The Healing Bounty of India
On a visit to India a few years back I focused on the tradition and authenticity of lineages of work in different fields.
At OmVeda, our passion as a company has been to maintain a traditional family of products and treatments as we believe that if these ancient artisans are not supported they will disappear in the plethora of modernity. While we value advances in methods, our modality is based on ancient texts which have been tried and tested over centuries – in fact over 5000 years. This arguably cannot be replaced.
One very unique stop on my journey was Baroda, where I had the pleasure to see first-hand, the making of Sankheda furniture, a classically Gujerati style of furniture. There is a whole village devoted to this art and I toured in awe absorbing the process from raw teak wood to the intricate painting to final product. The people in the village are all largely devoted and grow into this art, each one specialising in an aspect of the process.
I travelled from Cochin in the state of Kerala (promoted as God’s own country) to Periyar, a six hour drive, where the largest wildlife sanctuary in India is located. The journey went up a very windy road, quite often narrow and steep. The driver skillfully manoeuvered his way through people, grazing cows, the occasional monkey, lots of colourful buses with loud classical music and three wheel scooter taxis. There was no time to fall asleep in case something unique was missed.
Amidst the views of rivers, lush trees, agriculture and estates harvesting rubber, pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, the Ayurvedic herbal farms was the focus my attention. I could not help thinking it truly is God’s own country – it seemed everything precious grew there.
On the way we stopped at an Ayurvedic equipment workshop where they crafted handmade dhronis, shirodhara stands, urulis, steam cabinets and more. The artisans worked in a shed thatched with leaves as they focused on their art in absolute harmony. This is the dedication and spirit that goes into the making of these specialized equipment traditionally used to do Ayurvedic treatments.
Eventually, I reached my destination where I stayed with a family of Ayurvedic doctors. Father, son, wife and children all groomed in this ancient knowledge. The compound was surrounded by plants and trees, most of them grown for use in herbal medicines and oils. I asked how the trees were protected from insects and bugs and was told that susceptible plants had a host which meant no pesticides were necessary. Plant defense against herbivory or host-plant resistance (HPR) describes a range of adaptations evolved by plants which improve their survival and reproduction by reducing the impact of herbivores.
Staying at the farm I was in awe of how our classic Ayurvedic oils are prepared, which is the focus of this article. The ingredients are handpicked, cleaned, cut or dried according to the texts. Each ingredient is freshly picked and prepared and used as a juice or powder as required in its unique preparation. The preparation of an oil takes many days/weeks until it is ready to be dispensed.
Method of Blending an Ayurveda Massage Oil
Ayurvedic massage oils are quite different from other massage oils available in the market, by virtue of its properties and preparations.
In order to prepare 1 litre ‘Thailam’ (Ayurveda Massage oil), 1 kilogram of dried herbs are boiled in 16 litres of water until it is reduced to just 4 litres of ‘Kasha yam’ (decoction). And then 120 gm. of medicines (powdered and ground) as ‘Kalkam’ (paste) and 1 litre juice of fresh herbs – ‘Swarasam’ are added to the base oil (generally black sesame or coconut) and mixed together, and boiled in low flame until the whole water of the mixture is vaporized. While boiling, the medicinal qualities of the herbals are absorbed by the oil, and the oil becomes medicated. Over a number of days the moisture evaporates and as the consistency of the paste changes, the characteristic features of different oil are seen eg
• 1st stage – sticky & wax like – used for nasya (nasal oil)
• 2nd stage – rolls into ball – used for internal medicine i.e. enema
• 3rd stage – fine sand like consistency – ayurveda massage oil
Therefore a traditional Ayurvedic oil goes through a very special process which means the healing properties remain intact.
In the preparation of oils and pastes special and traditional procedures are used to ensure strict quality control and the preparation of medicines in the traditional manner using special metal vessel- ‘panchaloha’ pathra (made of gold, silver, copper, iron, and brass).
• Only prescribed types of fire woods are used.
• Organic sesame is bought directly from the farmers, and the oil is extracted in wooden grinders – as it was in olden days.
• The herbs are collected fresh
• All these are to ensure high quality and purity.
• GMP certified
In Ayurvedic massage different kinds of oils are used for body massage and head massage. For instance ‘Brahmi’ oil is used for head massage and ‘Raksha’ oil for body massage.
It is advisable to take an Ayurveda oil massage once a week or at least once in fortnight. For example, any machine would run well if it is lubricated often. Similarly a human body becomes very supple when an Ayurveda oil massage in given.
Abhyangam (oil massage) can keep away fatigue, body pain, tissue damage, skin diseases, infections, obesity, hair falling and premature aging at bay. It can provide efficiency, physical care, bodily strength, sleep, memory power, skin softness, etc. It has been found that Abhyangam if taken on Monday improves beauty, on Wednesday it increases wealth, and on Saturdays it gives better erotic experiences.
Each oil has specific herbal combinations which work in synergy as active ingredients. Combinations of herbal powders can be used after oil massage to help increase circulation, remove dead epithelial cells and deep cleanse the skin.
It is our intention that in sharing this traditional and special journey in the making of an Ayurvedic oil, we imprint the knowledge that Ayurvedic massage oils are markedly different and have deep healing properties used in the correct way.