Janet Browning, an American, suffered from chronic insomnia. She had heard that Ayurveda, the world’s oldest system of medicine, offered therapies based on nature for almost all health problems. Janet was persuaded by a friend to come to Kerala, where Ayurveda has been a way of life for almost 5000 years, for a course of treatment known as Dhara. Dhara is an amazingly relaxing therapy which gently releases stress and tension from the body. It basically involves the application of a continuous stream of mildly warm medicated liquids to the body parts. The liquids used depend upon the type of treatment recommended, which in turn is decided upon by the Ayurvedic physician after taking a detailed case history of the patient, and arriving at a diagnosis. Medicated oils have always played an important role in Ayurvedic treatment, and Dhara uses such oils in addition to milk, buttermilk and other herbal decoctions. There are different types of Dhara and the name of the Dhara depends on the liquid used, and the parts of the body to which it is applied.
Types of Dhara
Janet was advised to go in for a course of Shirodhara . ‘Shiro’ means head and ‘dhara’ means to flow. Shirodhara involves gently pouring liquids over the forehead, or to be more specific, on the ‘third eye’ which is believed to to located between the eyebrows and is said to be the seat of human consciousness. In this unique form of ancient therapy the oil is poured from a specific height and for a specific period continuously onto the forehead, and it is allowed to run through the scalp and into the hair with a gentle rhythm. Besides oil, the liquids used in shirodhara can include milk, buttermilk, coconut water, or even plain water according to the various treatments, with different benefits. This treatment is very effective in cases of insomnia, mental disorders, memory loss and certain skin diseases. It has the effect of calming the mind and soothing the nervous system.
Another type of Dhara is Dhanyamla Dhara in which cereals and herbs are tied into a bundle and boiled in a large pot of water. The extract is poured all over the body from a special vessel. It is a remedy for spinal disorders, rheumatism, arthritis, asthma, neurological disorders and spondylosis. Thakra Dara is another form of Dhara. It is done after a head massage. Medicated buttermilk is poured from a hanging vessel, in an uninterrupted flow to the forehead and scalp. Thakra Dhara is very good in treating scalp problems like dandruff, psoriasis, hypertension, diabetes, hair loss and other skin complaints.
Sarvanga Kashaya Dhara is a whole body treatment. 6 to 7 litres of warm herbal oil are poured in a rhythmic steady stream from mud or bronze pitchers to every region of the body. Sarvanga Dhara is very effective in degenerative diseases and also for menstrual and skin problems, including sunburn. Another good therapy for insomnia, mental tension and headaches is Dashamoola Ksheera Dhara in which medicated milk poured all over the body in a rhythmic manner. But whatever the type of Dhara is prescribed, it is important that you get it done under the supervision of an expert Ayurvedic practitioner – as Janet did.
It is very important that this treatment is conducted by using preparations exactly as per the Ayurvedic prescriptions for getting excellent results.