The growing trend of chronic diseases in the United States calls for creative approaches to delivering medicine to the whole body. For such creativity, my tendency is to look at what has worked in the past and then improve upon it. For this reason, I studied Ayurveda—a 5,000-year-old system of medicine—and sought to integrate it with the modern approach of Naturopathic medicine.

Ayurvedic Abhyanga, a full-body oil therapy, is one of the most commonly used therapies at Natural Rhythms Integrative Medicine. Abhyanga is popular because it can be used to treat a variety of conditions, and—like many Ayurvedic therapies—it can be customized to meet the needs of the individual. Abhyanga looks similar to a massage in application; however, the strokes, the pressure on the body, and the herbal oil is changed based on the effect we seek from the treatment.* The main benefits of abhyanga include pain management, help for sleep disorders, and promoting general health and longevity.

Pain Management

Abhyanga helps reduce pain associated with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia and arthritis. In one study, just six treatments helped to reduce fibromyalgia pain by 54%. Abhyanga also reduced depression associated with chronic illness by 40%.1Meneguzzi P, et al. “The Ayurveda’s Abhyanga Massage for Improving the Quality of Life, Pain, and Depression in Patients with Fibromyalgia.” Rev Bras Terap e Saúde. 2011;1(2):65–74.

The mechanism of benefit is achieved by delivering medicine to the fibrous tissue in the whole body, allowing it to detoxify and heal, and resulting in lower inflammation and improved anti-oxidant function. In cases of osteoarthritis, a study found an 88% improvement when combining Abhyanga with steam and manual traction.2Rajorio K, et al. “Clinical study on Laksha Guggulu, Snehana, Swedana & Traction in Osteoarthritis (Knee joint).” Ayu. 2010. Jan-Mar;31(1):80–87. Patients reported improvement in joint movement and reduction in joint swelling with oil applications.

Abhyanga for Sleep

The Benefits of Abhyanga Offered at Natural Rhythms Integrative Medicine in SeattleAs a snehana treatment, Abhyanga introduces the moist, heavy, and lubricating qualities of kapha to the body, which helps to calm the body and induces the mind to follow. As part of home care, application of oil to the head and feet helps to calm the vata/pitta (air/fire elements), which reduces stimulation. One study demonstrated that doing head and foot massage as daily routine helped double sleep time and sleep quality, while reducing more than 75% of insomnia symptoms in the course of just 15 days.3Misar SD, Kuchewar V. “A Comparative Study of Efficacy of Jatamansi Vati and Abhyanga in Management of Anidra with Special Reference of Insomnia.” IAMJ. 2016;4(7).

In another study, 15–20 minutes of foot massage, two hours before bed, reduced the time to fall asleep by 68% and increased total sleep time by 32%.4Yeragi VS, Kurle DG, Maske AH. “Study of effect of Padabhyanga (foot massage) with tila taila (sesame oil) in elderly patients suffering from nidra bransha (insomnia).” MedPulse—Inter Med J. 2016;3(11):911–914. People who practiced for the entire 28-day experiment reported they had improved sleep quality and fewer awakenings at night.

Health and Longevity

Oil application is a common practice in India. It is believed to add suppleness and strength to the body. A review of studies on Abhyanga demonstrate:

  1. Improved weight in pre-term babies;
  2. Reduced pain and inflammation in arthritic individuals;
  3. Enhanced focus and attention;
  4. Reduced depression; and
  5. Regenerated immune system, including the natural, cancer-seeking “killer cells.”5Raskar S, Rajagopala S. “Abhyanga in new born baby and neonatal massage—a review.” IJAPR. 2015;3(6).

The combination of these studies demonstrates that Abhyanga is an effective preventive medicine for all ages and all stages of health.

The Benefits of Abhyanga Offered at Natural Rhythms Integrative Medicine in SeattleAlthough studies give us some ideas about how Abhyanga can be used and how effective it can be, the reduction of pain and the improvement of sleep are great benefits for daily quality of life. These are transformative changes that can help individuals feel like themselves again. These allow us to feel free and energetic. Additionally, oil application nourishes the entire body and every cell, most of which are made out of fatty acid. Medicated oils help to cleanse and rebuild the body from a cellular level.

In our clinic, we are capable achieving better results because treatments are individually designed. Clients also receive additional medicines in the form of diet, daily routines, and herbs. Additionally, self-Abhyanga can be easily adopted as a home-care routine. To realize the full benefits of Abhyanga, it’s important to have regular treatments, so we offer subscription packages that include one or two monthly Abhyangas—learn more.

 

* At Natural Rhythms, we strive to create an authentic ayurvedic experience in partnership with Kerala Ayurveda USA. This partnership allows us to use authentic formulations, rather than generic oil preparations in our treatments.

References   [ + ]

1. Meneguzzi P, et al. “The Ayurveda’s Abhyanga Massage for Improving the Quality of Life, Pain, and Depression in Patients with Fibromyalgia.” Rev Bras Terap e Saúde. 2011;1(2):65–74.
2. Rajorio K, et al. “Clinical study on Laksha Guggulu, Snehana, Swedana & Traction in Osteoarthritis (Knee joint).” Ayu. 2010. Jan-Mar;31(1):80–87.
3. Misar SD, Kuchewar V. “A Comparative Study of Efficacy of Jatamansi Vati and Abhyanga in Management of Anidra with Special Reference of Insomnia.” IAMJ. 2016;4(7).
4. Yeragi VS, Kurle DG, Maske AH. “Study of effect of Padabhyanga (foot massage) with tila taila (sesame oil) in elderly patients suffering from nidra bransha (insomnia).” MedPulse—Inter Med J. 2016;3(11):911–914.
5. Raskar S, Rajagopala S. “Abhyanga in new born baby and neonatal massage—a review.” IJAPR. 2015;3(6).