Nasya treatment is a therapeutic Ayurvedic procedure of instilling an herbal extract into the nose, oftentimes with a Nasya oil. Nasya benefits disorders of the head and neck. Regular practice of Nasya not only improves intelligence and memory but also has several anti-aging benefits.
In this article we’ll take a thorough look at nasya treatment, the different types of nasya treatment and their indications. We’ll also go over nasya contraindications and nasya benefits, the correct procedure of doing nasya treatment or therapy and the mode of action of nasya therapy, along with suitable herbs and herbal nasya oil. Please leave your questions in the comments section below.
Here’s an outline of what we’ll cover in this article.
What Is Nasya Treatment (Nasya Therapy)?
Types Of Nasya Treatment (Nasya Therapy)
Nasya Treatment Benefits
Nasya Treatment Contraindications
Nasya Treatment Precautions
Signs Of A Good Nasya Therapy
When To See The Doctor
Nasya Therapy Duration
Amount Of Nasya Oil To Use
Mode Of Action Of Nasya Therapy
Suitable Herbs And Herbal Oils For Nasya Therapy
Benefit Of Nasya With Anu Tail
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The word Nasya means ‘through the nasal route’. The nasal route refers to the administration of various herbal formulations in the form of oil, ghee, powder or fresh juice. It is considered one of the five Ayurvedic therapies designed mainly for cleansing the body of toxins, as in panchakama therapy. It is highly effective when performed systematically. It primarily affects the region above the shoulder.
These are the types of nasya treatment according to its functions.1
Cleansing Nasya (Virechana Nasya Or Shodhana Nasya)
This type of Nasya utilizes oil or ghee processed with appropriate herbs in the form of a paste or decoction mixed with honey, salt and fermented infusion (Asava).
It is mainly indicated to treat Kapha type of diseases such as headaches, heaviness, swelling, tumor or worm infestation in the head, cold, nasal congestion, eye disease, diseases of the throat, swelling, enlargement of glands, cysts, tumors, skin disease, ringworm infestation, itching and stiffness.
It is useful in the feeling that something is sticking to the head, excess secretions, excess salivation, anorexia, loss of taste, epilepsy, loss of smell and rhinitis.
Nutritional Nasya (Snehana Nasya Or Brihmana Nasya)
This type of Nasya utilizes oil or meat juice mixed with plant extract resin such as camphor or gum.
It is mainly given in Vata predominant diseases like migraine, hemicrania, diseases of the head due to worms, constriction or tremors of the eyes, defects of the vision, toothache, earache, difficulty in getting up from sleep, loss of voice, sleep, dryness of the nose and mouth, difficulty in speaking, in opening of eyes, and in movement of the arm and frozen shoulder.
Sedative Nasya (Shamana Nasya)
This type of Nasya utilizes milk, meat juice or water. It is indicated in diseases due to the vitiation of blood and Pitta-like premature wrinkles, premature greying of the hair, hair loss, dandruff, redness of the eyes, blackish discoloration on the face, bleeding from the nose, blue patches or discolored patches on the skin and face, and diseases of the hair and eyes.
Nasya is categorized according to the quantity of the Nasya oil used.
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Snehana Nasya is further subdivided into Pratimarsha Nasya and Marsha Nasya.2 Pratimarsha and Marsha Nasya both involve the introduction of herbal oils through the nostrils. They both work on the same principle, but the main difference between them is of the amount of substance used. In Pratimarsha Nasya 1-2 drops are given where as in Marsha Nasya the dose is 6 to 10 drops are given.
Pratimarsha Nasya: Pratimarsha nasya is the most convenient form of Nasya as it does not cause any complications. It can be given daily in small and specific amounts and even in all the seasons at morning and evening. It is given by dipping the index finger in the required herbal oil (Sneha) then dropping it into each nostril. It is administered after head massage, oil pulling or gargling, after applying collyrium, after defecation and after laughing.
It can be given at any age, any season and even in rainy and on unfavorable days from birth to death. It can be given to the young (Bala), old age (Vridhdha), timid (Bhiru), tender, weak or delicate personality (Sukumara) and also to the clients with debilitating conditions (Kshataksheena), dryness of the mouth (Mukhashosha), wrinkles (Valita) and greying of the hair (Palita).
