If you’ve ever tried Ayurvedic oils, you must know the sensorial experience and the feeling of rejuvenation that accompany the whole ritual!
Lathering the skin slowly with herb-infused Ayurvedic oils on the skin feels like therapy session for both the skin and the senses. You can feel your body going into a trance of relaxation! The herb-infused oils give your skin a luminescent glow and your mind peace. It is an experience that snaps your skin and your overall health back to where it best thrived, in nature's arms.
If this doesn’t sound heavenly, then what does?
Ayurveda is a gift of wellness!
Ayurvedic oils bestow upon us the goodness of nature that has been forwarded by our ancestors and ancient knowledge. These specially prepared Ayurvedic oils have various nutritional and therapeutic benefits, depending on the properties of the oil, the medicinal herbs used, as well as the application of the oil, whether internally or externally.
But what exactly are these Ayurvedic oils?
Oils in the Ayurvedic world are highly celebrated for their unexceptional properties that benefit the human body in undeniable ways.
It bestows a whole lot of goodness and nourishment to the body, so much so that Ayurveda calls its oils ‘sneha’.
This Sanskrit word ‘Sneha’ translates to ‘oil’ as well as ‘love’!
Ayurveda believes that the effects of Abhyanga are similar to that of love. The practice of Abhyanga gives a deep feeling of stability, care and warmth, just as one experiences when saturated with love.
It holds a special place in the Ayurvedic tradition. Sneha nourishes the body and the mind with its loving, soothing and unctuous touch.
Ayurveda deems its oils of utmost versatility as they can be used not just in cooking but also for other functions like:
- Oil pulling
- Raw consumption
- Kayaseka (oil bathing)
- Basti (colon nourishment)
- Nasya (nasal passage nourishment and flushing)
Because of their assimilating nature, Oils make the perfect substance that assimilate the properties of other unctuous substances or herbs, in turn, helping to provide the right type of nourishment in different health conditions.
One thing special about Ayurvedic oils is that they transmit their qualities deep into the body’s tissues. Reaching deep to the seven tissue layers (dhatus)!
Not just oils but Ayurveda talks about four unctuous substances in the ancient texts. These are Sarpi (Ghee or clarified butter), Taila (oil), (muscle fat) and Majja (bone marrow).
Here are some recorded benefits of Ayurvedic oils
- It has been mentioned in the revered Ayurvedic text ‘Charak Samhita’ that oil alleviates Vata but does not aggravate Kapha.
- They promote bodily strength (Bal vardhanam), are beneficial for the skin (twachyam), hot in potency, stabilize the body, senses and control the morbidity of female genital organs.
- Ancient Ayurvedic master Vagbhata mentions that the use of oil is best for imbalance of Kapha aggravation, fat tissue, and Vata aggravation.
- They are good for those who desire sturdiness of the body and for those with hard bowel movements. Oils are advocated by Vagbhata as suitable for diseases like sinus problems, ulcers, and worm manifestation.
In Ayurveda, oils have been used in their pure form as well as a base in preparations that incorporate decoctions and pastes of herbs!
Let's explore the difference in detail!
Types Of Ayurvedic Oil: Base Oil + Herbal Oil
The masters of Ayurveda have mentioned many types of base oils with their effects on the body.
Here are some common Ayurvedic Base oils:
Sesame oil is sweet with an accompanying astringent after-taste. It is hot in potency which alleviates Vata dosha without increasing Kapha dosha.
- Due to its sukshma (minute) property it can penetrate through the subtle channels of the body and nourish the channels from deep within.
- The vyavayi (disseminating) property of the oil adds to its spreading nature and helps to spread the sesame oil quickly to every part of the body.
- It binds stools and reduces the frequency of urine. It is considered the best among all the substances which alleviate Vata.
- Sesame oil helps in promoting strength and is good for skin health. It promotes the power of digestion. When mixed with various herbs, it acquires their qualities without losing its own properties.
Ayurveda says that the term ‘taila’ specifically means the oil of sesame unless specified otherwise. Such importance was given to sesame oil for its therapeutic and nutritional value.
Castor Oil (Eranda)
Castor oil is bitter, pungent and sweet in taste. It is heavy in property, and sara (spreading in nature). It is sukshma (minute) and so it pacifies both Kapha and Vata dosha.
- It spreads in the body and specifically normalizes the natural flow of Vata.
- It has been mentioned in the ancient texts for diseases of enlargement of the scrotum and abdomen, for intermittent fever, pains and swellings especially of the waist, genitals, abdomen, and back of the body.
- Castor is specifically used in traditional Ayurveda for Vata pacifying purgation treatments for many diseases.
Mustard Oil (Sarshapa)
Mustard oil is pungent, light in property, hot in potency and penetrating in nature. It pacifies Kapha and Vata dosha. It can aggravate Pitta and can vitiate the blood in those with a Pitta constitution.
