This post was last updated on September 3, 2022 by Preethi Sukumaran
In an earlier blog post we wrote about the Ayurvedic Dinacharya of Shiro Abhyanga / head oiling and how it was so much more than just a cosmetic habit, offering a potent set of health benefits. In fact we believe a good Ayurvedic hair oil should be more appropriately called a “head oil” to convey the full range of health benefits as promised in the classical Ayurvedic text books. OF course, head oiling also gives us many hair benefits which we have written about in earlier posts.
Before we delve deeper into the exact Ayurvedic references on Shiro Abhyanga, we should have a basic idea of the Ayurvedic Canon of classical texts and their authors.
Ayurvedic benefits of head oiling: The Ayurvedic Canon
Acharyas Charaka & Sushruta are the two foremost sages who compiled monumental texts (called Samhitas) on Ayurveda. These two Acharyas codified and compiled the vast body of knowledge called Ayurveda around two thousand years ago. Ayurveda, which is considered as a Upa-Veda (applied science) belonging to the Atharva Veda, was originally revealed by divine sources to earlier Sages, like Maharishi Athreya Punavasu.
The Charaka Samhita , as available to us today, contains 12,000 sanskrit verses, set in specific metres, spread over 8 sections, which contain a total of 120 chapters.
The Sushruta Samhita as available today is composed of 6 sections with 186 chapters and has an extensive focus on Salya tantra, i,e surgery.
Around 1300 years ago, there emerged an highly accomplished Ayurvedic physician by the name Acharya Vaghbhata who wrote a textbook called Ashtanga Samgraha, based on the two foundational texts of Sushruta Samhita & Charaka Samhita. There is another textbook very similar in content called the Ashtanga Hridyam , attributed to his grandson , also called Acharya Vaghbhata. This text is one of the most popular Ayurvedic textbooks used in medical practise even today.
These three texts, Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita & Ashtanga Hridayam are together called the Brihat Trayee or the big three textbooks, which form the core of Ayurveda today.
Then there are three later textbooks written a few hundred years ago, which expanded on the Big Three textbooks , which are also highly respected and widely used today called the Laghu Trayee, or the Lesser Three set of texts. These are the Sarangadhara Samhita, the Madhava Nidhana & the Bhavaprakasa. You can read more about the history of Ayurveda and the evolution of these three texts in our earlier posts.
Benefits of ayurvedic head oiling: Head oiling is a Dinacharya
Why this Ayurvedic Preamble ?
In all these authoritative textbooks, the Acharyas have written chapters on the fundamental daily habits for great health, also called Dinacharya.
One of these important Dinacharyas, is the daily application of oil on the head , and the numerous health benefits that accrue to us from head oiling done regularly. It is very important to note here that oil application on the head is recommended to us in a medical textbook as a fundamental daily habit for good health – it is not merely cosmetic, neither is good hair the main benefit. Head oiling / Shiro Abhyanga forms part of the larger Dinacharya of Abhyanga, which includes body and head oil application – this offers tremendous health benefits. Abhyanga should be a part of every healthy adult’s regular regimen. Please download our free eBook on this potent practice. Please also read about the mini abhyanga, how a regular abhyanga can help in hair fall, when to do an abhyanga and how to do an abhyanga in our earlier posts.
It is also vital to note here that the texts discuss the benefits of head oiling , as a means of nourishing the skull , brain, eyes and ears and keeping them in great health. Since the hair strands are also rooted in the skull/scalp, the head oiling application gives us another benefit of thick & strong hair. So the name hair oil is extremely limiting and quite misleading in the Ayurvedic context, Head-Oil is a more accurate term that can convey the full range of health benefits that accrue over time to those who meticulously practice head oiling daily / regularly. .
Now let us examine the exact Ayurvedic references from the Important texbooks.
Benefits of Head oiling: references from various Ayurvedic texts
Benefits of Head oiling from the Charaka Samhita :
In this text, Acharya Charaka devotes three slokas to the benefits of deaily head oiling.
The literal translation of these slokas are:
“Daily application of hair oil prevents head-aches, premature greying, alopecia (balding). With regular hair oiling the bones of the skull become stronger, hair grows firm-rooted, long & black. The sense organs are nourished, face has a pleasant glow. Sleep is sound & deep and happiness is promoted. “
The slokas given above list 9 distinct and highly desirable benefits of regular head oiling with a suitable Ayurvedic hair oil.
Benefits of Head oiling from the Sushruta Samhita
The Dinacharya habits are described by Acharya Sushruta in a chapter called , “Anaghatabadha Pratiseda “ – Prevention of Future Diseases. This is very noteworthy as the all the Dinacharya habits including Head oiling help prevent future diseases. So daily / regular head oiling offers benefits much beyond simple hair growth.
