Understanding Ayurvedic Oils, Types and Effects

Ayurveda is a rich and multi-faceted science of health, and has developed the nomenclature and means of organization to match its vast diversity. Whether to understand and communicate about the parts of the body, the disorders and causes of disease, or all the varieties of treatments which these require, ayurvedic medicine is not lacking the names and classification it needs to ensure clarity and precision in diagnosis and treatment. Ayurvedic oils and their applications are no exception. They are classified according to according to their origin, their effects, their preparation, and their application, with each of these bearing further sub-classifications. In this article we will be exploring one of these basic classifications of oils, their effects, and its principal sub-categories.

First and foremost, ayurvedic oils are understood according to their primary effects upon the body. In general these are four: snehana, vishyandana, mardava, and kledava.Snehana is the name for the wet and lustrous appearance which oils bestow upon the skin.  This effect is associated with the pichchila, or oleaginous, quality of oils, by which they tend to form a coat where administered. This helps to maintain the integrity of the body parts, improves the excellence of the tissues, and increases longevity.

Next, vishyandana, is the effect whereby substances impregnated with oil lose their solid nature and begin to liquefy. This effect caused by the dravaand sara qualities of oil, which are the liquid and flowing qualities respectively. These qualities moisten the body and dissolve substances, helping the oil and medication to spread quickly and thoroughly throughout the body. This helps mobilize the deranged dosha from its stagnate location to its place of elimination.

The next effect for which ayurvedic oils are used is called mardava. This refers to the softness which is imparted to the body by the administered oils. The oilsmriduguna, or softening quality, is responsible for this effect. The softness imparted to the body by oil helps to relax tense tissues and dilate constricted channels. This also helps ama, accumulated toxins, and the vitiated doshas to move more freely towards their eventual expulsion from the body.

Finally, is kledana, or the proclivity which ayurvedic oils have to moisturize the body.This is effected by the guru anddrava qualities, which are heavy and liquid respectively. These work both to liquefy tissues and to support the healthy accumulation of liquid tissues. It is this effect that works particularly for the mitigation of dry and sore joints both by the liquefaction of callous tissue and further lubrication.

In addition to these four basic effects, the actions of ayurvedic oils have two basic qualities which render them particularly useful for various treatments. The first of these is mandaguna, or its slow quality. This quality is unique to the oils as vehicles of ayurvedic treatment, and makes them very useful against chronic and highly stagnatedoshic imbalances. This refers to the ability of ayurvedic oils to work at a slow but steady pace for extended periods of time, which counteracts the virulence of the vitiated dosha and aids in a more thorough cleansing and treatment of the body.

Second is the quality of fineness or sukshmaguna which ayurvedic oils have. Administered oils have a tendency to penetrate deep into the tissues of the body even into the most minute channels and are thus more universally distributed throughout the body. This allows ayurvedic oils to address doshic imbalances at all levels of the body and further help expedite their expulsion from the body through the gastro-intestinal tract.

These four basic effects and several qualities are the most fundamental ways that oils are understood in ayurvedic medicine. However, this is just the beginning. In later articles we will see how ayurvedic oils are further understood according to their origin, therapeutic utility, manner of preparation, and particular application. Keep reading to discover more about the in depth science of snehana, the therapy of oils.

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