In this article, we’ll discuss Shiro Abhyanga(head massage with Ayurvedic oils) as part of a daily regimen and its therapeutic benefits like promoting hair growth.
We’ll also see some research studies supporting the use of shiro abhyanga in various clinical conditions. So, how exactly does hair grow?
Hair grows out of tiny pockets in your skin called ‘follicles’. It grows from roots made up of cells of proteins. There are blood vessels under your scalp which feed the blood giving rise to more cells and thereby making the hair grow.
As it grows, it passes the oil glands (sebaceous) which add oil to hair keeping it shiny and lustrous. The hair shaft is the part of the hair you see outside is actually dead hair. It’s only the root that grows!
On average, hair grows at a rate of half an inch a month, or 6 inches a year. This rate can be affected by genetics, health, hormones, or hair damage. Ayurveda correlates human body to an inverted tree.
The head of the human body is considered as the root of the tree, the thorax and abdomen are the trunk of the tree and the limbs are said to be the branches of the tree.
Just like the roots nourish and affect the tree’s functions, our head is the uthamanga or the predominant part of the body.
There are different treatment procedures mentioned in the classical Ayurvedic medical texts for the head which are collectively known as murdha thaila.
Murdha thaila or the application of oil over the head is classified into 4 sub-types.
Each of these procedures has its own benefits but as per Ayurvedic scholar Vagbhata, they are more efficient when performed in the chronological order mentioned above.
Read More: Ayurvedic Spa Treatments
Regular application of oil on head, ears, and soles is emphasized by Ayurvedic treatise.1Daily head massage (shiro abhyanga) has been advised as a part of dinacharya or daily regimen.
Therapeutic head massage or timely head massage as per the body constitution and disease should be performed for the prevention of Vata aggravation, psychosomatic diseases, and neurological conditions.
Shiro abhyanga improves blood circulation to the head.
The application of oil reduces the dryness of the scalp due to its snigdha or oily property. The oil is slightly heated at the time of application. The temperature creates a soothing effect at the site of application.
The heat causes the blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood circulation to the scalp and promotes healing, evacuation, and cleansing of the secretory passages of sebaceous glands thereby further enhancing the absorption of oil.2
Head massage as a part of a daily regimen consists of soft and gentle massaging of the scalp with one’s fingertips. Hair loss can be prevented by oiling your hair like this regularly. Shiro abhyanga has other benefits as well.
Make sure you massage for at least 15 minutes in a day. The soft and gentle massage stimulates the blood vessels and ensures improved blood flow to the scalp.
Application of oil makes the scalp snigdha or unctuous thereby pacifying Vata and reducing dryness. It also prevents dandruff. In addition, the qualities of the herbs infused in the oil have their own added benefits as well.
For example, brahmi is very effective in managing anxiety.3It is a brain tonic that enhances memory, intelligence, and longevity.
Brahmi is an herb for calming the brain and nervous system
It also has other benefits like pacifying vitiated doshas and improving conditions like skin diseases, neuralgia, inflammations, epilepsy, insanity, ulcers, splenomegaly, flatulence, fever, and general debility.
The alkaloid content in brahmi is enhanced when it is prepared with oil. This helps in deep penetration of the herb through the highly vascular scalp region.
Therefore, using an herbal oil infused with brahmi can give a significant improvement in sleep disturbances, restlessness, fear, and depression.
In addition, the pressure of the fingers on the scalp stimulates the shiro marmas and temperature of the oil further enhances the absorption of oil.
Before practicing shiro abhyanga as a treatment for a particular condition, your prakriti (body constitution) and vikriti need to be assessed.
The Ayurvedic parameters for diagnosis and modern diagnostic procedures can help in examining the disease condition.
In certain clinical conditions, the patient is asked to shave or trim the hair as short as possible. The next step is choosing the right oil depending on your constitution and disease.
Read More: Ayurvedic Oil – Everything You Need To Know
For Vata and Kapha conditions, the oil must be slightly heated whereas, for diseases with the predominance of Pitta, the oil should be used in room temperature without heating.
Another important thing to remember is that the oil used for abhyanga should not be heated directly on the flame.
Instead, it should be heated by keeping it in a bowl and placing it in a pot of boiling water. The oil should be warmed passively so that its medicinal properties are not lost.
The treatment options for improving the balance in degenerative cerebellar ataxias are very few.
Ayurvedic therapy including shiro abhyanga has been found to be safe and has shown improvement in balance in patients with progressive degenerative cerebellar ataxia.4
Anxiety has been defined as an unpleasant emotion described by Ayurveda as chittodwega. A study on the same showed a significant decrease in sleep disturbances, restlessness, fear, depression, and anxiety.
A head massage once in every 3 days for 15 minutes in 5 patterns were done for 7 sittings on 30 patients. All the subjects experienced stress relief and sound sleep right from the first session.
Brahmi taila shiro abhyanga was found useful in anxiety neurosis and other similar conditions.5In Ayurveda, loss of hair is coined as khalitya under the broad heading of shiroroga (head diseases).
Khalitya is a disease with Vata-Pitta dominancy.
Increased Pitta dosha along with Vata dosha at the root of hair follicle causes hair fall and at the same time, Kapha dosha with Rakt dosha blocks the roots of the hair follicle which results in khalitya.
A study on khalitya performed shamana nasya and shiro abhyanga on a group of patients. The study showed significant improvement in thinning of hair and improving the dryness of hair. 6
See Also: Ayurvedic Hair Conditioners + Remedies
Consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before trying shiro abhyanga or any Ayurvedic hair oil.
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