My tryst with wellness began when I took a sabbatical from my career as an investment banker in New York. During this period, I travelled to ten countries in about as many months, and soon, decided to explore more of my own - India.
I travelled to the interiors of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It was here that I rediscovered health and its alignment with nature. It’s amazing how mother nature has a remedy for every malady. There is a herb that is a cure for every disease plaguing humanity. There are more than 3000 herbs available in nature that we can use to cure different types of diseases.
So, recently, when a friend based in Thrissur, Kerala, suggested I go to Vaidyaratnam in Thrissur and visit the factory where they were manufacturing some classic Ayurvedic formulations, I leapt at the opportunity. I covered about nine cities in three days. I travelled from one end of Kerala to the other end. I went to a lot of suburban regions where they grow herbs. I met the farmers and the manufacturers who work in the field of Ayurveda. I was very impressed with how advanced our Ayurvedic knowledge is, and how carefully it has been preserved in places such as Kerala.
My key learnings from my experiences in Kerala - takeaways that are unique to that culture - are the ways in which they use oil to balance to Vata. Vata imbalances cause rough and dry skin, dry, frizzy and broken hair, dry heels, anxiety, stress and even depression.
So the first solution for dryness is oiling. In Ayurveda, we believe that the skin is the biggest and most porous organ of the body. The skin drinks up to 75% of the ingredients that you apply on it. For example, whenever you do an oil massage - be it coconut oil for your skin, face or scalp - the skin is constantly drinking the oil.
There are a series of oils that we use for the hair and scalp. These are called Kerathailam, meaning coconut oil-based oils. Coconut oil becomes the base for a variety of herbs that are cooked in it. These oils are used for cleaning the scalp, for opening up the pores and nourishing the hair roots, thus stimulating hair growth. These oils also keep the scalp free of diseases, and bacterial and fungal infections. We even use a well-known mixture of oils for the face, called Kumkumadi Thailam.
But the wonders of mother nature are not limited to Ayurveda. I feel that most of the haircare and skincare tips that we need are available right in our kitchens. For instance, a mixture of yogurt and lemon can help cleanse and nourish the scalp. This is a great hair mask to use for cleaning as well as conditioning. You don’t need to add anything else to this mixture. Plus, you can rinse your hair off equally easily. You can also cleanse your scalp with onion juice, as it helps in killing all kinds of bacterial infections and stimulates growth. A third recipe for wonderful hair is hibiscus powder in the form of a hair mask, which is also an excellent way of stimulating hair growth.
My favourite, however, is clarified butter, or ghee. You have chapped lips? Apply ghee. Dry skin on the elbows? Apply ghee. Cracked skin on the heels? Apply ghee.
The universe exists in perfect harmony and balance, which means there is a cure in every herb. For black there is white, for darkness there is light, and for a malady, there is a remedy. Our job is to find the right herb at the right time to balance the diseases.
Mother Nature has been my greatest inspiration. I say, embrace nature.