Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Holaka Sweda is a type of sudation therapy in which a big tray made up of mud or dung, filled with dry dung of animals is kept under the cot, the dung burnt with fire and when the contents become smokeless, the patient subjected to abhyanga (herbal oil massage) is made to sleep on the cot and provided with sudation, with the help of the heat coming from the tray beneath the bed.
Holaka = the dictionary meaning tells holaka is ‘a kind of vapor bath’ (probably indicates the whole apparatus or set up of Holaka Sweda or under-bed sudation)
Sweda (Swedana) – sudation, sweating treatment, steaming treatment, fomentation
Holaka Sweda is one among the 13 types of Saagni Sweda. Saagni Swedas are the sudation therapies carried out with the help of fire or heat generated by the fire (or from the materials burnt or boiled with the help of fire). Since the dry dung in the tray beneath the bed is burnt and sudation given with the heat coming from the burnt contents, Holaka Sweda is rightly classified under Saagni Sweda (Saa = with, Agni = fire).
Since dry materials like dried dung of animals is used in Holaka Sweda, the heat generated after burning them so as to provide sudation is also dry in nature. Therefore, Holaka Sweda may be classified under Ruksha Sweda (dry form of sudation).
Since in Holaka Sweda, the entire body of the patient sleeping over the tray of burning dung is uniformly subjected to sudation, it can be considered as Sarvanga Sweda (full body sudation)
A large tray is made of mud or dung. It is large enough to accommodate below the cot, i.e. it has the length and breadth of a cot so that when kept under the cot it covers end to end of the bed beneath it. The tray may be made with dung of cow, horse, donkey, camel, elephant etc or all mixed together. Later it is dried. Alternately a large and thick cake of dung can be made of the same dimension. Alternatively a metal tray may be taken or even an earthen one.
The dried dung of the same animals mentioned above is placed in the tray such that the tray is filled with the dung. Fire is lit to the dung in the tray. If a large cake of dried dung is taken, it is burnt instead.
When the contents of the tray become smokeless and only burning coal of the same is left over, a cot is placed over the tray such that the tray is exactly placed beneath the cot. The cot should be covered by a thick blanket.
The patient who is to be given sudation should be given abhyanga (herbal oil massage) and made to sleep on the cot. He should wear a thin dress. The patient should also be covered with another thick blanket.
The heat coming from the heated contents in the tray beneath the bed will provide proper sudation to the patient. This type of sudation is called under-bed sudation.
Materials and arrangements needed for conduct of Holaka Sweda
Dheetikaa – a tray made up of mud or dung is needed for holaka sweda. As said above, a big tray of the dimensions of a cot (which could fit beneath a cot) is made up of mud or dung of animals like cow, camel, horse etc and dried. Alternatively a big and thick cake made up of dung of animals is kept ready.
Pureesha / Kareesha – Dried dung of animals like cow, camel, donkey, horse, elephant etc are collected in sufficient quantity and kept ready.
Cot – for making the patient to sleep during sudation process is kept ready.
Blankets – one blanket is placed over the cot so as to cover it entirely. Another blanket is kept ready to cover the patient.
Oils for massage – herbal oils to give full body massage to the patient are kept ready. Some of the useful oils are those which alleviate Vata and other doshas, example – Mahanarayana Taila, Ksheerabala Taila, Dashamula Taila, Sahacharadi Taila etc.
Man Power – 2-3 attendants are needed to carry on the holaka sweda effortlessly.
Holaka Sweda Vidhi Vidhana (Method of conducting under-bed sudation)
Preparing the Dheetika – The tray is filled up with the dry dung of the mentioned animals. The dheetika is kept beneath the cot placed in a place devoid of dust and breeze.
Burning the fuel – the fuel i.e. contents of the dheetika (dried dung) is burnt with fire. When the hot burning coal is left over in the tray and when it has become smokeless it would be ready for sudation. Now, the cot is covered with a blanket.
Abhyanga – herbal oil massage is given to the patient who is to be given with holaka sweda.
Positioning the patient and providing sudation – the patient who has been subjected to abhyanga is made to sleep on the cot which is covered with the blanket. The patient is wearing thin clothes. After occupying the cot, the patient is covered with a thick blanket. Actually the matter of covering the patient with the blanket is not mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts; therefore the patient may be left without covering on the bed and sudation provided. But covering the patient with the blanket helps in providing comprehensive sudation with good sweating. The heat coming from the burnt coal in the tray beneath the cot will provide proper sudation to the patient.
Duration of Swedana – Holaka Sweda shall be given until signs of proper sudation are obtained.
Paschat Kriyas (post-swedana procedures) – after the completion of holaka sweda the patient is taken away from the cot and made to sit in a place devoid of breeze. The sweat on his body is swabbed off. Later he is given a soothing hot water shower followed by light digestible diet. Disease modifying medicines and nitya virechana (daily purgation to expel the toxins released during the treatment process) are administered as per the condition and discretion of the physician.
Indications and Health Benefits of Holaka Sweda
Specific indications and health benefits of Holaka Sweda have not been narrated in the Ayurvedic treatises. Therefore most of the conditions for which Swedana has been indicated (Swedana yogyah) should be considered as eligible to undergo Holaka Sweda also.
All conditions wherein Sarvanga Sweda can be given are also considered eligible for Holaka Sweda, example – Vata disorders, Kapha disorders, Vata-Kapha Disorders, Amaja diseases (diseases caused by ama i.e. immature digestive juices in circulation) etc.
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