Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Karshu means trench, depression or excavation in the ground, trough, pit.
Sweda (Swedana) means sudation, steaming, fomentation, sweating treatment.
Karshu Sweda is a type of swedana treatment in which the wood of vata alleviating trees is burnt in a trench made in the ground (or the burning coal of burnt wood of medicinal plants is put in the trench). The person to be subjected to sudation is made to sleep on a cot placed over the trench. He undergoes sudation from the heat coming out of the trench.
Karshu Sweda is one of the 13 types of Saagni Sweda explained in Ayurvedic texts. Since fire is used to burn the wood and since sudation comes from the heat coming out of the burning coal of those burnt wood, it is called sa agni sweda (with fire).
Since dry wood is burnt in this process and the heat (sudation) is also dry in nature, it is categorized under ruksha sweda (dry sudation).
The physician who is well versed in the knowledge of selecting a proper land for providing swedana (sudation) should select a land suited to dig a karshu to provide swedana.
Karshu is a pit made in the ground. The trench is such that it is wide at the bottom and gradually tapers towards the surface of the ground. Some are also of the opinion that the trench in the ground should be of the shape of a barrel (wide at the bottom and tapering at its opening, i.e. at the surface of the ground). In this case, the upper opening is circular in shape and opens exactly below the cot.
Dry wood of the medicinal plants are burnt in the trench. Alternatively the burning coal of the wood of medicinal plants is put into the karshu. A cot is placed over the karshu. The patient subjected to herbal oil massage is made to sleep on the cot on which a woolen blanket or a layer of medicinal leaves is spread out. He is covered with a blanket. The heat coming from the karshu will provide swedana to the patient. This form of giving swedana is called Karshu Sweda.
Materials and methods
Materials required for providing Karshu Sweda
Selection of land – A land fit enough to provide karshu sweda is selected. The land should be uniform, leveled and devoid of stones, thorns and weeds.
Construction of Karshu – Construction of Karshu in the selected land is the primary step in Karshu Sweda. Karshu, as said already is a a big pit of the shape of a pot built in the ground. It is built in such a way that it is broad at the bottom and tapering at its opening on the surface of the ground.
Collection of medicinal wood – dried wood pieces of vata alleviating plants are collected.
Burning of the wood in the trench – The collected wooden pieces are put into the karshu or trench and lit with fire. They are burnt. One should observe until the entire wood is burnt to leave back burning coal and also should make sure that all the smoke has been eliminated.
Placing a cot over the karshu – when no more smoke is coming out of the karshu and the heat of the burning coal is being eliminated out of the opening of the karshu, one should place a cot over the surface opening of the pit such that the cot is exactly placed above the opening of the trench.
Karshu Sweda vidhi vidhana (method of administering karshu sweda)
Abhyanga – massage should be given to the patient with herbal oil before swedana, as a rule.
Swasthi vachana – prayers and hymns should be offered to the almighty praying for the success of the treatment and also for the well being of the patient, including the patient in the holistic rituals (only if she is comfortable in doing so).
Positioning the patient and providing swedana (sudation) – The patient who is given with abhyanga is made to wear thin clothes and made to sleep over the cot placed over the karshu. Before doing so, the cot should be covered with a thick blanket of wool or with vata alleviating medicinal leaves of eranda (castor plant), nirgundi (Vitex negundo) etc. Once the patient has slept on the cot, another blanket is covered thoroughly over his body, except his face. The person is thus provided with sudation from the heat being eliminated from the smokeless burning charcoal of wood of medicinal plants coming from the trench.
Duration of Swedana – Karshu Swedana should be given until proper signs and symptoms of proper sudation or samyak swinna lakshanas are observed.
Paschat Karma (post swedana procedures) – After the karshu swedana, the patient should be provided with rest and the sweat should be wiped off. Following this, hot water shower, light food and disease alleviating medicines should be given. Daily purgation (nitya virechana) to expel the toxins released due to swedana should be given if the physician decides to do so.
Benefits of Karshu Sweda and indications
Separate indications and health benefits of Karshu Sweda has not been mentioned for Karshu Sweda, almost all diseases mentioned under the indications of swedana (swedana arha, swedana yogya) should be considered eligible to undergo karshu sweda.
All conditions wherein sarvanga sweda could be given can be considered eligible for karshu sweda, example – vata rogas, kapha rogas, vata-kapha rogas, sarvanga vata, pakshaghata (paralysis, hemiplegia), ardita (facial paralysis), mamsagata vata (muscular pain, myalgia), ama vikaras (diseases caused by ama i.e. immature essence of digestion put into circulation) etc.
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