Ayurvedic cleanse: Digging into the ultimate mind-body detox

A middle-aged woman prepares a nutritious Ayurvedic meal during a 3-week cleanse.

It seems like every year, there’s a new fad detox some health guru is praising as the magic bullet for weight loss and wellbeing.

From low-carb Keto diets and famed intermittent fasts, to the juice detoxes that have everyone ravenous for kale and cucumber, it’s hard to keep up—let alone find one that works for you.

But maybe the ultimate cleanse isn’t some modern diet on the market, but an age-old system that has been practised for centuries.

Yes, we’re talking about the Ayurvedic cleanse.

Rooted in Ayurveda, an ancient holistic healing science, Ayurvedic cleansing isn’t about swapping out carbs for high-fat products or blitzing your food into oblivion.

Instead, the spiritual lifestyle focuses on nourishing every part of the mind and body, rather than depleting and depriving it.

If you’re craving a detox that repairs and replenishes your entire system, join us as we dig into the basics, benefits and downsides of a traditional Ayurvedic cleanse.

What is an Ayurvedic cleanse, exactly?

So, you’re probably wondering what an ancient holistic healing detox is all about?

Well, it’s not as mystic as it may sound.

Meaning “the science of life” in Sanskrit, Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic healing systems in the world.

The Hindu practice is based on the belief that everything in life is connected. As a result, the body, mind and spirit must be treated together to function in harmony with the rest of the universe.

According to the holistic sciences, we each have 3 unique humors or doshas—vata, kapha, and pitta—which are designed around the five elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth.

Everyone’s doshas are unique.

Think of it as an energy fingerprint that determines our behaviour, health and wellbeing.

When our doshas become blocked from an unhealthy or toxic lifestyle, we need a complete purge. And that’s where the Ayurvedic cleanse comes in.

What to expect from an Ayurvedic cleanse

A young woman receives the Shirodhara treatment while completing phase 2 of an Ayurvedic cleanse.

Sometimes referred to as Panchakarma, which translates to “5 phases,” the Ayurvedic cleanse consists of various treatments tailored to your specific doshas.

These include:

  • herbal oil massages,
  • steam baths,
  • cleansing enemas,
  • nasal administration,
  • gentle laxatives (senna), and a
  • specialised diet

The cleanse not only includes a healthy diet and some soothing treatments, but it’s also a complete lifestyle shift.

The cleansing process is typically completed over three phases at a wellness retreat, and can last anywhere from 3 to 45 days.

During this time, you’ll follow an Ayurvedic daily routine. You’ll start your morning with a cup of steaming hot water, followed by a warm breakfast, hearty lunch and then a light dinner. 

Regular yoga and meditation practice is also a very important part of Ayurvedic detoxes, as well as traditional massages and oil treatments.

The aim of an Ayurvedic cleanse is to restore balance to your body and mind while also bolstering your spiritual health.

Are there any benefits of an Ayurvedic cleanse?

A young woman meditates in a forest during an Ayurvedic cleanse.

Ayurveda is centred around the digestive system, with a large focus on strengthening and balancing our digestive fire, known as Agni.

Our Agni is a source of nourishment, health and spirituality.

Whether you’re struggling with a weakened immune system or spiritual stability, it can almost always be linked to the health of your Agni.

Ayurvedic cleanses work to set this digestive fire ablaze, eliminating toxins and bolstering our physical wellbeing, amongst numerous other benefits.

Healthy digestive system

An Ayurvedic cleanse is perhaps most well known for its effect on the digestive system.

During an Ayurvedic detox retreat, practitioners must follow a strict yet very simple diet. This diet removes toxins and transfers them into the bowel and skin for purging. 

Practitioners must also avoid pairing certain foods that clash as they can clog up your digestion, leading to more toxins. 

The combination of a balanced diet and soothing practices helps to eliminate toxins, enhance the immune system and keep the gut in good health.

Reduced stress levels

Along with healthy eating, an Ayurvedic cleanse includes daily meditation and mindfulness sessions.

These practices help calm an overactive nervous system and reduce high-stress levels.

