Oils are essential to Ayurveda. They are used internally and externally to preserve health and to treat disease.
Be it on the skin, or in the body’s orifices like the mouth, nostrils and ears, oil protects our bodies from particles, impurities and antigens. If in the west, we have associated oils with beauty, in ayurveda they are a fundamental part of health because they support and nourish tissues, such as the skin, but also, fat, muscles, bones and even our organs.
Oils vs. Creams
We often shy away from oils because they leave us, well… oily. I guess this is why a decade or two ago, we started seeing these “dry oils” which are more convenient and marketing-friendly. That said, I no longer use dry oils myself since I got to learn about the benefits and therapeutical properties of oils in ayurveda.
Oils such as jojoba oil, argan oil, or rosehip oil, are typically lighter in texture. They can provide hydration to the skin without feeling heavy or greasy, and can also help to balance the skin's natural oil production. Oils are also rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, which can help to protect and nourish the skin. On the other hand, creams are typically thicker in texture. They can also contain additional ingredients such as peptides, vitamins, or retinoids, which can provide additional benefits to the skin. But in Ayurveda, we consider creams to belong to the Kapha dosha while oils belong to the Pitta dosha: so, creams would have the properties of Kapha which are: immobile, sticky and create blockages, while oils are spreading, quick and sharp like the Pitta dosha.
Ayurvedically speaking, that means that one clogs the skin, while the other penetrates deep beyond the skin layers, having a therapeutical effect, on muscles, fat and bones or organs.
Not all creams necessarily block skin pores, but some types of creams can potentially contribute to clogged pores and acne breakouts, especially for those with oily or acne-prone skin (pitta dominance). Creams that contain heavy, occlusive ingredients such as petrolatum or mineral oil can create a physical barrier on the skin's surface, which can trap oil, dirt, and bacteria in the pores and lead to clogged pores and acne breakouts. In addition, some creams may contain comedogenic ingredients that are known to clog pores, such as certain types of waxes or synthetic oils.
However, not all creams are created equal, and there are many non-comedogenic creams available that are designed to be gentle and non-irritating to the skin.
Additionally, it's important to note that clogged pores and acne breakouts can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics (or dominant dosha), hormones, and diet.
What is important according to ayurveda is to leave the bodily pathways clear and unblocked to avoid clogging and inflammation. You might have heard of the detoxifying process called Pancha karma: a 10 day treatment which include oil massages and sweating (among others). The oleation is said to make toxins softer and therefore easier to dispose of. This is the benefits of oils: they protect, act as a shield, rejuvenate the cells, penetrate deeply and bring the properties of the plants involved deep in the tissues while rendering the toxins tender.
The right Everyday Oil for Your Skin type
If you are not sure about your ayurvedic skin type, you can take the test here
In ayurveda, we first consider the potency of the plant, oil, or ingredient: it is either cold, warming, hot, or balanced. Then, we consider the property of the substance. Usually, if your skin has a Vata dominance, it will tend to be dry, rough and maybe dull at times, while your body temperature is cool. If you get a Dosha Test result showing a dominance of Pitta, you probably get red easily, have had or still suffer from acne, rosacea or redness patches and your body temperature is hot. Finally, a Kapha Skin is oilier, congested when imbalanced or presenting deep white cysts.
If you are easily cold, you likely are Vata or Kapha dominant. If on the other hand, if you’re always hot, and hang out in a short sleeve T-shirts while others have pulled out their scarf, you are probably of the Pitta type.
Different natural oils have different properties, so for example Mustard oil is like mustard, it’s hot and heating while almond or coco oil are cooling. If you are Pitta Dominant, using a mustard oil will aggravate your constitution and create imbalance. Same goes for a Vata or Kapha individuals who’d use Coconut oil in the middle of winter, they will feel even colder, aggravating their dominant dosha.
In essence, we apply the opposite properties to your unique dosha in order to restore balance . Here are some everyday oils which can be used according to your dominant dosha.
NOTE, when buying an oil, chose the Virgin Cold Pressed version if possible. Regarding sesame oil, avoid the toasted sesame oil which is suitable for cooking but much less for your skin. Even though Almond is not detailed here, this is a cooling oil whihc will appease Pitta, and can also be used for Vata in the summer.
SESAME OIL - Vata
Sesame oil is the most used oil in Ayurveda. It is also considered the most nourishing. Ideal for Vata Individuals who need nourishment and warmth to their tissues, often have cracking joints and dry skin. It can be ok for Kapha dominant people but if you’re trying to lose weight then, use the mustard oil suggested below instead, as sesame is too nourishing to the tissues for Kapha.
The Sesame oil qualities are:
Sweet and bitter tastes
Penetrating as it gets deep into tissues and can be absorbed quickly by the body
Due to its warming qualities, it’s best use to help in the case of: Cracking joints, anxiety, underweight, lack of nourishment, loss of bone mass, menopause, lower tummy pains, colic.
During the cold season
Do not use: when there is joint inflammation
Ayurvedic trick After cleaning your teeth and mouth, put one or two drops of sesame oil on clean fingers, and rub into your teeth and gums. Sesame oil strengthens the bones and teeth. This practice can support your overall oral health.
