In a world where chemical-laden products dominate the market, Ayurveda stands out as a beacon of hope, emphasizing the power of nature's remedies. By understanding the root causes of dandruff and scalp build-up through an Ayurvedic lens, we can uncover effective, long-lasting solutions that nourish our scalp, promote hair health, and restore balance to our bodies.
Understanding dandruff and scalp build-up
To tackle any problem effectively, one must understand its nature first. Dandruff is a prevalent scalp condition characterized by the shedding of dead skin cells from our scalp and affects around half2 of the global adult population. While dandruff is not harmful, it can be unsightly and uncomfortable. From a modern scientific perspective, dandruff is a condition caused by the overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus, Malassezia, on the scalp. It results in the excessive shedding of the scalp skin, visible as white flakes. Scalp build-up, on the other hand, is the accumulation of excess oils, sweat, and product residue on your scalp, causing itchiness and a feeling of heaviness.
According to Ayurveda, dandruff and scalp build-up are primarily due to an imbalance of the doshas - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, which are the bio-energetic forces that govern our physical and mental processes. Dandruff, known as darunaka, is seen as a Pitta-Kapha disorder with an underlying Vata imbalance, which manifests as dry and flaky scalp. Scalp build-up, closely related to a Kapha imbalance, results from excess sebum production and the accumulation of ama (toxins).3
Ayurveda’s take on hair and scalp health3
Traditional Ayurvedic wisdom highlights the connection between our scalp and hair health with what we eat and our lifestyle habits. According to Ayurveda, scalp buildup and dandruff are caused by an imbalance of the body's Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends a holistic approach to maintaining scalp health through natural remedies, diet, and lifestyle practices.
According to Ayurveda, the human body is made up of seven dhatus (body elements) and According to Acharya Sharangadhar, scalp and body hair are the updhatu (sub-tissues or secondary tissues) of majja dhatu (bone marrow)1 and is made-up of mainly parthiva ahabhoota (earth element).
Some Ayurvedic herbs and oils beneficial for hair and scalp health
Neem: According to modern-scientific studies4, the regenerative properties of neem oil can help support and stimulate hair follicle growth, counter hair fall, and promote thick, strong, and voluminous hair, help nourish the scalp. The antibacterial and antifungal properties can help cleanse the scalp and reduce dandruff. A person can boil neem leaves in water, strain them and use it after shampooing. They may also apply a paste of neem powder and warm water for 30 minutes before shampooing. Lastly, they can prepare an oil by mixing neem oil with coconut or olive oil and apply on the scalp for around an hour and wash it off.
Fenugreek5: Fenugreek seeds contain compounds that exhibit antifungal activity, making them effective against dandruff caused by fungal infections. These compounds help inhibit the growth of the Malassezia fungus, a common culprit behind dandruff. Fenugreek possesses gentle exfoliating properties that aid in removing dead skin cells, oil, and other impurities from the scalp. Regular use of fenugreek-based remedies can promote a cleaner and healthier scalp.
Amla6: Amla or Indian gooseberry is one of the best Ayurvedic herbs to ensure proper hair hygiene. Amla helps nourish hair, follicles, and the scalp because it is rich in vitamins and minerals. It improves blood flow, which stops hair loss. Also, it gives the follicles oxygen, which strengthens the fibers.
Hibiscus7: Ancient texts highlight the keshya (ability to improve hair quality) property of the hibiscus. This property can play a significant role in conditioning, strengthening, and maintaining scalp and hair health. Hibiscus has kashaya (astringent) and veerya (potency) properties and has a cooling effect on the body due to its sita property (cooling property) It acts like an astringent and reduces the oil secretion by the glands. Using Hibiscus leaves for hair maintains the pH balance of hair in addition to providing an overall soothing and cooling effect. One can apply hibiscus leaves mask to the scalp and rinse it with water after 1-2 hours.
Shiro abhyanga8: This involves massaging the head, neck, and shoulders with warm Ayurvedic oils. The massage promotes a better flow of oxygen and blood, thus, ensuring nutrient supply to the scalp and hair follicles. According to experts, Shiro abhyanga using specific oils may help soothe the scalp, and deal with dryness, dandruff, frizz, and brittle hair.
Shiro lepa9: For this Ayurvedic practice, a paste, as per powerful Ayurvedic formulations, is applied on the entire scalp. This paste uses Ayurvedic herbs like amlaki, aristak, girinimba, brahmi, methika, jambira, etc. Shiro lepa is excellent for providing deep nourishment to the scalp and hair strands, and reducing dandruff. Please consult an Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor before performing Shiro lepa.
Herbal cleansers: As the name suggests, the practice involves cleansing the scalp and hair with Ayurvedic herbs. Regular hair cleansing regulates sebum secretion and stops hair follicles from being clogged. Some natural Ayurvedic ingredients that can act as hair cleansers include shikakai (soap pod), reetha (soap nut), kumari (aloe vera), amla (Indian gooseberry), japa (hibiscus), nimba (neem), etc.
Oiling: Regular scalp massages with Ayurvedic oils at home can help people manage their doshas and reduce scalp-related troubles. Massaging the scalp for about 15-20 minutes with Ayurvedic hair oil can enhance blood circulation and promote a healthy scalp and hair.
A regular Ayurvedic scalp massage using warm oil can help improve blood circulation and nourish the scalp.
Maintaining a healthy diet is essential for our overall health, including scalp health. Therefore, it is vital to have a balanced diet, as they provide the necessary nutrients for a healthy scalp and hair. In addition to this, staying hydrated is essential to reduce scalp dryness.
Using natural hair care products and reducing the use of harsh chemical-based shampoos and conditioners that can damage the hair and scalp.
According to Ayurveda, practicing yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can also potentially help in promoting a healthy scalp.
We cannot stress enough how important it is for everyone to care for their scalp. It is a vital part of our body, and taking it for granted can be crucial for our overall hair health and appearance. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to our scalp and follow natural remedies and lifestyle practices to maintain its health. Even though dandruff and scalp buildup is not fatal, they should not be taken for granted.
Sharngadhara, Sharngadhara Samhita, Prof. K. R. Srikanta Murthy, Prathamakhand, kalaadikakhyana adhyay(5:15).Varanasi:Chaukhambha orientalia; 2001, pp-21.