Herb Thursdays at Krya – the ayurvedic properties & benefits of Vacha (Acorus calamus / Vasambu)

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One of our employees at Krya has a 3 year old daughter. One day when the child was playing outside her home, she wandered off from her street and got lost in the neighbourhood. It took the parents atleast 2 – 3 hours to find the child, and finally someone who knew and identified the child dropped her back home.

The experience severely frightened the child. Over the next two weeks she became very clingy and afraid, lost her appetite, and kept waking up at night telling her mother that she could see a ghost outside her window. The worried parents took her to the hospital and atleast 3 doctors. All of them examined the child and pronounced her fit as a fiddle. They asked the parents to tempt the child to eat by giving her favourite junk food and closed the case.

2 weeks later, my employee broke down at Krya and narrated the whole experience to us. By this time, the child had become weak and listless and stopped talking to anyone around her. She appeared semi conscious most of the time. And when food was kept around her or force fed, she would vomit it out. Her weight dropped from 16 Kg to 8 Kg in this 2 week period.

 

The effect of fear and mental stress in Children as per Ayurveda:

Fear and mental stress of children is something that Ayurveda is very detailed about and warns parents to guard against. Ayurveda is particularly cautious in protecting and caring for young children and infants (upto the age of seven). Every Acharya in their treatise warns parents to ensure that children are not exposed to strangers, scary toys, inclement and scary weather (howling wind, lightning and thunder storms), are not tossed up in the air or exposed to sudden movements.

1. fear in infants

Parents are also asked to take extreme care when exposing children to stories, books, plays or TV shows. Great care is also to be taken to ensure children are not taken around at night time, in very high buildings, in lonely roads, etc where they can be frightened.

2. exercise extreme caution

The emphasis on warmth and safety is so high that nursery design and window direction is a very detailed subject. In addition, children’s rooms are always mopped with special Rakshoghna herbs.

When children are exposed to sudden shocks, their normal excretory functions can suddenly stop leading to urine retention which can become painful. They can go into a state of listlessness or semi consciousness as we saw in our employee’s child, and refuse to eat food. The body tends to drop weight very quickly and become extremely weak as well.

 

Rakshoghna herbs in Ayurveda:

Rakhshas means demons. In naming certain herbs as Rakshoghna, we can see many layers in the meaning: to protect, to keep “Rakhsasa” or scary things away or drive fear away, and to also drive away invisible objects or microbes. Hence Rakshoghna herbs are used extensively by Ayurveda around children. These herbs are used to swab the floors or nurseries, wash children’s bed linen, and are strewn around in herb pouches so that their fragrance permeates the air.

3. Neem a rakshoghna herb

Vacha, which we are writing about today, in Krya’s Herb Thursday series is a famous Rakshoghna herb.

How Vacha helped the young child:

For our employee’s child, 2 – 3 applications of Vacha on her stomach, an amulet of Vacha on her wrist, and Vacha strewn around her pillow, got her smiling and accepting small amounts of food. This combined with special prayers in the nearby temple and mosque, with copious applications of warm sambrani incense around the home got her laughing and talking. A mere one week later, little S strolled in to office to meet me, back to her chipper and naughty self.

 

Vacha (Vasambu) with the Latin name Acorus calamus is one of the most important herbs we use at Krya. Vacha is a potent growth inhibitor of gram negative bacteria. It is an intestinal relaxant, is a hypotensive herb (relaxes blood pressure), is antispasmodic in action on seized muscles and organs. The origin of Vacha is attributed to Europe. However, it has been known since ancient times in India and has been referred to right from the time of Charaka and is mentioned in all the Nighantus (Ayurvedic herb encyclopaedias).

4. vacha

Vacha in Classical Ayurveda:

Classical texts describe Vacha as having “lekhaniya” (scraping action, therefore useful in bringing down excess fat), Sanjnasthapana (group of herbs that help restore consciousness), and Sheeta prashamana (group of herbs that give warmth to the body and relieve the sense of coldness).

