Scientific Study of Shirodhara – The Healing Ayurvedic Massage

Shirodhara is one of the oil treatments originating from Kerala Panchakarma. It has long been conducted to combat insomnia, headache, anxiety neurosis, depression, schizophrenia, motor-neuron disease, hypertension, and several kinds of psychosis. In Sanskrit, shiro means head and dhara means dripping; shirodhara is the process of dripping some medium on the forehead for tens of minutes. There are several kinds of dhara techniques, depending on the medium for dripping. For example, takradhara uses takra that is prepared with the curd of cow’s milk. Kshiradhara uses cow’s milk mixed with some medicinal herbs such as Sidacordifolia or Asparagus rasemosus. Tailadhara uses medicated oil mixed with cow’s milk, water, herbs, and sesame oil.

The Shirodhara Ayurvedic Treatment is one of the characteristic healing techniques of Ayurveda, however, few reports on the physio-psychological changes during shirodhara have been reported, also, the psychological effects of shirodhara have not yet been referred to as altered states of consciousness. One of the critical problems in the study of physiotherapy of Asian medicine is not being able to use the same reproducible stimulation, especially in Ayurvedic oil treatments. To address this problem, we developed a healing robot which conducts shirodhara in a computerized reproducible manner.

We studied the physio-psychological changes during tailadhara conducted by the healing robot and estimated the psychological experiences during tailadhara by psychometricstudies of anxiety and altered states of consciousness (ASC). In order to simplify the study, at first we used plain sesame oil as the dripping medium. Usually in Oriental medicine, the effects on practioners as well as clients are included as important factors for the treatments. Therefore, we have also checked the physiological changes of the practitioners themselves in this study.

Study Assessments

We undertook a number of different studies to assess the impact of shirodhara on the client’s state of well being and to assess factors in the therapy that altered the client’s state.