Warm oil poured directly on the forehead is an Ayurvedic abhyanga called shirodhara that is used to help heal many conditions and difficult-to-treat diseases, including vata imbalances that lead to mind or nervous system disorders. Held in a heat-retaining bowl, the oil drips slowly from about 2-3 inches above the forehead from the suspended bowl. Shirodhara is typically given for up to 21 days, early in the morning for an hour on the first day and then working up to 1.5 hours by five minute increments.1

Clinical Evidence of Shirodhara Abhyanga

Modern scientific evidence shows that essential oil therapies can produce measurable treatment success on stress and anxiety. In one clinical assessment of the effects of massage on stress, researchers reported that cardiac surgery patients who received 20 minutes of foot massage with essential oil had significantly lower anxiety levels than the group massaged with only a base vegetable oil.76


Results of a randomized, controlled clinical trial involving 32 healthy females, those given shirodhara treatment demonstrated reduced excretion of serotonin, lower plasma levels of noradrenaline, and increased plasma levels of dopamine.75 The measurable changes in these mood-related hormones correlate with decreased anxiety and a more relaxed state-of-mind.75 Another small randomized trial using lavender essential oils with shirodhara showed potent anxiety-reducing effects, as measured by changes in heart rate and elevated foot skin temperature (both known to correlate to stress levels).80

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