Benefits: Regular practice of Pratimarsha Nasya cleanses or clears the channels, relieves fatigue, improves vision, pacifies Vata and makes teeth strong. Every healthy individual can practice this daily for promoting strength and stability to the sense organs in the head.
Contraindications: It is contraindicated in chronic rhinitis, worm infestation and diseases of the head involving multiple doshas, habitual drinkers and those with deafness.3
Marsha Nasya: A drop of oil or ghee administered for curing uneasiness arising from a particular disease is called Marsha Nasya.
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Avapeeda Nasya is a type of Virechana or Shamana Nasya where a paste of the herb (Kalka) is squeezed into the nostrils.4
Pradhamana Nasya is a type of Virechana Nasya where the herbal powder (Choorna) is used. The quantity of powder required to reach the throat (Kantha) when blown through a 10.5 cm (6 angula) long pipe is the quantity used for Pradhamana Nasya. It is able to pull out greatly imbalanced doshas.5
The main purpose of all types of Nasyas is to expel out the Kapha dosha from the head. So, all types of Nasya therapies are commonly called Virechana Nasya. When strong potency herbs are used in the Virechana Nasya it is called Shirovirechana Nasya.
By regular and proper Nasya therapy, the skin, shoulder, neck, face and chest becomes thick, strong, well developed and bright. The body part and sense organs become strong and greying of hair is stopped.6
Nasya should be avoided just after taking heavy meals, unctuous substances, alcohol and water. Also, it should be avoided in cases of indigestion, after taking a head bath, after bloodletting, in those with the urge for passing urine or stools, who is suffering from injuries, asthma, dyspnoea or cough. It is also contraindicated immediately after therapeutic emesis (Vamana), therapeutic purgation (Virechana), therapeutic enema (Basti), in pregnancy, in the first 45 days after delivery, before the age of 7 years and after the age of 80 years.7
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These are the general requirements for Nasya treatment. Before giving Nasya therapy, make arrangements to have the material and equipment on hand and ready. These include the following.
The procedure of giving Nasya therapy may be classified into the following three steps.8
1. Pre-Measures (Purvakarma)
2. Main Procedure (Pradhanakarma)
3. Post-Measures (Paschatkarma)
Selecting The Client: The client should be selected by a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner according to the indications and contraindications for Nasya therapy and after diagnosis is completed based on the eight fold examination (Astha vidha pareeksha) and ten fold examination (Dashavidha Pareeksha).
Selection Of Herbal Substance: The selection of the most appropriate herbal instillation such as oil, ghee, powder for performing this therapy is based on the client’s condition, such as his or her strength (rogi bala) and severity of the health problem (rog bala). Most of the time the herbal oil Anu tail is used for the Nasya therapy.
Preparation Of The Client: A light diet is given to the client around one hour prior to Nasya therapy. The client should have passed urine and stool and completed all the routine activities such as brushing the teeth, bath, et cetera. The client is advised to lie down comfortably on a cot or massage table with extended hands and feet. He or she is draped up to neck and the eyes are covered with a cloth or cotton to prevent spilling of herbal oil. Mild massage (mridu abhyanga) with herbal oil like Bala oil, followed by mild sudation (mridu swedana) with cotton dipped in hot water should be done on the scalp, forehead, face and neck for 3 to 5 minutes.
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The client is advised to lie down in a comfortable supine position on the table. Their head is lowered down into a supported hanging position (Pralambita) and the foot end is slightly raised. The head should neither be excessively flexed nor extended.
After covering the eyes with a clean cotton cloth, the practitioner raises the client’s tip of the nose with his or her left thumb and with the right hand, drops the luke warm herbal instillation (Sukhoshna aushadha) into both nostrils. This process needs to be done properly with the help of suitable instruments.
Immediately after the administration of Nasya, the following measures should be taken. Mild massage is done on the palms, soles, shoulders and ears. The client should be told turn to his or her side, to draw the herbal instillation into the throat and then spit it out on either side into the spitting pot.
The client at this point will be in a lying down position. The therapist then asks the client to count up to 100 for approximately two minutes. Then the client’s head, cheek and neck should be again subjected to sudation (Swedana). After that, herbal smoking (Dhumpana) and gargling many times with luke warm water (Gandusha) is advocated to expel out the residual mucous lodged in the throat (Kantha) and Shringataka marma.
