For 5000 years Ayurveda has produced beauties. What can it do for you and your skin? Shreelata Suresh provides this very useful insight.
Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old science of healing from India, advocates the use of natural skin care products that feature potent herbs, fruits and spices to keep your skin and hair looking healthy and radiant in every season and at every age
Want healthy beautiful skin? Think farmers' markets brimming with Nature's bountiful produce, not sterile labs and "dead" chemicals with polysyllabic names.
"According to the ayurvedic texts, fresh vegetables and fruits, grains, nuts, honey, milk, coconut milk and cream are excellent sources of nutrients for your skin and hair," says renowned ayurvedic dermatologist Rama Kant Mishra.
"Extracts, powders and pastes made from these natural materials, topically applied, deliver their healing benefits from the outside to all the layers of the skin.
"Add therapeutic herbs, fragrant flowers and skin-friendly spices such as saffron and turmeric, and you have all the ingredients you need for healthy glowing skin and strong lustrous hair."
Phytochemicals - chemicals occurring naturally in plants - have been shown to have potent antioxidant power.
Research has also shown that your skin can benefit from topically applied antioxidants just as it does from the antioxidants in the foods you eat.
Carrot oil, for example, which is included in many natural sun protection formulations, contains carotenoids that enhance your skin's ability to resist damage caused by the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.
Ayurvedic herbs such as Gotu Kola have been shown in research studies to support collagen synthesis and heal skin conditions such as varicose veins when taken internally and applied topically.
"Herbs work their magic both from the inside out and the outside in," says Mishra.
"It is a truly holistic approach to beautiful skin and hair, with beautiful appearance a result of perfect health, not artifices that are temporary and may actually do more harm than good in the long term."
How herbs work from the inside out
According to ayurveda, perfect skin and healthy hair are the result of good digestion that leads to proper absorption of nutrients by the body and efficient elimination of wastes.
"Both absorption of nutrients and elimination of toxins are equally important," says Mishra.
"Your skin needs lots of nourishment on an ongoing basis.
"Good digestion creates good rasa, the nutrient fluid that is the basis of healthy body tissue. Rasa is responsible for skin moisture level and plumpness.
"Good digestion also creates good rakta dhatu, pure blood. Rakta governs skin clarity, color and glow.
"So when the nutrients from the foods you eat are properly absorbed by the body, your skin shows the results in glowing healthy color, vibrant good health and clear tone."
Efficient elimination of wastes is equally crucial for skin and hair health.
When toxins build up in the body, your skin and hair look dull, lifeless and unhealthy.
"Skin eruptions and lack of clarity often stem from toxin build-up either inside the body or on the skin," says Mishra.
Classical ayurvedic herbs and fruits such as Amla and Triphala are skin rasayanas -herbs that have an overall positive effect on skin and hair health and appearance.
"Amla or Amalaki (Indian Gooseberry) is very nourishing for the skin and hair," says Mishra.
"It has powerful antioxidant properties, enhances the digestion, and supports all the layers of the skin."
Triphala is a traditional internal cleanser that helps cleanse the physiology of toxins. That's a boon especially for persons with oily skin, because oily skin needs stringent cleansing to stay clear and healthy.
Tulsi (Holy Basil) is another well-known ayurvedic skin rasayana.
"Tulsi's special quality is that it helps boost the body's ability to withstand the effects of environmental pollution," says Mishra.
"When buying any herbs, make sure you invest in quality herbs that have been processed carefully and are potent and pure."
These herbal rasayanas, when made correctly from whole, mature herbs without using chemical solvents or preservatives, act just like whole foods in delivering healing benefits to your skin and hair, according to Mishra.
"There is no doubt that you have to maintain a proper daily routine of caring for your skin and hair," says Mishra.
"When you combine a regular regimen of cleansing and nourishing externally using natural, botanicals-rich topical products with whole herbs that offer support from within, your skin and hair will look their very best, no matter what your age."
Note: This material is educational, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical concern, please consult your physician. Copyright AyurBalance, Inc. 2003
About the Author:
Ayurveda covers a lot more than just skin and hair care, but this articles gives a good introduction to a regimen that has stood the test of time longer than just about any other.
Well worth a look.