Oils for Ayurvedic massage

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In the last article, we discussed the various benefits of an ayurvedic massage. Let us now look at some of the oils used for the purpose.

Ayurveda details different oils for massage, depending on the predominant dosha of the individual. The primary/base oil for vata dominant individuals is sesame oil. For pitta dominant, coconut oil is preferable. And for individuals with dominant kapha dosha, mustard or olive oil is best.

One of the most popular massage oils, sesame oil is unctuous, heavy, bitter, sweet, astringent and heating. It reduces disorders caused by vata and increases pitta. Oil from black sesame seeds is particularly beneficial for the hair and can arrest premature greying. It also strengthens the skin, improves skin texture, cures swelling and reduces muscular pain.

Coconut oil is sweet, relatively light, unctuous and cooling. Since it is cooling in nature, it is best suited for pitta-dominant individuals and for those living in hot climates. It soothes the skin and cures rashes, burns, swellings, sores, eczema and fungal infections. Due to its antiseptic properties, it is also used on burns and cuts. Being a relatively light oil, it does not form a coating on the skin. It is readily absorbed by the skin and improves its texture.

Mustard oil is unctuous, sharp, light, bitter, pungent and heating. It reduces aggravated vata and kapha, and increases pitta and body heat. Mustard oil has healing properties and is known to cure pain, swelling and wounds. A disinfectant, it stops bleeding when immediately applied on cuts. Readily absorbed by the skin, it provides relief for nerves and stiff muscles. It is a preferred massage oil for wrestlers and body builders since it is effective in relieving muscular stiffness and soreness. Massaging the soles of the feet with mustard oil before retiring to bed generates heat in the body to fight symptoms of cold and infections, in addition to providing warmth during winters.

Olive oil is unctuous, slightly bitter and heating. It is known to increase pitta dosha. While it is heating and nourishing, olive oil is stickier and heavier in comparison to the other oils and is therefore avoided for head massages. However, a few drops of sesame oil can be added to reduce its heaviness and stickiness. It is especially beneficial to infants, children with weak constitutions and the elderly. Since olive oil is heavy, it absorbs solar radiation and enhances pigmentation, along with strengthening the muscle, skin and nerves.

Almond oil is sweet, unctuous, heavy and suited for kapha dominant individuals since it is heating in nature. Regular massage with almond oil leaves the skin soft and supple and nourishes dry, damaged skin. When massaged regularly on the scalp, almond oil cures scalp dryness and dandruff.

Since oil is considered a nutrient for skin, care must be taken to ensure that the oil is organic. Cold pressed oils obtained from the seeds of organically grown plants and vegetables are easily absorbed by the skin and are considered ideal for massage. In cold pressed oils, the oils extracted with a wooden oil mill are better compared to oils extracted from mills using metal parts to press the seeds. Mineral oils (a substitute for natural oils) are obtained from petroleum by the process of distillation. They should be avoided as they form an invisible layer on the surface of the skin, blocking pores and interfering with skin’s natural respiration process.

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