Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Kumbhi Sweda is a type of swedana or sudation treatment in which steam coming from the hot liquids in a big pitcher buried underground is used to provide sudation to the patient sleeping on a cot placed above the pitcher.
Kumbhi = Pitcher
Sweda (Swedana) = sudation, steaming treatment, sweating treatment, fomentation
Kumbhi Sweda is one among the 13 types of sweating therapies explained in Ayurvedic treatises. It is categorized under Saagni Sweda. Since fire or heat derived from the fire is used for providing sudation in this treatment it is considered as Saagni Sweda. Iron balls or stones boulders made red hot on fire is placed in the pitcher consisting of vata alleviating liquids. The steam coming from this liquid is used for sudation. Though fire is indirectly used, it is a saagni sweda type (Sa = with, Agni = fire).
Since the entire body is given sudation in this process it is categorized under sarvanga sweda (full body fomentation).
Kumbhi sweda is a bashpa sweda (sudation through steam). Here steaming is done through hot liquids and the nature of sudation is wet. Therefore it is categorized under ardra sweda (wet sudation).
A big pitcher is taken. It is filled with vatahara kwathas (decoctions of vata alleviating herbs). The pitcher is buried half or three fourths in a pit dug in the ground. A cot is placed over the pitcher. Alternatively a comfortable seating arrangement in the form of a chair is made over the pitcher. The patient who has been subjected with abhyanga (herbal oil massage) is either made to sleep on the cot or sit on the chair placed over the pitcher. Hot red iron balls made hot on fire or burning charcoal are put into the pitcher. The liquid in the pitcher gets hot. The patient sitting or sleeping over the pitcher is provided sudation by the steam getting eliminated through the opening of the pitcher. This form of providing sudation is called Kumbhi Sweda.
Materials and methods
Materials needed for providing Kumbhi Sweda
Kumbhi – A big pitcher (kumbhi) is the primary fulfillment for conducting Kumbhi Sweda. A big pitcher, good in its shape and devoid of any orifices leading to leakage is selected.
Selection of land – The Kumbhi need to be buried in the ground in Kumbhi Sweda. For this a proper ground is to be selected. An even surface of ground, clean, free of dust, dirt, stones, thorns and weeds is selected.
Making of Pit – In the selected piece of ground, a big pit, big enough to accommodate the selected pitcher is dug.
Burying the Pitcher or Kumbhi – The pitcher is half or three fourths buried in the pit which has been dug in the ground.
A cot or a chair is selected for the treatment. The treatment can be given with the patient sleeping on the cot or sitting on the chair place above the pitcher. Therefore either cot or chair is selected as per the conditional demand or decision of the physician. The cot or chair selected for the treatment is placed over the pitcher such that the opening of the pitcher projecting out of the ground is beneath the middle portion of the cot or chair.
Vatahara Kwatha – decoction or infusion of vata alleviating herbs is prepared beforehand. This is filled in the pitcher before the pitcher is buried in the pit made in the ground.
Iron Balls or big stone boulders – 5-6 big sized iron balls (ayasa guda) or stone boulders (pashana) are selected for the treatment. These should be made hot and put into the liquid contained in the pitcher during the treatment.
Blankets – to cover over the cot or chair and also the body of the patient are kept ready.
Man power – 3-4 attendants or helpers would be handy to carry over the entire procedure of Kumbhi Sweda.
Kumbhi Sweda Vidhi Vidhana (method of administering Kumbhi Sweda)
Preparing the swedana drava – The swedana drava or fluid prepared for giving swedana (vatahara kwatha) is filled in the kumbhi and the kumbhi is buried in the ground to ½ or ¾ level. Iron balls which are made red hot on fire are put into the liquid contained in the kumbhi.
Abhyanga – the patient is given full body massage with the herbal oils selected for this purpose.
Swasthi Vachana – as a part of ritual process, prayers are offered to the God before the start of the treatment. This is to pray for the welfare of the patient and also for the success of the treatment.
Positioning of the patient – the patient who has been given with abhyanga is made to sleep on the cot placed over the kumbhi or to sit on the chair placed over the kumbhi. He would be wearing a thin cloth. Before positioning the patient in the said manner, thick blanket should be covered over the cot or chair. Another blanket should be used to cover the body of the patient. This will enable comprehensive sweating. Though this requirement has not been mentioned in the classic references it might be used to enhance the effect of the treatment. It also makes sense if the patient doesn’t cover himself with the blanket.
Providing Kumbhi Sweda – The red hot iron balls put into the vatahara kwatha contained in the kumbhi will make the liquid hot. The steam coming out of the pitcher will cause steaming of the patient seated (on the chair) or sleeping (on the cot) over the kumbhi. This form of sudation is called Kumbhi Sweda.
Duration of Kumbhi Sweda – Kumbhi Sweda should be done until proper signs of sudation (samyak swinna lakshanas) have been obtained or observed.
Pashchat Kriya (post-sudation measures) – After the completion of kumbhi sweda, the patient should be taken away from the swedana area. The sweat on his body should be swabbed or wiped off with a sterile cloth or tissue papers. After resting the patient for a while he should be given a soothing hot water bath. Later light food should be given. Disease modifying formulations and nitya virechana (daily purgation) to expel the toxins released from the cells into the body during swedana shall be given following the discretion of the physician.
Health Benefits and Indications of Kumbhi Sweda
Specific indications and health benefits of Kumbhi Sweda have not been mentioned in the classic textual references. Therefore the criteria of swedana yogyah (eligible conditions for undergoing swedana or sudation therapy) shall be adopted for Kumbhi Sweda also.
The candidates fit for undergoing sarvanga swedana (full body sudation) are also eligible to undergo kumbhi sweda. Example – Vata disorders, Kapha disorders, Vata-Kapha disorders, Amaja rogas (diseases caused by ama i.e. immature essence of digestion in circulation), Sarvanga Vata, Mamsagata Vata (muscular and neuromuscular disorders) etc.
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