A while back, we posted a short blog article about micro-encapsulation technology that embeds tiny capsules into clothing fabrics. When these tiny micro-capsules come into contact with body heat and wear, they slowly release their chemical payloads which can contain fragrances or skincare lotions or other chemicals which might have some topical beauty or medicinal value to the skin that comes into contact with the micro-encapsulated fabric.
We thought this was a new concept but alert reader Samantha W recently emailed that using fabrics and garments to deliver health solutions is actually a very old concept called Ayur vastra. Ayurvastra is a branch of Ayurveda, the ancient 5,000 year old Indian system of Vedic healthcare. Loosely translated, “ayur” is Sanskrit for health, “veda” means wisdom, and “vastra” is cloth or clothing. Ayur vastra clothing is made from organic cotton fabric that has been permeated with special herbs and oils that promote health and cure special diseases depending upon the blends of embedded herbs and oils.
Ayurvastra cloth is used by Ayurveda health clinics in the treatment of a broad range of diseases such as diabetes, skin infections, eczema, psoriasis, hypertension and high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, rheumatism, and even some forms of cancer. Ayurvastra clothing is believed to help restore balance within the body’s systems and strengthen the immune system. Ayur vastra cloth is completely free of synthetic chemicals and toxic irritants and is totally organic, sustainable and biodegradable.
Every step in the preparation of Ayurvastra cloth and clothing is carefully and precisely controlled. Ayurvastra, as a branch of ayurveda, begins with 100% organic cotton that has been hand loomed – no machine processing, no chemical additives to prepare the cotton fibers for spinning and weaving, no chemical finishes. The organic cotton yarn or fabric is then dyed in a carefully controlled mixture of herbal dyes depending upon the disease or ailment being treated. For diabetes, mimosa pudica (touch-me-not), cumon / cumin seeds, champa flower and shoe flower (hudahal) are combined in the herbal dye. The main herbs used in the herbal dye for arthritis are curry leaves and apocynceae. For skin diseases, the herbs used are turmeric, neem and sandalwood. Dyes for Ayurvastra cloth typically contain between 40 and 60 specifically blended and carefully prepared medicinal herbs, plants, flowers, roots and barks. The temperatures of the dyes, the duration and number of the dye soaks, the blend of herbs, and even the equipment used are carefully controlled.
In speaking about the environmentally friendly processes for
making Ayurvastra cloth and clothing, K. Rajan, chief technician at the
Handloom Weavers Development Society in India, states "The entire
process is organic. The cloth is bleached with cow's urine, which has high
medicinal value. The dyeing gum too is herbal. It does not pollute like
synthetic dye. And the waste is used as bio manure and to generate bio
gas." The mention of using cow's urine to bleach Ayurvastra cloth might have caught the attention of some Westerners. Many Ayurvedic doctors consider cow's urine to be highly benefical in balancing an individual's "doshas" or basic constituents of an individual's physiology and psychology, strengthening the immune systems and as an elixir in giving life. For those of you who would rush out to visit Farmer John's (if you can find him - he has been largely replaced by Corporate Farm) and follow Ol' Bessy with a bucket, purist maintain that it must be an Indian Brahma Cow as these are reputed to be the original cow and all other breeds are derivatives and off-breeds. For a more thorough explanation, check out the Hara Krishna Rural Life web site.
Chaitanya Arora of Penchant Traders, an Indian company promoting and exporting Ayurvastra cloth and clothing, explains that “usage of the cloth is based on the principle of touch. By coming in contact with Ayurvastra, the body loses toxins and its metabolism is enhanced.” The most effective time to wear Ayurvastra clothing is when the body is most at rest such as during sleep or meditating because this is when the body is naturally healing and reestablishing balance. This is why ayur vastra cloth is often used for sleepwear, bed sheets, towels, meditation clothes and coir mats. For coir mats, the fibers are soaked in Ayurvastra dyes and then woven into coir mats. Ayur vastra cloth is also being used for sarees or saris, the traditional flowing dress of Indian women, and in purdahs or pardaas, the conservative Islamic and Hindu practice of covering women so that they can not be viewed by men that are not family members. There is a budding interest among ladies in the Middle East, particularly in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, for all-covering Ayurvastra dress.
The spread of Ayurvastra and Ayurveda into other cultures and regions of the world express the growing interest in more traditional and natural healthcare systems that are based upon restoring balance and health through natural methods rather than through Western medicines.
The Handloom Weavers' Development Society in India is
exporting Ayurvastra cloth and clothing into the US, Italy, Germany, UK,
Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. National government ministries and state
governments within India see Ayurvastra as a way to revitalize and increase the market for their
handloom industries and to create a niche for their eco-friendly handloom
fabrics. Because of worldwide interest in Ayur vastra, companies such as Ayurvastraonline are starting to offer products over the Internet. Many thanks to Rachana and her comment below for this update.
So, is Ayurvastra for real? Can it really cure diabetes, skin infections, eczema, psoriasis, hypertension and high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, rheumatism, and even some forms of cancer? The Hindu, an Indian newpaper billed as being the USAToday of India, reported that the state government of Kerala in southern India is conducting clinical tests on the efficacy of Ayurvastra treatments. Kerala has a worldwide reputation as being a center for Ayurveda and Ayurvedic treatment.
The State of Kerala Coir Department reported on a six-month clinical trial initiated by the Ministry of Health at the Government Ayurveda College in Thiruvananthapuram India on patients suffering from rheumatism, allergy, hypertension, diabetes, psoriasis and other skin ailments. For the study, all clothes, bed linens and mattresses for the resident subjects were dyed in Ayurvastra herbs and the walls, floors and ceilings in the patient/subjects’ rooms were lined with Ayurvastra coir mats so that the patient were surrounded by Ayurvastra medicated materials. According to Dr. Vishwanathan, the former Dean of the Drug Research Department at Ayurveda College, "We treated around 40 people. And the response was remarkably good, especially in cases of arthritis and skin ailments."
The improvements for patients suffering from rheumatism and arthritis are especially interesting because rheumatism and arthritis are not skin disorders and indicate that the treatments might have health benefits that extend beyond topical skin problems.
Based upon the successful results of this clinical trial, the Kerala State Government has initiated a more in depth and expanded study into the possible effectiveness of ayur vastra in other diseases including some cancers.
So, if it works, how does it work? Conventional Western medicine and traditional Eastern medicine recognize the skin as being the body’s largest organ. The skin can act as a barrier but also as a conduit for outside substances to enter the body. Many environmental toxins and chemicals in conventional clothing are assimilated into the body through the skin. Anything which can improve the skin’s natural ability to block and resist harmful chemicals and toxins from entering the body will be beneficial to health.
Ayurveda identifies seven unique layers comprising the skin. Each layer has a distinct function and supports the layers about it. Starting at the outermost layer, the seven layers defined by Ayurveda are: Avabhasini, Lohita, Shweta, Tamra, Vedini, Rohini and Mamsadhara. The fourth layer, Tamra, supports the immune system and performs the function of acting as a barrier. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, “Skin infections reflect an imbalance in this layer.” If Ayur vastra cloth and clothing can improve the skin’s ability to act as a barrier to external and environmental toxins, the wearer’s health might be improved. Additional independent research is needed to test this assumption.
The concept of dyes that are natural and improve the wearer’s health is fascinating, but you might want to wait for more research to determine the effectiveness of Ayurvastra before you rush to your local organic clothing store or Google the Web looking for suppliers.
Dress Healthy and Enjoy.
Where purely beautiful clothing is only natural