husk sudation) etc may be considered as Ushma Sweda.
Drava Sweda inclusions
Swedana types which can be included under Drava Sweda are:
- Parisheka Sweda (Shower or Affusion Sudation)
- Avagaha Sweda (Bath or Tub Bath Sudation)