 

Vacha has Panchana (digestion promoting and toxin expelling) action, promotes digestive strength, and is Medhya in its action (improves brain power), Vak prada (improves voice). It is also a Jantuhara (anti microbial) herb, is Shoolahara (relieves abdominal colic), and Adhamanahara (relieves bloating and gas in the abdomen) and is useful in psychological imbalances and disorders.

5. colic

Because Vacha has Katu (pungent) and tikta (bitter) rasa with Ushna veerya (hot action), it helps balance both Kapha and Vata dosha.

 

Common uses for Vacha:

Vacha is a famous anti microbial and insect repellent herb. One of the best uses for Vacha is to use it in grains to repel insects. It is also a very good herb to be used to repel crawling insects like cockroaches and mosquitoes and head lice.

6. vacha for lice

Because of its anti spasmodic property, colic relieving, warmth giving and gas reducing properties, Vacha is very useful in reliving griping pains and colic. It can also be used to relieve menstrual cramps. It should not be used when abdominal pain is due to diarrhoea as this is a Pitta condition for which Vacha which is high in heat is unsuitable.

 

Vacha is a very important part of the Medhya drugs prescribed in Ayurveda to be administered orally to infants. It is commonly given along with honey or breast milk along with other Medhya herbs like Swarna bhasma (gold bhasma), Brahmi, etc and is administered in small drops on the tongue of the baby from the 7th or 11th day of the baby’s birth. The texts say that children given this mixture of herbs have very high intelligence and intuitive and grasping capacity. The exact dosage is decided by the Vaidya after seeing the baby’s weight.

7. vacha for medhya

Vacha is also effectively used in Ayurvedic medicines to improve memory power, grasping power and in neuro-degenerative disorders. So it has application in epilepsy, autism, speech disorders and neuro degenerative disorders we see in geriatric conditions as well.

Vacha is also a very important herb to relieve fear and provide warmth to the body. It is therefore used as an amulet around an infant’s wrist so its fragrance can stimulate the brain growth and calm the infant. We have seen its effect in many cases of fear induced fever and chills. Vacha is able to quickly calm the brain, and relieve fear within minutes of external application, bringing balance.

 

 

Caution to be followed when using Vacha:

Vacha is a highly effective and potent herb, even when used externally. Before using it on children or yourself, kindly check with an experienced herbalist or a Vaidya for doses.

If you use too much Vacha it can severely increase warmth in the body and stimulate the intestinal system enough to give diarrhoea. Please use extremely carefully and after finding out the right dosage.

Vacha should not be used internally in certain conditions like pregnancy, high fever due to high pitta, etc.

 

Vacha at Krya:

At Krya, we use Vacha across most of our formulations. Our wash off products for the skin (like our face and body washes and our masks) are made from edible grains and lentils. Our biggest challenge is insect infestation because many of our skin care products are edible. So we use Vacha across the board for its insecticidal and anti microbial properties. (This is also why we insist that our products be stored in clean dry conditions and used quickly. Bugs love our goodies!)

8.vacha in krya skin care

Vacha is also used prominently in the Krya Anti lice range of products. Vacha goes into the Anti lice hairwash, Anti lice hair mask and the Anti lice hair oil. Consumers love how effective all these 3 products are, and the Krya Anti lice range is recommended across the board by parents who are looking for a safe, non-toxic , yet effective anti lice solution for their children.

 

Vacha also goes into the Krya ubtans for Men, Women , children, baby girls and baby boys. Warmth is required to balance the body post abhyanga, so Vacha is used in the Post oiling ubtans to help relieve the body of tiredness, balance all 3 doshas and retain warmth. The use of Vacha also relaxes the brain and calms it down leading to a feeling of balance and harmony.