The Shloka on Shiro Abhyanga ( head oiling) literally translated says
“ Annointing the head with oil cures diseases of the head, makes the hair soft , lengthy, abundant, smooth, black, bestows feeling of comfort to the head, pleasant appearance of the face, nourishes the sense organs well and gives a feeling of contentment in the head.
Madhuka, Kshirasukla, Sarala, Devadaru, Kshudra Panchamula herbs must be collected, made in into water decoction and oil-paste and then cooked in cold-pressed oils to make a medicated oil. This oil should always be applied cool to the head. “
(the herbs are Mahua, Kakoli, Sarala, Deodhar & Sarivan, Pithvan, Badi Kateri, Choti Kateri and Gokhru)
Apart from the many benefits of head oiling already seen in the earlier shloka from the Charaka Samhita, Acharya Sushruta gives a crystal clear indication of the correct structure of an Ayurvedic hair oil. The group of important herbs recommended should be extracted in both water & oil and then cooked extensively only in cold-pressed vegetable oils (like sesame and coconut). This process is called as Tila Paka Veedhi in Ayurveda.
All Krya hair oils and skin oils are manufactured in this exact classical protocol. This is the main reason why the commercially available hair oils in the market , which are just a blend of paraffin (a petroleum derivative !) and synthetic fragrances are so ineffective, and also repel users from the hair oiling habit. Further plain coconut oils , which are NOT cold-pressed but extracted with chemical solvents like Hexane are ineffective as hair oils, due to their low absorption by the scalp.
Even if we used pure, cold pressed coconut oil or any other plain base oil like Almond oil or Olive oil for head oiling, we would not get the benefits of head oiling: for these benefits we need the Oil to be transformed using Tila Paka manufacturing method using a correct set of herbs.
Benefits of head oiling from Ashtanga samgraha and Ashtanga Hridayam
Both the Ashtanga Samgrha & the Ashtanga Hridayam have very brief but clear Shlokas on the benefits of head oiling , which can be summarized as below
“ Daily application of oil on the body ( Abhyanga) is highly beneficial, and special attention must be given to the head, ears & feet. When oil is applied to the head , it is good for the hair, skull and sense organs “
Perhaps by the time of the 7th Century AD, when these texts were composed, head oiling was such a prevalent habit in India, that it did not require very elaborate explanation.
Benefits of head oiling from Bhavaprakasha Nighantu
The Bhavaprakasha Nighantu by Acharya Bhavamisra is a 16th century Ayurvedic textbook that forms part of the Laghu trayee set of ayurvedic texts. In the Dinacharya chapter of this textbook , Acharya Bhavamishra re-emphasizes the importance of daily oil massage of the body ( Abhyanga) with special focus on the head , ears and feet. When daily / regular head oiling is done, these are the benefits that we receive.
“ Massaging the head daily with oil gives strength to all the sensory organs. It enhances vision and relieves all scalp diseases. Growth of hair will be higher, strong, soft and lengthy. Thick black hair grow continuously (with daily application)”
The problems with commercial (cosmetic) hair oils
Most of the major Indian hair oils sold widely in India today are primarily made of liquid paraffin blended with synthetic fragrances and preservatives. Most of them do not contain the all important base of cold-pressed vegetable oils like coconut or sesame, neither do they contain any of the wide array of Ayurvedic herbs. Obviously they do not follow the time tested and laborious process of Tila Paka veedhi either.
Liquid paraffin also called as Light liquid Paraffin ( LLP), mineral oil or paraffin is merely a by-product of the petroleum refining process and it has zero nourishing or health-giving properties. It is used mainly because it is very cheap compared to coconut oil or sesame oil, has no natural odour or colour , and is easy to spread and combines easily with synthetic thickeners, colours and fragrances.
Since mineral oil is inert , it does not react with the human skin or scalp. So continuous application of mineral oil on the scalp causes build-up, clogs the subtle channels of the head and it allows dust and dirt to accumulate on the hair. As a result, a person using a mineral oil based hair oil often feels the need to use a strong chemical shampoo, which further harms the scalp and hair, often leading to dry dandruff .
None of the astonishing health benefits promised by the Ayurvedic textbooks can be achieved by applying this petroleum-based oil. It is no surprise that the hair-oiling habit is on the decline in India due to the unscrupulous use of paraffin.
Read this report by consumer voice magazine ( available on the wesbite of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, GoI) on the percentage of mineral oil in the leading hair oil brands. Many famous hair oil brands which claim to use natural ingredients like Amla, Almond, etc use these herbs in minuscule proportions, basing their entire formulation on mineral oil and fragrances alone.