- It is thought to be easily digestible. It is said to cure rashes, itching on the skin and is useful in different skin conditions, hemorrhoids, ulcers, and worms.
- Mustard oil is widely used in cooking and is acclaimed for its cleansing, stimulating
and revitalizing effect.
- It is traditionally used for abhyanga (Ayurvedic body massage) in overweight individuals due to its hot and penetrating effect.
Coconut Oil (Narikela)
Coconut oil has a sweet taste. It is considered nourishing, strengthening, good for the hair and good for the teeth. It helps in balancing Pitta and Vata dosha.
- Coconut oil takes a long time to digest and is supposedly a natural aphrodisiac. It is used in certain treatments for emaciation, skin conditions and for nourishing the body tissues.
- It is also used in cooking and for centuries has been used for hair health because of its nourishing and strengthening qualities.
- This oil is used in summer due to its coolant property. It is soothing for the body and senses.
Neem Oil (Nimba)
For thousands of years, various parts of the neem tree have been used for everyday use to promote good health. Neem oil is bitter in taste and cooling in nature and this coolness helps in balancing Pitta especially when there is excess heat in rakta dhatu (blood tissue).
- Neem is cold, light and dry which sometimes tends to aggravate Vata. It is used with other herbs to reduce excess Vata effects in the body.
- It helps in mitigating microbes, pacifies Kapha and is used in several skin conditions.
- It supports healthy digestion and awakens medo dhatu agni (digestive or metabolic energy in the adipose tissue) leading to proper metabolism.
- It helps with proper fat and water digestion and elimination of excess water retention from the body due to its Kapha pacifying effects. Its bitter nature also improves the taste buds which is the first step for proper digestion.
Neem oils are traditionally applied to the skin with a burning sensation and to irritated skin. It gives a soothing, calming effect and supports healthy skin.
Now that we are well versed with the base oils, here are 8 Herbal Ayurvedic Oils!
Herbal preparations of Ayurvedic oils are used for various conditions and their use depends upon the base oil and the herbs they are cured with.
Here are 8 Herbal Ayurvedic oils with its potent properties:
1. Tungdrumadi Oil: Traditionally used for shiro abhyanga (Ayurvedic head massage), Tungdrumadi oil provides a soothing effect to the head and eyes and is used to help induce sound sleep.
2. Mahanarayan Oil: Mahanarayan oil is a body massage oil used to support the proper working of the muscles and joints and relieve occasional pain.
3. Prasaranyadi Oil: Prasaranyadi oil is used externally for body massage. It is mainly used for stiffness of the body. It strengthens the muscles and bones.
4. Kanaka Oil: Kanaka oil is used externally for face massage. It is an Ayurvedic oil used in the treatment of oral diseases and to lighten the look of skin scars and face pigmentation.
5. Shadbindu Oil: Shadbindu oil is used for nasya (nasal instillation) to balance Kapha in the neck and head region.
6. Bhringraj Oil: Bhringraj oil is used externally for head massage. It helps to make dull, weak hair look healthy.
7. Bhringamalaki Oil: Bhringamalaki oil is used externally for shiroabhyanga. It is a perfect blend of brhingaraj and amalaki to soothe the senses.
8. Pinda Oil: Pinda oil is used externally for abhyanga, body and foot massage. It perfectly pacifies both Vata and Pitta, soothes burning sensations of any kind and moisturizes the skin.
What are the Ayurvedic oils that you have heard of or tried? What difference did you observe when compared with lotions/creams/body butters?
1 K.R. Srikantha Murthy, English translation, Astanga Hridaya, Chowkhamba Krishna Das Academy, Varanasi, Series 2016, Vol-I, Page no. 208.
2 R. K. Sharma, Bhagwan Dash, English translation on Charak Samhita, Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series office, Varanasi, Series 2016, Vol-I, Page no. 248.
3 K.R. Srikantha Murthy, English translation, Astanga Hridaya, Chowkhamba Krishna Das Academy, Varanasi, Series 2016, Vol-I, Page no. 210
4 R. K. Sharma, Bhagwan Dash, English translation on Charak Samhita, Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series office, Varanasi, Series 2016, Vol-I, Page no. 551
5 K.R. Srikantha Murthy, English translation, Astanga Hridaya, Chowkhamba Krishna Das Academy, Varanasi, Series 2016, Vol-I, Page no. 67
6 P.V. Sharma, English translation on Sushruta Samhita, Chaukhamba Visva Bharati, Varanasi, Series 2013, vol-1, Page no. 440
7 K.R. Srikantha Murthy, English translation, Astanga Hridaya, Chowkhamba Krishna Das Academy, Varanasi, Series 2016, Vol-I, Page no. 68
8 The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India, part I, page no. 43,45,32,59,49,91,22