Shirodhara is a traditional and prevalent procedure in ayurvedic therapeutics. Shirodhara is the process of dripping medicated oil on the center of the forehead of the patient in a steady flow. The patient will be in a lying down position in supine position on a comfortable bed. The term Shirodhara is comprised of two Sanskrit words- “shira” = head and “dhara” = a steady flow.
The oil normally used is sesame oil. But other liquids like medicated buttermilk, medicated milk, water and coconut water are also used for Shirodhara based on the requirement of the patient. Shirodhara is applied at the center of the forehead, which is known as Agnya Chakra in the yoga tradition. Usually called as the spot of the third eye, is positionally linked to the pineal gland. In Yoga meditating on agnya chakra caused mental and physical harmony. As the oil drips on the agnya chakra, it is hypothesized that it leads to general relaxing and calming effects.
Therapeutic indications of Shirodhara includes diseases such as insomnia (sleeplessness), Hypertension, neurological disorders Psychological disorders and eye diseases. For healthy individuals Shirodhara induces a feeling of wellness, clarity of mind and reduction in stress levels.
Japanese scientists have studied the psychoneuroimmunologic changes achieved by Shirodhara, in a randomized, controlled protocol. The participants who received Shirodhara treatment exhibited lower levels of state anxiety and improved levels of altered states of consciousness compared to controls (Uebaba K et.al). The same group also hypothesized that the physiologic effect of sesame oil dripped on the forehead initiated a skin based autonomic reflex through sensors of heat and pressure in the skin or hair follicles through the trigeminal cranial nerve. In a study conducted by NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences), Bangalore, India it was observed that in patients of progressive degenerative cerebellar ataxias there was improvement of balance after 14 days of Shirodhara as a part of Ayurveda therapy.(S.J.Sriranjini et.al).
In a study conducted by ICMR Advanced Centre of Reverse Pharmacology in Traditional Medicine, Mumbai, India in healthy volunteers, it was observed that After Shirodhara, there was considerable reduction in the respiratory rate ,blood pressure and pulse rate . Electro Cardio Gram (ECG) showed reduction in heart rate and there were no variations in the atrial or ventricular complexes. The Electro Encephalo Gram (EEG), showing nerve functions showed variations comparable to those observed after deep meditation and alert relaxation. (Kalpana D Dhuri et.al).
The clinical benefits shown by Shirodhara in conditions like anxiety neurosis, hypertension, and stress aggravation due to chronic degenerative diseases are corrected with the help of these adaptive physiological effects.
In conditions such as Insomnia, studies using milk and butter milk have also shown significant changes. Shirodhara has also shown its effects in improving reaction time in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.