If you are familiar with Ayurveda you may have heard of the term Basti. Basti’s literal translation is “bladder”; however, the Basti therapy referred to in Ayurveda denotes the application of the herbal enema. As a direct pathway into the colon, enemas can be a very powerful method for treating many issues and ailments, as well as cleansing toxins (ama) from the intestines. Since the colon is the home of Vata dosha, Basti is often used to treat Vata disorders including constipation, dryness, depletion, insomnia, nervous system disorders, arthritis, osteoporosis, and the like. Although it is considered the main treatment for Vata, different herbs and substances can be used to target other doshas and imbalances as well.
What herbs and substances are best used for Basti?
The traditional Ayurvedic enema often uses an herbal decoction of Dashamula tea. Dashamula is the “10 roots” formula that is specific for reducing Vata and all its related disorders. Many other herbs and substances can be used in Basti therapy as well, depending on the issues and imbalances at hand.
Dashamula can be mixed with other herbs to form a more appropriate formula. For instance, the Dashamul tea can be blended with Guduchi if there is a Pitta imbalance present. Alternatively, you can mix Punarnava with the Dashamul during a Kapha imbalance. In general, most herbs can be administered through Basti, depending on the needs of the individual, their Prakruti (constitution or Ayurvedic body type), and their Vikruti (current imbalance).
Other substances can be used for Basti therapy as well. Some common Ayurvedic substances include ghee, medicated ghee, or sesame oil. Using an oil base for the enema is called Anuvasan Basti, meaning with oil; whereas the herbal decoction version mentioned above is called Niruha Basti, meaning without oil.
The oil method is most useful in disturbances that do not involve toxins (ama). If toxins are present, it is crucial to avoid the use of oil or ghee, as these substances can drive the toxins deeper into the tissues. If there are no signs of toxins, using oils or ghee can be a very powerful way to reduce Vata, anxiety, dryness, constipation, and general depletion of the tissues. At times, these methods may be alternated to receive the benefits of both therapies.
Besides the herbal decoction or the oil enema, a few other substances that are used in various Basti therapies include milk, medicated milk, bone broth, meat broth, herbal juices, honey (blended in the oil), egg whites, saltwater, and even cow’s urine. Each substance possesses specific health benefits and therefore, depending on the individual’s needs, you can choose the medicine that would be most needed at any given time. In general, the traditional Dashamula Basti can be used for most body types and health issues, making this a preferred “go-to” option by many.
When should you use Basti therapy?
Basti can be used to treat just about any Vata disorder. In fact, it may be the most powerful and effective way to treat Vata due to the direct application into the colon (aka the “home” of Vata). Common Vata disorders include anxiety, fear, restless mind, sleep disorders, nervous system disorders (e.g. Parkinson’s), hypersensitivity, constipation, chronic gas and bloating, debility, depletion, emaciation, sciatica, gout, arthritis, osteoporosis, and dryness; just to name a few. Since Vata is typically involved in other doshic imbalances, Basti can be used to indirectly alleviate both Pitta and Kapha, treating a wide variety of disorders.
Another main indication to use Basti therapy would be during times of cleansing*. Basti is one of the main cleansing therapies in the traditional Ayurvedic Pancha Karma (the five cleansing actions) therapy. It can be used in many home-cleanses such as a kitchari cleanse or a modified home “PK” (panchakarma) as well. Due to the direct application into the colon, enema therapy is quite effective in flushing out toxins from the intestines, making it very effective to aid in detoxification. When using Basti for cleansing, you can use the traditional Dashamul decoction, or a blend of Dashamul with a cleansing herb such as Guduchi, Musta, or Kutki. If parasites are an issue, an anti-parasitical herb such as Vidanga should be used for beneficial results.
*Please note that when performing Basti during a cleanse, it is necessary to have gone through the typical “pre-cleanse” practices such as sweating (svedana) and oiliation (snehana).
Are there any contraindications with Basti?
Since Basti is a relatively “invasive” therapy, one should use knowledge, awareness, and precaution before performing. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some common contraindications for Basti:
Do NOT use Basti during:
- Acute diarrhea
- Hemorrhoids or rectal polyps
- Within 2 to 3 hours after food intake
- Shortness of breath
- Rectal or vaginal prolapse
- Only a nutritive Basti should be done with severe debility or emaciation (e.g. bone marrow broth)
How often should you perform Basti?
How often you perform Basti will be dependent on a case-by-case basis. If you are treating a severe or chronic disorder, you will likely need to perform Basti multiple times, over a prolonged period to receive the results you are needing. This may mean performing it multiple days in a row consistently, or several days a week for a specific amount of weeks. It is important to avoid overdoing this therapy, however, as you can become habituated to the cleansing effect, weakening the colon over time. Therefore it is usually best to give breaks in between, even with more severe disorders.
During an Ayurvedic cleanse, Basti is typically performed 2 to 3 days consistently, and then once a week for about 4 weeks during the “post-cleanse” phase. After the cleanse, the Anuvasana (Oil) Basti can be used (if appropriate), as long as the toxins have been removed thoroughly.