The client should stay in a draft-free place. A light meal (Laghu Aahara) and luke warm water (Sukhoshna Jala) is advised. Dust, smoke, sunshine, alcohol, traveling, anger, excess fat and liquid diet, daytime sleeping and cold water for any purpose like drinking (Pana) or bathing (Snana) should be avoided.
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The herbal oil used in Nasya therapy should be luke warm and in the proper quantity, not too much or too little. The client should be relaxed during the procedure and avoid sneeze, laughing, speaking, shaking the head and anger.
The client should avoid swallowing the Nasya herbal instillation. The herbal oil that has been dropped into the nose is repeatedly drained out together with the morbid doshas, especially mucous and expelled out by the client. Care should be taken that no portion of the medicated oil is left behind.
If the client suffers from any uneasiness during the main procedure then cold water is sprinkled on the face avoiding the head.
These are some signs of a good Nasya therapy: expiration without difficulty, good sleep, easy awakening from sleep, keenness of the sense organs9, pacification of health problems, lightness in the head, calmness of the mind.10
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Nasya is a safe and effective purification therapy when done in a proper and systematic way, however it is advised to discuss your present health condition with a health practitioner before receiving this therapy. In addition, if you are willing to try this at home it is better to learn this therapy from an expert Ayurvedic practitioner to experience the best results without suffering from any complications.
Nasya therapy should be done in the morning in cases of vitiated Kapha dosha (Sleshma). It should be done during midday for increase in vitiated Pitta, and in the evening and night for increase in vitiated Vata.
During winter, Nasya therapy is given at midday, during summer it is given in the evening and in rainy days Nasya therapy is practiced when there is sunlight.
For a healthy individual as a routine detoxification therapy, it is given before noon, in autumn and in spring season.
According to the Ayurvedic sage Vagbhatta, in conditions like imbalance of Vata dosha in the head, neck stiffness (Manyasthambha), hiccup (Hikka), hoarseness of the voice (Swarbhramsha), the Nasya is advised twice a day, in morning and in evening. In other health problems it can be done on alternative days of the week.11
According to the ancient Ayurvedic sage Sushruta, this therapy can be given in a gap of 1, 2, 7 or 21 days or according to the advice of your health practitioner.12
The ancient Ayurvedic scholars described the amount or quantity (maximum, medium and minimum) of herb instillation to use in the form of drops (bindus). Here a drop means that which is formed after dipping two digits of your index finger into the herbal oil.
1. Shamana Nasya
Minimum Quantity: 8 drops
Medium Quantity: 16 drops
Maximum Quantity: 32 drops
2. Shodhana Nasya
Minimum Quantity: 4 drops
Medium Quantity: 6 drops
Maximum Quantity: 8 drops
4. Marsha Nasya
Minimum Quantity: 6 drops
Medium Quantity: 8 drops
Maximum Quantity: 10 drops
5. Avapeeda Nasya
Minimum Quantity: 2 drops
Medium Quantity: 2 drops
Maximum Quantity: 2 drops
6. Pratimarsha Nasya
Minimum Quantity: 2 drops
Medium Quantity: 2 drops
Maximum Quantity: 2 drops
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There are several advantages to nasal route administration of any substance according to modern science.13
To explain the pathway and the mode of action of Nasya therapy, i.e. delivery of active components of herbal instillation from the nose to the central nervous system (CNS), the following factors can be considered.
Direct Entry Of Herbal Formulation Into The Central Nervous System (CNS)
Anatomical and physiological study of the nose shows that nasal mucosa (olfactory mucosa) is the only site which directly connects the brain and the external environment. The delivery of any instillation from the nose to the CNS occurs via olfactory neuroepithelium and may involve paracellular, transcellular and neuronal transport. The olfactory pathway has the potential to bypass the blood brain barrier. Moreover, transport from the nasal cavity to the CNS also occurs via the trigeminal nerve system.14
According to the classical text Ashtanga Samgraha, the nose (Nasa) is the doorway to the head (Shirah). Herbal formulations administered through the nostrils reach the Shringataka marma (formed by the union of blood vessels supplying to nose, ear, eye and tongue) by nasal channels and spreads into the head or brain (Murdha) by way of the eye, ear, throat and opening of the vessels. It scrapes the morbid doshas from the supraclavicular region and extracts them out from the head (Uttamanga).15
When any instillation is administered through the nasal route for inducing systemic effects or to act into the CNS, it has to pass through the mucus layer and epithelial membrane before reaching the blood stream or passing to the CNS. The passage across the epithelium occurs by transcellular or paracellular mechanisms. The transcellular mechanism includes passive diffusion through the interior of the cell and it is especially involved in the transport of lipophilic drugs.