Krya formulations for Head oiling: a brief glance
Krya has multiple head oils for different hair types and lifestages available. Here is a brief glance of the products available:
- Krya baby and toddler hair oil: formulated with special herbs to ensure proper closer of fontanelle, and support rapid brain development and strengthening of skull and bones for babies and young children
- Krya Kids hair oil – Classic: for Children above 3 years with straight hair or hair that tends to be on the oily side – supports brain development and formulated with soothing herbs like Brahmi, Devdaru etc prescribed for children in Ayurveda
- Krya Kids hair oil – Conditioning: for Children above 3 years with curly hair or hair that tends to be on the dry side – supports brain development and formulated with soothing herbs like Brahmi, Devdaru etc prescribed for children in Ayurveda
- Krya Classic Plus Hair Oil : for hair that is prone to high premature greying, hair thinning or excessively oily scalp – provides balance to very high Pitta aggravation. Formulated with pitta reducing herbs like Amla, Mulethi, Bhringraj, etc
- Krya Classic Hair Oil: For normal – oily hair prone to premature greying and oily scalp – balances medium Pitta aggravation. Formulated with Pitta balancing herbs like Amla, Nimba, Bhringraj, etc
- Krya Conditioning Hair Oil: For hair prone to dryness, hair breakage and brittle and frizzy hair – scalp tends to be dry – balances Vata aggravation. formulated with Vata balancing herbs like Mulethi, Japa, Vatama, etc
- Krya Harmony hair oil: For hair fall and breakage due to high stress, anxiety, insomnia, grief, etc – hair tends to be dry, breaks easily and scalp also tends to be dry. Formulated with vata and anxiety calming herbs like Devdaru, Jatamansi, Brahmi, etc.
- Krya Damage repair Hair oil: for hair and scalp that is chemically damaged due to excessive use of synthetic hair dyes, and treatments like hair smoothing, keratin treatments, perming, etc. Detoxifies scalp and promotes healthy growth. formulated with detoxifying and growth improving herbs like Khadira, Daruharidra, Mushta, Mulethi etc
- Krya Intense Hair Oil: For hair fall due to long illness and high / long term medication : promotes healthy hair growth. should not be used if person has not suffered from illness based hairfall. Formulated with growth promoting and detoxifying herbs like Ashwagandha, Vatama, Narikela, Tila, Gokshura, etc.
Problem solution oils:
- Krya Anti Dandruff hair oil: For Fungal dandruff and Scalp Psoriasis. formulated with healing and Kushta roga healing herbs like Babchi, Triphala, etc.
- Krya Anti Lice Hair oil: For lice and nits (can be used for babies also). formulated with Krimighna and soothing herbs like Vacha, Nimba, Daruharidra, etc.
All Krya hair oils are made as per Ayurvedic tila paka veedhi, use cold pressed oils and the recommended Ayurvedic herbs. So all of these oils can be used for Ayurvedic head oiling.
To sum up: ayurvedic benefits of daily / regular head oiling with an Ayurvedic hair oil
In the second part of our post on the benefits of head oiling or Shiro Abhyanga, we explored what many classical texts say about this potent Dinacharya practice. we can see that the daily application of a good Ayurvedic hair oil on the scalp gives these benefits over time
- Prevents head-aches, all diseases of the scalp and makes the skull bones strong.
- It enhances vision
- All the sense organs are nourished & gives contentment and happiness to the face.
- It promotes sound sleep
- It prevents premature greying and balding.
- The hair becomes thick, black , long , strong and grows continuously.
You can easily incorporate the incredible Ayurvedic dinacharya of Shiro Abhyanga ( head oiling) very easily, it takes just a few minutes to apply the oil on your scalp. Explore the full range of Krya Hair Oils here ——-.
If you would like to use one of Krya’s hair oils for your Shiro Abhyanga and are not sure which one to choose, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on WhatsApp.
- Caraka, Caraka Samhita, Vol. I , Text with English translation & critical exposition based on Cakrapani Datta’s Ayurveda Dipika by R.K.Sharma & Bhagwan Dash, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Series Office, Varanasi, 2019.
- Susruta, Susruta Samhita, Vol. II, Text with English translation by K.R.Srikantha Murthy, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2016.
- Vagbhata, Ashtanga Samgraha, Text with English translation by K.R.Srikantha Murthy, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2015.
- Vagbhata, Astangahrdata, Vol. I, Text with English translation by T. Sreekumar, Publication department of Harisree Hospital, Thrissur, 2015.
- Bhavamisra, Bhavaprakasha, Vol. I, Text with English translation by Bulusu Sitaram, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2015.
- Website of Department of Consumer affairs , Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India.