If you want to change the smell of the sesame oil (for self massage) chose to add a few drops of essential oil that soothe for VATA, such as Ylang Ylang, frankincense, bitter orange… or get the Dosha Essential Oils
COCONUT OIL - Pitta
If you have a Pitta dominant constitution, experiencing redness in the skin, excess heat, or anger, coconut oil is for you
The qualities of coconut oil are:
Cooling and drying
Nourishing, though less than sesame oil
Slower to digest when compared to sesame oil
Use Coconut oil when: You feel hot-headed, irritated or overheated, if Sesame oil feels too warming, in the summer or to improve your hair growth by massaging the scalp.
Ayurvedic trick: Coconut oil is excellent for supporting hair growth but it's also quite drying. Upon waking, or prior to heading to bed, apply coconut oil to the top of your head very gently. This will help cool the heat that naturally escapes through the top of your head, making for a chilled-out disposition or a cool night of sleep.
Additional trick: add a few drops of sandal oil essential oil for fragrance and cooling energy
MUSTARD OIL - Kapha
Mustard oil is best used for Kapha imbalances like fatigue, low energy, congestion of the legs, or general malaise. This oil is not suitable for pitta as it is too heating and is borderline for Vata in winter.
The qualities of Mustard oil are:
Light, Hot, and penetrating
Pungent & Sweet taste
Ayurvedic Ritual: If you have a Kapha constitution and feel tired when you wake up, rub some Mustard oil on your hands and feet when you wake up. This will help you feel energized!
VATA, PITTA & KAPHA OILS
You can also head to the shop and get your Vata, Pitta, Kapha or Tri-doshic Oil. Each uses a base oil that’s suitable to your dominant dosha and have the added benefit of smelling very nice. If you have a mixed skin, or have no particular concern, chose the Tri-doshic oil.
Ideally, these oils would be used daily as part of your morning or evening ritual.
A Vata Oil is most suitable to ladies going through menopause. Usually having a sesame based they are warming and nourishing. They help the bone structure, and replenish the skin.
The Pitta oil, is made to quiet down irritation, redness and angry mood.
While the Kapha oil, can be used to tone, increase circulation, provide energy and a vital elan. It can be used to help with losing weight. Having a self-massage routine is a great idea for all doshas. These minutes spent with yourself become like a meditation and the self-care soon translates as self-love. The first step to losing weight.
MANHARAYANA oil - nervous system, joints, swelling
Mahanarayana Oil is a treasure of an oil which can be used for so many purposes: it will soothe and balances most Vata disorders linked to the nervous system (like paralysis, sciatica), joints issues and pains in general. This a natural anti-inflammatory so it is a good oil to be used in pains which present heat & redness. This recipe is the traditional millenary one which included 77 plants in decoction and 63 ingredients as pastes...!
o Quiets redness, swelling due to inflammation
o Relieves the nervous system and motor neuron disorders, ME, MS, Parkinson’s, Tremors, paralysis, facial paralysis
o Relieves cramps, abdominal pain, constipation, bloating
o Relieves Painful periods (apply to the lower abdomen)
o Effective pain relief when there is redness (excess of pitta / inflammation)
o Good in Rheumatoid Arthritis & Osteo-arthritis joint pains and in rheumatisms as it prevents synovial fluid dehydration
o Good for muscles and fat
o Vaginal pains (apply to the inside at the entrance)
o Pacifies an imbalance of Pitta and Vata
o This oil can be ingested
SARSAHAPADEE oil: swelling, asthma, cramps
Sarshapadee Oil is mainly used for Joint pain relief in the case of osteoarthritis, osteoporosis for example but also in Asthma & breathing difficulties. This is a drying oil which isn’t suitable in the presence of inflammation.
o Will pacify an imbalance of Kapha and Vata, but aggravates Pitta
o Effective pain killer
o Swellings, sprains, joint pains, muscle cramps
o Asthma (apply on chest): opens up the bronchial tree. Efficient emergency treatment for severe pain or severe asthma (with chesty cough and gargling noises - not suitable if you cough is dry).
1. Do not use in inflammatory conditions (for example, this oil is not appropriate in rheumatoid arthritis, tendinitis and other inflammations).
2. Aggravates Pitta, or any inflammatory conditions
3. Long term use can aggravate Vata
4. Do not use on chest if you have a dry cough
ANU TAILA- Sinusitis, hayfever and more...
Anu taila, a very effective nasal oil to get relief from nasal congestion caused by the sinus. It has the ability to cleanse and protect the nasal passage.
Nasya or Nasal application of herbs and medicated oils is very effective in Hay Fever and Sinusitis but also for all other ENT ailments (Ear infections, Vertigo, Allergies, Tonsillitis, Sleep apnoea, Hearing loss) In clinic we combine a course of 5 Nasya treatments with a Spring Cleanse. Alternatively adding a few drops every day of our Anu Tailam Nasya Oil helps protect the mucus membranes and gently cleanses the senses. Nasya combined with Neti Pot can work wonders as it opens up the nasal passages, cleanses and clears mucus and congestion, at the same times lubricates and protects mucus membranes from allergens.
o to cure allergic rhinitis
o to strengthen the eyes, ears, nose, throat and tongue
o to cure headache, migraine
o to help with hair fall and greying of hair.
Oils are not just a beauty product or a luxury. They are full of the goodness from nature and as such, they have therapeutic values. We have forgotten than the plants they are made of have properties which can help us balance our own nature or aggravate it. Ayurvededa remainds us to be in agrrement with nature and with our nature. Using oils on a daily basis, or at least 3 times a week is part of the rejuvenating therapies in ayurveda. Oils penetrate deep into your body and have the power to protect, preserve and heal. You can find out about your dosha and get the best oil for you in the Dosha Shop