The lipid form of herbal formulations facilitates absorption. A research study observed that lipid emulsions, microspheres, liposomes and films improve nasal drug delivery.16 The paper says that ‘Lipophilic medicines in general are well absorbed from the nasal cavity, and their nasal bioavailability is near to 100%’. As most of the herbal formulations used for Nasya are prepared in a lipid base, this facilitates their absorption through mucous membrane and capillaries.
Position Of The Client
The position of the client has an effect on absorption of the herbal formulation.
Due to special positioning i.e. supine with the head tilted back, the herbal formulation extract comes into close contact with the olfactory mucosa. Moreover, pooling of blood from the nasal veins to venous sinuses of the brain is more likely to occur when the head is in a lowered position due to gravity. This will allow better absorption of the active component of the herbal instillation into the meninges and related intracranial organ.
Increase In Surface Area For Absorption Of Active Component Of Herbal Instillation
The larger the surface area, the more absorption there will be. Nasal mucosa is richly supplied with blood and presents a large surface area making it an optimal place for local absorption. Besides this, the arrangement of conchae and meatuses inside the nasal cavity also increases the surface area in the internal nose which facilitates maximum absorption.
Effect Of Herbal Instillation In The Form Of ‘Drops’
During Nasya therapy, administration of herbal formulation or instillation is described in the form of drops. According to current studies, drops spread more extensively than spray or powder so there is better absorption and quick response.17
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Common herbs used for Nasya include holy basil (Tulasi), long pepper (Pippali), Achyranthes aspera (Apamarga), Embelia ribes (Vidanga), black pepper (Maricha), garlic (Lahsuna), Turmeric (Haridra), Sweet Flag (Vacha), asafoetida (Hingu) and rock salt (Saindhava). Some common Nasya herbal preparations such as Anu Tailam, Shadbindu Tailam, Narayana Tailam, and Marichyadi Nasya are used for the treatment of various health problems.18
Anu taila is considered best among all the other oils used for Nasya therapy (Mahagunama, sarvottam gunam) and provides several health benefits.
Anu tail has a quality to penetrate the fine channels (sukshma srotas), so it is helpful in pacifying all three doshas and it gives nourishment along with strength to the body and all the senses organs. It is beneficial for hair and skin and increases immunity.
With regular practice of Anu taila Nasya, one can regain sharpness and impart clarity and strength to all sense organs and strengthen the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and chest. It helps prevent premature greying of the hair and premature appearance of wrinkles on the face and prevents discoloration of the skin (Vyanga).
In addition to this, according to the ancient Ayurvedic sage Charaka, the healthy person who undergoes Nasya therapy in suitable seasons (during rain, autumn and spring season when the sky is free of clouds) with Anu taila, never suffers from impaired functioning of the eyes, nose and ears. The hairs of the scalp and beard do not fall or turn white or grey. In fact, scalp hair starts regrowing. It nourishes the veins, joints, ligaments and tendons of the head, making them strong. The person’s face becomes cheerful and well developed. Their voice becomes melodious, soft, stable and firm. It prevents diseases of the supraclavicular region of the body. Even when the person is aging his supraclavicular region does not show any symptoms of aging. That is, it reduces the effect of senility in aged individuals.
Apart from this, it is said that Nasya therapy performed in a correct manner with Anu tail in conditions like torticollis, stiffness of the neck, headache, facial paralysis, lockjaw, hemicrania, chronic coryza and head tremor helps with these conditions.
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Research shows, other herbal formulations were found beneficial for Nasya therapy.
Nasya treatment opens and cleanses the channels of the head and helps improve the flow of vital force of life (Prana), which has a direct influence on the functioning of the brain. It is a preventive, curative as well as rejuvenative therapy and helps in increasing the general wellbeing of an individual.
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