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Many people treat common ailments like headaches and insomnia with medication for immediate relief. For those who are looking for alternatives to medication, natural methods abound in the treatment of stress and anxiety. These methods promote relaxation and help calm the mind using natural products such as essential oils and herbs.

Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is backed by centuries of natural healing methods that have been widely practised in India. The philosophy behind Ayurveda is that all disease is caused by an imbalance of energy in the body. To treat illnesses, Ayurveda exercises purification therapy to cleanse the body and restore the balance of life energy. Its shirodhara treatment is one such purification and rejuvenation therapy that is renowned for soothing and healing an agitated nervous system by applying heated essential oils.

Benefits of shirodhara

From Sanskrit origins, Shiras (head) dhara (flow) or shirodhara is based on the principle that gentle but constant application of warm oil stimulates healthy blood circulation to the brain. Herbs that are added to the heated oil provide further relief from symptoms such as headache and neuralgia.

The result of shirodhara is a deep state of relaxation making it an effective treatment for depression, migraine, visual difficulties, anxiety, insomnia, psychosis and scattered thought processes. It is also used to treat disorders affecting parts of the head such as the eyes, nose, ears, neck and nervous system. Shirodhara is also used to reduce stress and relieve its effects on the nervous system such as tension, anxiety, anger and depression.

Shirodhara method

You will be asked to lie on a massage table on your back, either fully or partially clothed. Warm oil, usually herbalised sesame or coconut oil, is poured across your forehead at a point that is said to be the location of your third eye. A steady stream is applied on your forehead for about 20 to 40 minutes. After the treatment, you will remain on the massage table for 15 to 30 minutes so that you can relax quietly.

Shirodhara is best performed in the morning. Severe illnesses may require multiple treatments to obtain optimum results while minor conditions like insomnia may only take one session for you to sleep soundly at night. Your Ayurvedic doctor will determine how many treatments and how often your treatments will be to obtain lasting results. Most day spas now offer Ayurvedic treatments like shirodhara, incorporating a foot bath, full relaxation massage, and oil pouring. It is often capped by a scalp massage to further relieve other pressure points on the head.

Scientific studies backing shirodhara

A Japanese study on the effects of shirodhara revealed that its participants showed deep restfulness with less anxiety which were measured accurately by EEG and ECG equipment. The results were also confirmed by monitoring blood pressure, heart rate and carbon dioxide (CO2) excretion while heated sesame oil was poured continuously by healing robots. The physiological changes during shirodhara were similar to those of meditation, which is somewhere between a person’s sleep and awake states (also known as altered state of consciousness).

With successive shirodhara treatments, patients are able to make lifestyle changes easily due to decreased stress such as quitting smoking, slow chewing during meals, and carrying a positive outlook.


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