Ayurvedic light on Aromatherapy


Ayurveda, becoming recognized in the west for its timeless remedies and treatments, is more than a mere healing system. It is a science and art of appropriate living which helps one to achieve longevity. Being that Ayurveda is the ‘Science of life’ its scriptures include everything from diet and lifestyle, including excersize and rejuvenation techniques, to meditation and medication.

The commonly known objects of perception are referred to in Ayurveda as the five ‘tanmatras’; Shabda (sound/hearing), Sparsha (touch), Rupa (form/sight), Rasa (taste), Gandha (odor/smell). These form the basis of many Ayurvedic therapies as they are the subtlest energy of the five elements, through which the gross elements (Ether, Air, Fire, Water, Earth) are formed.  These are the sensory pathways to our inner pharmacy.

The five elements, referred to as the ‘Mahabhutas’, further structure into the three Doshas; vata (Ether/Air), pitta (Fire/Water) and kapha (Earth/Water). the doshas are the psycho-physiological functional principles of the body, the unique ratio of which determines an individual’s constitution at the time of conception. When functioning normally and are present in normal quantities, the doshas maintain all healthy bodily processes. When out of balance they create disease.

As the topic here is Aromatherapy,  the focus will be on Gandha or smell. An aroma or odor is the tanmatra of the Earth element. Considering that most aromatic substances are volatile, it is the flow of prana that carries the subtle qualities of an aroma through the nervous system, pacifying the doshas according to its qualities. Ayurveda suggests the use of various essential oils or scents according to their actions upon the doshas.

As a result of smell having a deep connection with the brain and consciousness; pleasant smells are pleasing, while irritant smells irritate the mind and offensive smells can even induce nausea; moods and emotions can be pacified by the wise use of aromas. Ayurveda recognizes every substance in the universe as a medicine (of course this philosophy was created before trans fats and msg!!) when consumed in the proper quantity, at the right time, for the right person; therefor every aromatic substance has a definite therapeutic value, due to its attributes and actions on the doshas. I have had transformative experiences with aromatherapy pacifying my emotions, many times!

Being that essential oils are the most common means of using aromatherapy and can be put directly onto the skin (or diluted first); I will adress below the basic scents that balance each dosha and list the 10 most commonly used oils in Ayurveda for each. Sweet smells pacify pitta and vata but will aggravate kapha, Sour and salty smells pacify vata, but can increase pitta and kapha. Pungent smell pacifies kapha, but it aggravates both pitta and vata. Finally bitter or astringent smells are pacifying to pitta and kapha, but they can increase vata dosha.

vata: warming, sweet and grounding or heavy essential oils are best. Amber, cinnamon, frankinsence, jatamamsi (spikenard), lavender, lemongrass, lemon, nutmeg, tangerine, ylang ylang.   Carrier oils: sesame, avocado and castor.

pitta: cooling, calming, sweet essential oils are best. Chamomile, coriander, fennel, jasmine, lavender, rose, sandalwood, vanilla, vetiver. Carrier oils: sunflower, coconut and olive.

kapha: Light, stimulating and warming essential oils are best. Bergamont, cardamom, cedarwood, cinnamon, eucalyptus, geranium, ginger, rosemary, sage, tea tree. Carrier oils: mustard seed, corn, grapeseed and almond.

*Bonus tip! The following essential oils work wonders for a natural insect repellant! Lemongrass, Eucalyptus, Geranium and Citronella.

*Note: 100% pure essential oils are powerful substances; use sparingly and with caution. Always dilute oils before applying them to your skin. If you are pregnant, please consult your physician before using any essential oils.
*Disclaimer: This article was written for educational purposes only and is based on the tradition of Ayurveda. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, prescribe or heal any health condition or to replace standard medical treatment or advice.
To learn more about Ayurveda and your unique constitution, don’t hesitate to contact me for any questions or concerns, an Ayurveda consultation or to register for my upcoming educational and rejuvenating Ayurveda and Yoga retreat in Guatemala.