9.vacha in ubtan

 

To sum up:

So there you have it: that’s a brief glimpse into the properties of Acorus calamus / Vacha which goes into Krya’s skin care and Anti Lice products. As we have said before, Ayurvedic herbs are potent and strong, and must always be tailor made using the right anupana to suit your constitution.

Do not attempt to self medicate. This is even more true of Vacha, so I repeat my warning once again: DO NOT SELF MEDICATE EITHER INTERNALLY OR EXTERNALLY WITH VACHA.

 

If you feel internal consumption of Vacha could help you or your child, please meet an Ayurvedic Vaidya who can diagnose your/ your child’s condition and prescribe Vacha in the right dose and right format for you.

 

We do herb related posts at Krya to give you a glimpse into just how potent, powerful and good for us the plants used in Ayurveda are. We hope you found this post inspiring and useful. Do leave your thoughts and comments on this post below. If you would like us to write about a specific herb next Thursday, do leave that in your comments as well.

 

 

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Ayurvedic herbs: Properties of Durva (Cynodon dactylon)

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It is festival season in India, and many of us have been celebrating Vinayaka / Ganesh Chaturti . This is a festival dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the elephant headed remover of obstacles, who ushers good beginnings and prosperity. One of the herbs used to worship Lord Ganesha (apart from Modaks!) is Durva Grass. So today’s blog post will talk about this sacred herb and how we use it in Krya for our skin care oils.
1. divine durva

The legend behind the use of Durva for Lord Ganesha:

The word Durva can be broken into 2 parts – Duhu + avam and the words can be translated to mean “ that which brings that which is far away, closer”.

Durva grass (arugampul) is probably familiar to those who worship Lord Ganesha. This sacred grass is used in the worship of many deities but is especially used when praying to Lord Ganesha.

Legend has it that the demon Analasura caused havoc in the 3 worlds and emitted fire from his eyes. The Gods prayed to Lord Ganesha and asked him to save them from Analasura. In the battlefield, Analasura attacked Lord Ganesha with fireballs. Lord Ganesha assumed his vishwaroopam and ate the demon in a single swallow.

Having eaten Analasura, Lord Ganesha’s body started to increase in heat and he became very uncomfortable. First the moon came to help Lord Ganesha and stood on his head. This was not enough to quench the heat emitted by Analasura. Then Lord Vishnu gave Lord Ganesha his sacred lotus to hold. Even this was not enough. Then Lord Shiva lent Lord Ganesha his snake and tied it around his belly to help release the excess heat. Even this did not help.

2.restless ganesha

 

Finally a few Maha Rishis came to Lord Ganesha’s rescue with 21 sets of Durva Grass and placed it together on his head. The Durva Grass was able to do what the Moon, Vishnu’s sacred Lotus and Shiva’s sacred Cobra were not able to achieve together – it brought down the excess heat generated by the demon Analasura from Lord Ganesha’s body.

3.relaxed ganesha


The medicinal properties of Durva Grass:

Mythologically and in Ayurveda and Siddha lore, the Durva grass is revered for its spiritual and medicinal properties.

Charaka refers to Durva grass as one of the 10 great complexion promoters. Ayurvedic texts refer to Durva grass as “Sahasra virya” denoting its multi fold strengths and versatility in use. It is considered complexion enhancing, astringent, moisturizing, demulcent and cooling for the skin. Durva is also considered very good for the eyes and is therefore regarded as a good ophthalmic drug.

4.durva grass

 

The Ayurvedic texts recommend use of the Durva in many skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema and even pitta induced skin conditions like prickly heat, etc as a direct paste for skin.

Because of this pitta reducing, wound healing and skin restoring property, Durva is the key ingredient in many classical Ayurvedic skin preparations like Durvadi Tailam which is used for external application in severe skin diseases and large wounds.

Durva at Krya:

We use Durva in our skin oils which are meant for dry, severely dry , and skin with disorders like eczema, psoriasis, etc.

