Ayurvedic Therapy benefits (Abhyanga benefits) are numerous according to the ancient Ayurvedic texts. The following 14 scientific studies though reveal several Abhyanga benefits in specific health conditions and general therapy benefits as well.
Ayurvedic Therapy Benefits
Abhyanga is used as a preoperative procedure of Panch Karma, the five detox therapies of Ayurveda. It is also used as part of a management protocol for different disease conditions. In these studies, pure sesame oil or herbal oils were used for the Abhyanga. Abhyanga benefits are clearly demonstrated.
A pilot study investigating the effects of Ayurvedic Abhyanga therapy on subjective stress experience showed high statistically and clinically significant reductions in subjective stress experience. A consequent analysis of physiologic data indicated likewise reductions in heart rate (HR). A blood pressure (BP) reduction was not recorded for the total sample but was found in the pre-hypertensive subgroup.
Findings indicate that Abhyanga therapy is promising in reducing subjective stress experience. It may also be beneficial in lowering HR in all and BP in pre-hypertensive subjects.
A study involving use of herbal oil for Abhyanga and anointing the bragma of children with cerebral palsy showed significant improvement in head holding and standing motor milestone. In the study, dhanwanthara thaila (oil) was utilized during shiropichu therapy, the placing of an oil soaked cotton pad on the head.
In this study it was found that after massaging the feet with herbal oil for 20 minutes daily for 14 days, there was a significant decrease in the symptom of burning sensation in patients having diabetic neuropathy. Although 80% of them had reoccurrence of burning on the 60th day of follow up, the severity was very less compared to the first day.
A significant reduction in the cracking of heals and roughness of the feet was found in subjects who received foot Abhyanga with sesame oil for one month. This clinical study showed highly significant results in group A (those who received foot therapy) compared to group C (the control group). The study focused on the management of cracks in the skin of feet during winter season. Significant improvement was seen in group A with reduced dryness of the feet, less dryness associated with itching and less dryness associated with changes in the skin texture of the feet (98% reduction). Group A also experienced less cracks, associated pain and less cracks of the feet in the middle foot and the forefoot. The length of the cracks was reduced by 90%. The number of cracks on the feet reduced by 75%.
A study published in an international journal of science and research estimated the effect of Abhyanga therapy on physiological and behavioral parameters among low birth weight babies. The study concluded that Ayurveda therapy among low birth weight babies may have a potential to contribute greater weight gain and better adaptation to external stimuli. It also assumed that it is safe and easy to administer which can enhance growth and development of the baby in the form of better weight gain, stable physiological parameters and improvement in behavior of the baby.
A study for ascertaining the effect of head therapy (shiro Abhyanga) with herbal oil on 10 normal healthy volunteers found that there was significant reduction in their systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, pulse rate and respiratory rate.
In this study it was found that the Ayurveda therapy of the knee joint with warm sesame oil in patients of osteoarthritis (sandhi Vata) of the knee showed significant reduction in pain score.
A study was undertaken to assess the efficacy of the combined therapies of Mahamasha taila (herbal oil), Abhyanga, shashtik shali pinda sweda (bolus therapy using rice and milk) and mustadi rajyapan basti (herbal decoction used in enema therapy) in the management of hemiplegia, paralysis of one vertical half of the body. This combined approach showed statistically significant improvement after treatment in all parameters except in the ability to hold and lift things. It was concluded that to improve the power of wrist and fingers a longer duration of treatment is needed.
A study published in International Journal of Current Advanced Research showed improvement in children with muscular dystrophy. The children received Sarvanga Abhyanga (full body Abhyanga) with sesame oil and sarvanga pind swedan (bolus therapy) for six months along with an oral herbal formula. In addition, an herbal decoction enema was administered after the full body therapy and bolus therapy each time for six months. Observation showed that the total CPK level (Creatine Phosphokinase, a marker of muscle function) had started decreasing after only one month of treatment. Clinical improvement of symptoms was observed in terms of decreased rigidity of calf muscles, ability to walk and climb and performing daily routine improved to some extent.
In addition to these studies which originated in India, there have been many studies from around the world on Ayurveda therapy in general, which are worth mentioning. These studies only support the benefits of Abhyanga as mentioned in the Ayurvedic texts.
In this study eighty-four depressed pregnant women were recruited during the second trimester of pregnancy and randomly assigned to a Ayurveda therapy group, a progressive muscle relaxation group or a control group that received standard prenatal care alone. These groups were compared to each other and to a non-depressed group at the end of pregnancy.
The Ayurveda therapy group participants received two 20 minute therapy sessions by their significant others each week for 16 weeks of pregnancy, starting during the second trimester. The relaxation group provided themselves with progressive muscle relaxation sessions on the same time schedule. Immediately after the Ayurveda therapy sessions on the first and last days of the 16-week period the women reported lower levels of anxiety and depressed mood and less leg and back pain. By the end of the study the Ayurveda therapy group had higher dopamine and serotonin levels and lower levels of cortisol and norepinephrine. These changes may have contributed to the reduced fetal activity and the better neonatal outcome for the Ayurveda Therapy group (i.e. lesser incidence of prematurity and low birth weight), as well as their better performance on the Brazelton Neonatal Behavior Assessment. The data suggests that depressed pregnant women and their offspring can benefit from Ayurveda therapy.
In another study on migraine patients, it was found that compared to control participants, Ayurveda therapy participants exhibited greater improvements in migraine frequency and sleep quality during the intervention weeks and the three follow-up weeks. The findings provided preliminary support for the utility of Ayurveda therapy as a non-pharmacologic treatment for individuals suffering from migraines.
A study showed that Ayurveda therapy decreases the severity of subjective sleep disturbance related to menopause. First, there was a decrease in insomnia and anxiety-depressive symptoms; the treatment also suppressed other menopausal symptoms. Second, PSG findings revealed a decrease in REM latency and increased stages three and four. Based on the results it was suggested that Ayurveda therapy is beneficial for improving subjective sleep quality in postmenopausal women, as well as for alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety.
A study published in Science Translational Medicine states that this therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage when administered to skeletal muscles that have been acutely damaged through exercise. The therapy seemed to work through reducing inflammation and promoting mitochondrial biogenesis.
A comparison of the effects of two types of therapy and the usual care of chronic low back pain showed that therapy may be effective for treatment of chronic back pain, with benefits lasting at least 6 months. No clinically meaningful difference between relaxation and structural therapy was observed in terms of relieving disability or symptoms.