If you are treating an acute or less severe disorder, you can perform Basti for 2 to 3 days consistently. If the imbalance still remains, wait for 5 to 7 days and repeat until the imbalance has healed.
Important note: If there are questions or concerns around this, it is highly recommended to see a skilled Ayurvedic practitioner for guidance.
How do you apply Basti?
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The first step in applying Basti is knowing the substance to use (e.g. Dashamula tea) and the length of time it will be performed. You will want to make sure you have all of the materials needed and time to relax after the treatment.
Materials needed for Basti:
- Enema Bag
- Herbal medicine of choice (lukewarm)
- Old blanket, towel, and/or pillow
- A jar or container to catch the initial liquid from the tube (see #4 below)
Important notes before administering Basti therapy:
- The best times for application are either first thing in the morning or later in the evening
- Avoid any exerting activity after the application of Basti
- Avoid food for at least 2 to 3 hours (or more) before and after performing Basti; herbal teas and warm water can be taken as needed
- Food should be light on the days of application, this means to avoid heavy food (e.g. meat, pasta, dairy, junk food) and favor easy to digest meals such as kitchari, porridges, or soup
- Choose a comfortable and warm space to perform this procedure; place an old sheet or blanket on the floor to lie on during application
Once you have all of the above in order, it is time for the treatment!
Basti (Ayurvedic Enema) Instructions
1. Place the medicine of choice into the enema bag.
2. Hang the bag using a hanger or similar gadget up at a high elevation, ideally at least 6 to 9 feet up.
3. Lay a towel or an old sheet on the floor and have a pillow and blanket nearby to keep you comfortable after the application.
4. Have an empty container or jar at hand. Open the tube over the empty jar, letting out the herbal infusion to fill the entire tube completely before the insertion. This is a quick open and close, so be prepared to close it quickly to avoid wasting too much liquid. *This step is important to let out any air in the tube and avoid air going into the colon!
5. Place a small amount of oil or ghee on the end of the tube to allow easy insertion.
6. Lay on your left side and insert the end of the enema tube into the rectum about 2 inches, keeping the tube closed.
7. After insertion, open the tube and allow the liquid to flow into the colon.
8. Once the bag is completely empty, close the tube, remove it from the rectum, and place it in a safe place.
9. Lay on your left side for 5 to 10 minutes.
10. Switch to the right side for 5 to 10 minutes.
11. Place the pillow behind you and lay in a supported supine (reclined) position. Stay here for as long as you feel comfortable.
12. Try to retain the herbal infusion (or oil, etc) for a minimum of 30 minutes or longer if possible. If there is too much pressure before then, just retain as long as possible to allow the absorption of the medicine into the colon. The herbal enema may be retained indefinitely if the colon is dry.
13. To clean the bag, rinse out immediately after use with hot water in the tub. Once all of the sediment is removed, get out as much water as possible and then hang to dry.
Important note: If there are questions or concerns around this, it is highly recommended to see a skilled Ayurvedic practitioner for guidance.
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Premature ejaculation शीघपतन problem साठी basti कि्या योग्य आहे का?
Yes, premature ejaculation is a Vata condition and can be alleviated through regular application of Basti. I would recommend performing the Dashamul Basti or a blend of Dashamul with Ashwagandha (in equal parts). Further you can take an Ojas enhancing medicated ghee internally such as Rasayana Ghrita. This medicated ghee can also be massaged onto the genitals regularly to strengthen this organ. Thanks for your question!
Hi. I have a version of chronic diarrhea. And for some reason I had remembered that a ghee enemy could help alleviate the discomfort from so much excretion. But you have indicated otherwise. Could u share your opinion with me?
Thank you for your question! The enema is not recommended during times of acute diarrhea, meaning a sudden onset that does not stick around longterm. This is because acute diarrhea should most often be left alone as it is a way for the body to rid itself of the toxins or bugs that are causing the diarrhea. In your case of chronic diarrhea, the ghee enema can be helpful as this is likely occurring due to excessive heat and inflammation in the GI tract. You can use a medicated ghee for even greater results such as Licorice Ghee, Shatavari Ghee or Rasayana Ghee. These medicated ghees can also be taken internally at the same time. If for any reason the enema makes the symptoms worse (it shouldn’t, but just incase) please discontinue the treatment.
I hope this finds you well:)
Hi, i hope to find answer to my problem. I have bloated stomach all the time. Its the lower abdomen not upper. After food i am more bloated. My diet is vegetarian, and generally take care of what i eat. Coffee is my enemy, my face and body swells after coffee. Searching for ayurvedic solution. Can you suggest basti for my case ?
Tahnks in advance
Thank you for writing in with your question! It is hard to give proper treatment suggestions with only a few pieces of information. Ultimately it is always best to seek out a knowledgeable practitioner to work one on one with. On a general scale however, basti is great for relieving gas and bloating when administered properly. This is considered a Vata issue and one of the best treatments for Vata in the colon is the Dashamula Basti. This can also be rotated with a sesame oil basti or the sesame oil can be added to the Dashamula infusion otherwise. Please keep in mind however, that oil should not be used unless there are no signs of high toxins in the system (white tongue, bad breath, body aches, foul smelling stools, etc). If toxins are present I would solely perform the Dashamula Basti without oil until the toxins have been cleared.
