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Beat stress with Shirodhara, the traditional ayurvedic oil dripping therapy

Beat stress with Shirodhara, the traditional ayurvedic oil dripping therapy

Ayurveda’s holistic way to calm your mind down

Prakash Kumar D, a 38-year-old painter from Bengaluru often had to travel as part of his work. But severe headaches and bouts of giddiness hampered his work pattern, prompting him to consult doctors from various hospitals. Though all his diagnostic test reports showed no unusual findings, his symptoms persisted. Later, he consulted an ayurvedic physician for the same as suggested by one of his family members. His physician examined him and told him that he would need a few sessions of Shirodhara therapy for overall relief.  

What is Shirodhara? 

Shirodhara is a popular ayurvedic therapy that involves the dripping of lukewarm liquids in a stream over the forehead to treat various health conditions. Liquid medicines such as medicated oils, decoctions, milk, buttermilk, or fermented preparations are poured in a stream continuously for 30-45 minutes. 

This therapy is advised for those with the psychosomatic health conditions (health conditions with physical symptoms as a result of psychological disturbances) such as headaches, skin disorders, stomach ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure and sleep disturbances.  

Kumar shares his experience of receiving the therapy. He says, “The therapy involved continuous dropping of warm oil over my forehead. I received around seven sessions of oil dripping for a week. It soothed my mind and relieved all my stress. My sleep pattern has also improved after the procedure got over.”  

Representational image | Shutterstock

How is it performed? 

You will be made to lie down on a massage table with a pot hanging at the top of your head (4-6 m height). A mild oil massage is given followed by a rhythmic dripping of warm medicines on the forehead for about 30-45 minutes. While dripping medicines, eyes will be closed with a cotton swab.  

Post that, oil is wiped off using a sterile cotton cloth and you will be allowed to relax for a while (10-15 minutes). A warm water bath is advised, and a shampoo/ soap can be used to remove the oiliness.  

Symptoms might aggravate if the recommendations are ignored  

Experts say that it is important to follow the recommendations during and post-treatment strictly to get better results.   

Evidence-backed benefits for Shirodhara 

It Stabilises the vitals, with effects similar to that of a deep meditation 

A continuous dripping would help to calm the mind. It is equivalent to deep meditation. In a study conducted by a team of researchers from Mumbai’s ICMR Advanced Centre of Reverse Pharmacology in Traditional Medicine, Kasturba Health Society demonstrated that shirodhara reduces respiratory rate and heart rate, and levels of cortisol (stress indicator). They also found that EEG (Electroencephalogram) shows changes like those observed after deep meditation.  

It balances the blood pressure and alleviates stress 

 Oil-dripping helps beat stress and can also bring down blood pressure to a healthy range. This effect is backed by a study by Delhi’s Ayurvedic & Unani Tibbia College. In a case study it was found that shirodhara significantly reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure. They also found that it showed appropriate counteraction to the stress system (pathogenesis of stress).  

It improves sleep quality: 

Researchers from Japan’s Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine in a pilot study demonstrated that shirodhara therapy is a safe, potential treatment option to treat sleep disorders and improve sleep quality and overall quality of life.  

Though these studies are of a small sample size, the results are encouraging and set the scope for further evaluation involving a larger sample size. 

Things you should be aware of before going for your first shirodhara  

  • Not everyone is advised with the same kind of medicine for shirodhara. The type of liquid is chosen based on the symptoms, age, and other factors  
  • The therapy is performed until the person perspires (duration is subjective) 
  • You are not advised to undergo the therapy if you have cut wounds, bleeding conditions especially on face and forehead. 

Different types of liquids used in Shirodhara  

  1. Buttermilk (Takra dhara) is used to relieve insomnia and stress. The buttermilk imparts soothing effect, also induces sleep. 
  1. Medicated oils (Taila dhara) are helpful in managing the joint disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, and emaciation. Oils nourish the muscles and lubricate the joints thereby improving the skin’s texture and easing the movement of the joints.  
  1. Medicated decoctions (Kashaya dhara) are helpful in managing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or non-healing wounds. Herbal decoctions help in healing the skin related issues by removing the toxins and providing the rejuvenating effect.  
  1. Medicated or medically processed milk (Ksheera dhara) works as a wellness therapy. Milk is known for its rejuvenation effect; it imparts glow to the skin and alleviates the fatigue.  
  1. Fermented medicine (Dhanyamla dhara) is helpful in inflammatory health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (amavata in Ayurveda) and obesity. This is the most preferred procedure to treat joint disorders where metabolic toxins and phlegm are involved. 

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