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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Stress Less With Shirodhara: An Ayurvedic Therapeutic Herbal-Oil Cleansing Treatment

Apr 30, 2024 09:31AM ● By Dr. Somesh N. Kaushik, ND, BAMS, MPH, E-RYT-500

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Shirodhara—an herbal and oil treatment primarily for cleansing the mind and senses—is one of the five therapies that constitute Panchakarma, the Ayurvedic detox and cleansing regimen. Shirodhara—the combination of two Sanskrit words “shiro” (meaning head) and “dhara” (meaning flow)—uses herbs and oil, particular to one’s body constitution and issues, in a gentle flow over the forehead for a specified amount of time. The gentle pressure of the liquid streaming onto the brow stimulates the “marma” (energy) points in that area and creates a vibration that penetrates into the brain and nervous system. The result induces a state of calm and relaxation that permeates the entire body and mind.

In Shirodhara, the continuous flow of soothing, lukewarm liquid stimulates the hypothalamus housing the pituitary gland which regulates and balances the endocrine system and various hormones in the body, including stress hormones. Shirodhara therapy, therefore, is useful for any nervous system imbalances or stress-related conditions such as fatigue, tension, anxiety, depression, worry, fear, irritation, frustration, memory loss, concentration, headaches and PTSD. By helping to release these negative energies, it increases positive energies, regulates mood swings and boosts immunity, which results in a rejuvenating effect. The oils also have a positive impact on issues of hair loss and premature greying—contributing to rejuvenation as well.

Since the pineal gland, which produces the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin, is also stimulated, Shirodhara is an effective therapy for insomnia and other sleep-related issues, includings jet lag, an out-of-sync or interrupted wake-sleep cycle and an unquiet nocturnal mind. Shirodhara also activates points in the head which boosts circulation in the brain by widening blood vessels and decreasing blood pressure. It is, therefore, helpful with hypertension. As the head is the center of many nerve endings which control vital points in the brain and effect the senses, Shirodhara also aids in treating issues related to hearing, sight, taste and smell. Conditions such as sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, tinnitus, vertigo, Meniere’s disease, and even certain types of skin diseases such as psoriasis, have been helped with Shirodhara. It is also conducive in preventing psychosomatic disorders by relaxing the thought patterns and quieting the mind.

In Vedic philosophy, and the origins of Ayurveda, the area on the forehead over which the liquid flows is often referred to as the “third eye”. This area, it is felt, provides perception beyond ordinary sight, and Shirodhara, therefore, stimulates this center to awaken intuition, provide wisdom and spiritual clarity. It also enhances mental focus and concentration. The result is similar to what might be attained in deep meditation.

While Shirodhara is recommended for all body constitutions, it’s always advisable to consult with a practitioner that is experienced with this cleansing regimen. The preparation of the particular oil and herbs depends on the issues present and the administration of the steady stream of liquid over the corresponding marma points in the forehead requires an understanding of these energy centers. 

Understanding, too, is required about the proper atmosphere needed for the most beneficial results, as well as the duration of time, and number of sessions most appropriate for the cleansing treatment. Caution is also advised to avoid Shirodhara under certain circumstances—during the third trimester of pregnancy—as it is difficult to remain lying down without discomfort for the length of time required, after a recent neck or brain injury, if there is a rash, abrasion or sunburn on the forehead or scalp, and if there is an aversion to oil.

An Ayurvedic practitioner can determine if this cleansing program is safe and warranted by checking the pulse and tongue of the individual and recommending a suitable plan of action.

Dr. Kaushik’s Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Clinic is located at 792 Rte. 35, in Cross River, NY. For more information or to make an appointment, call 914-875-9088, email [email protected] or visit