I have also written an article on Ayurvedic tips for relieving gas and bloating. You can find that here if you are interested.
Please let me know if you have any further questions!
PS.. If coffee is not your friend and you are experiencing such a drastic reaction after drinking, I would highly recommend to avoid coffee 100% for as long as you are showing a sensitivity to it. It could be irritating the GI tract and creating even more issues than you are seeing on the surface.
I wish to buy Enema kit
Thank you for writing in! You can purchase a Dashamula Enema Kit from our site here. However, we only ship to the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe at this time. Please let me know if you have any questions and I will be happy to help!
Hello, I’m hoping you can provide some insight for me! I admittedly haven’t fully jumped into living an Ayurvedic lifestyle but I am doing my best to incorporate as many practices as is realistic and maintainable. I am in my early 20’s and dealing with lots of drastic health ups and downs due to Hashimoto’s. I have symptoms revealing toxins in the body similar to those you mentioned in a comment above as well as others, occasionally acute diarrhea but not always, if it’s attributed to foods I haven’t figured them all out yet. I eat a gluten free, mostly AIP diet, lots of good meats and vegetables prepared at home. I take nature-throid and have just started taking probiotics very recently. I’m wondering If you think Dashamula would be my best option or if you would recommend something different for auto-immune flare ups? Do you have any thoughts on coffee enemas? I’ve read a lot from the AI community that they can be incredibly helpful but it certainly seems potentially hazardous. I would greatly appreciate any feedback, thank you so much for your time and knowledge!
Thank you for writing in with your question! I am sorry to hear of the symptoms you are experiencing.
If you are looking to perform an enema to help with the digestive issues and AI condition, I would ultimately suggest to use Guduchi in the infusion. You can do this by blending it with the Dashamula (1 part Dashamul to 1 part Guduchi), blending it with Ashwagandha (which is also beneficial for AI conditions), or simply using the Guduchi on its own. Please note that if you are experiencing acute diarrhea, it is not recommended to perform any type of enema.
As for the coffee enemas, this is not considered an Ayurvedic practice and I personally would never recommend performing this to anyone. Coffee is a very intense stimulant and the colon is the home of Vata. To apply such a stimulating substance directly to the colon would be extremely disruptive to your Vata and would cause future imbalances (in my opinion). Performing the enemas with more balanced substances such as the appropriate herbs, oils, or ghee, will be much more safe, efficient, and healing, especially if they are used in the proper context.
Many blessings to you!
I just purchased the kit and am anxious to get started. I have suffered from bad constipation my entire life. I had surgery last year which took the last out of me. I have relied on laxatives and coffee enemas to help relieve me but nothing is working. I have gone back to eating my vata appropriate diet to help calm my mind and my gut and hopefully get some relief. When I do the basti, do I just add the powder to warm water or do I have to strain it. And if I choose to use the sesame oil is that added to the bag at the same time. I have the instructions but multiple sources give a variety of ways to administer
I’d appreciate your feedback
Thank you for writing in! I am sorry to hear you have been experiencing these issues for so long. I hope the basti treatment will help bring you much relief, long term!
There are many different ways to administer basti therapy. For this kit, you will be making the Dashamula into a strong tea infusion by steeping it over a long period of time until half the water has evaporated. Then you strain it, let it cool to body temperature, and then pour it into the enema bag. If you do not strain the herbs, you will clog the tubing.
If you wish to use sesame oil, you can replace 1/2 cup of the water with organic sesame oil during the infusion process, but still steep it down to the 2 cups recommended. Alternatively, you can apply the Dashamul tea basti one day (meaning no oil is used), and then 1/4 to 1/2 cup of slightly warm sesame oil for the following basti treatment (either the next day or a few days later). Then you can continue to alternate these two until your therapy is complete.
Please let me know if any further questions come up and I will be happy to help!
Hello! I’m interested in trying Ayurvedic principles to help elevate my body. I have Hashimoto’s and tend towards constipation—pretty much all the time. I’ve been making enemas with Calendula tea and administering them with washed enema bottles (from the drug store). Is this an acceptable way to administer your basti? I would like to try it as you have outlined above. Thank you.
I remember we emailed already, but I thought I would reply here in case others had a similar question.
In regards to an enema bottle from a drug store, this is definitely an acceptable method for administering the herbal enema. If you ever use an oil for your treatment, it is often a bit more challenging to clean out properly, unless the enema bottle washes well. If it does not allow thorough washing, a disposable enema bag is better suited for oil-based basti.
As an Ayurvedic herbalist, I am not familiar with the use of Calendula for basti, but it seems like a gentle herb and should not pose any negative side effects. If it does not work, you may wish to try an organic Dashamula formula, or maybe even an oil based basti (oil is best if the colon and stool is too dry, however, oil is not recommended if toxins are suspected).
I hope this therapy may find you some relief!