Additionally, eliminating unhealthy foods and habits fosters a positive mindset that can lead to a more joyful and fulfilled life.

Greater sense of mental clarity

Ayurveda is not only a cleansing of the body, but the mind as well.

During the healing process, you’ll notice strange emotions and memories begin to surface.

This spiritual and emotional detox will purge toxic feelings that no longer serve you and create a healthier headspace.

In this state of calm and peace, you might also gain greater mental clarity and uncover your true intentions in life.

Increased weight loss

The Ayurvedic diet consists of three nutritionally-balanced meals a day designed around your specific dosha. Strictly no snacks.

Practitioners should space their meals out with herbal teas to allow the food to fully digest. This encourages mindful eating and a healthy digestive tract.

Ayurvedic food is also some of the healthiest.

For the best results, use whole foods, fresh fruits, organic vegetables and natural spices and oils.

Recipes tend to avoid unhealthy cooking methods like deep frying, while also staying away from processed carbohydrates, incompatible foods and ingredients that are high in sodium.

This healthy and clean diet, coupled with regular exercise, can promote weight loss and improve your overall health.

What about the downsides of an Ayurvedic cleanse?

While the Ayurvedic lifestyle yields many favourable health benefits, it also comes with its fair share of risks. 

Consuming certain Ayurvedic herbal remedies can sometimes have negative side effects, such as:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Vomiting
  • Allergic rashes

Some treatments and herbal supplements can also be harmful to children, pregnant women and the elderly.

Therefore before jumping into an Ayurvedic detox, it’s essential that you seek the advice of a certified Ayurvedic doctor and complete it under the supervision of a trained health professional on a wellness retreat.

How to cleanse the Ayurveda way

Natural herbs, spices and ingredients are prepared on a table for an Ayurvedic cleanse.

An Ayurvedic detox consists of three different phases, each integral to the healing process.

You can perform this cleanse at home, but a traditional Ayurvedic cleansing usually takes between three to four weeks to complete and should be done under the care of a certified Ayurvedic doctor.

Phase 1: Preparation

The preparation phase is arguably the most important phase of the cleanse.

It typically spans over 9 days, but can sometimes take up to four weeks to fully prepare your body for the Panchakarma treatments or active cleansing phase.

This is done by cleaning up your diet and lifestyle so as not to shock it when you enter the more intense phase of the cleanse.

In the first week, you’ll start by practising a simple and clean diet and drinking plenty of liquids.

You’ll only consume dishes that are easy to digest and nutritionally balanced. Processed foods, sugar, caffeine, dairy, and alcohol are all off limits

Phase 2: Active cleansing

Next is the active cleansing phase.

This is the more intensive part of the cleanse that requires practitioners to eat simple Ayurvedic dishes such as kitchari.

Traditional detoxification therapies and cleansing rituals are also performed to eliminate toxins, strengthen the metabolic fire and balance the doshas.

During this phase, you’ll detoxify every part of the being, even your blood.

You’ll experiment with enemas, oil massages, bloodletting, yoga, meditation, pranayama and herbal supplements. 

The healing process will take a toll on you physically and mentally, so it’s important to minimise stress and maximise rest during this time.

Phase 3: Reintegration

Once you have completed the active cleansing phase, you’ll need to slowly reintroduce certain foods and fats.

It can take 2-3 weeks for your body and mind to fully transition back to their normal functioning. That means you’ll need to stay away from caffeine, alcohol, meat, and sugar, and if you like, slowly introduce these items one at a time.

After this, you’ll enter the rejuvenation phase where your body will become more resilient and even immune to certain illnesses.

It is in this final phase that you begin to feel replenished, restored and powerful.

If you’re looking to restore balance to your life through Ayurveda, there’s no better place to do it than on a detox and healing retreat.

Alongside trained practitioners, you’ll follow an Ayurvedic lifestyle with tai chi, yoga, meditation and much more.

And thanks to Basubu’s wide range of wellness retreats, experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime detox has never been easier.

Browse traditional Ayurvedic retreats around the world and unwind with detoxifying treatments and herbal teas in the middle of nature.

Ready for a life-altering journey? Start here.