For example, The Durva grass is a key herb in the Krya Moisture Plus skin Oil. As you are aware, we do not make post bath moisture products at Krya, as we follow the traditional medicine led philosophy of moisturizing the skin before a bath. This is because of 2 deep reasons: Traditional medicine generally considered that skin functions best when it is left to breathe without anything blocking the pores. So moisturisation is usually done as a pre-bath activity.

The moisturisation process is usually done with oil, again for a few reasons: oil has the texture that allows a variety of massage movements which in the process helps eliminate toxins and improves micro circulation. Also depending upon the oil, there is also the possibility of balancing the doshas which leads to better health.

Durva in Krya Moisture Plus Skin Oil:

The Krya Moisture plus skin oil has been formulated for vata prakriti skin. This skin tends to be generally normal to dry and can feel tight, dry and uncomfortable in cold and low humid weather. The oil uses a combination of rasayana, complexion enhancing and demulcent herbs. Durva and Dadima (the pomegranate fruit) are the lead ingredients in this oil and they are supported by other skin regenerative and repair herbs like Kushta, Ashwagandha and Brahmi.
5.moisture plus skin oil

The Krya Moisture plus oil is a very skin nourishing and moisturizing oil. Our consumers also use this oil as a night cream and a regenerative face serum before they go to sleep at night. Regular use enhances the complexion, makes the skin supple and soft and evens out skin tone.

Durva in Krya nourishing baby massage oils (Lemongrass variant and Palmarosa variant)

Durva is also a key herb used in the Krya nourishing baby massage oil – in both variants. This baby oil was developed specifically for children with chronically dry or irritation prone skin. Such children would not be able to use the Krya traditional Baby Massage oil because of the high use of stimulating and warming herbs with the product.

The Krya nourishing baby massage oil uses 19, powerful, skin rejuvenating Ayurvedic herbs including Vata (Sacred Banyan), Udumbura (Sacred Indian Fig), and Ashwattha (Sacred Peepul). This is apart from the prominent use of fresh Durva grass Swarasa (juice) and Durva grass kalpa (fresh herb paste). The herbs are extracted using the Tila Paka method into 3 organic oils ( Sesame, Coconut & Mahua ) and Organic Kokum butter.

 

The use of these healing sacred herbs has a very soothing and nourishing effect on tender, irritable, sensitive skin. Parents find that skin health is improved, the flare-up skin episodes reduce in volume and intensity, and baby’s skin is overall much healthier and balanced.

Durva in Krya Sensitive Skin Oil

Durva also goes into the Krya Sensitive skin Oil with Cardamom & Neem. This oil forms a part of the Krya Sensitive Skin range for adults and children separately, designed for skin that has a tendency to develop conditions like contact dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis. In this oil we use a mixture of skin healing, cell regenerative, pitta and kapha balancing herbs like Ashwagandha, Kushta, Lodhra, Yashtimadhu and Manjishta.

The Lead ingredients of Durva grass, Neem and Cardamom support these skin healing and regenerative herbs by balancing excess Pitta, enhancing the complexion , reducing the growth of fungal and bacterial organisms and improving skin health.

To sum up:

So there you have it: that’s a brief glimpse into the properties of Cynodon dactylon /  Durva which goes into Krya’s skin care products. As we have said before, Ayurvedic herbs are potent and strong, and must always be tailor made using the right anupana to suit your constitution. Do not attempt to self medicate. If you feel internal consumption of Durva could help you, please meet an Ayurvedic Vaidya who can diagnose your condition and prescribe Durva in the right dose and right format for you.

We do herb related posts at Krya to give you a glimpse into just how potent, powerful and good for us the plants used in Ayurveda are. We hope you found this post inspiring and useful. Do leave your thoughts and comments on this post below. If you would like us to write about a specific herb , do leave that in your comments as well.

 

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Ayurvedic post natal care to strengthen, nourish and care for a new mother and a new born baby. Krya shares a first person account.

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The Krya blog has been speaking these last few days about different types of vata based disorders. The last few of our posts have been speaking in particular about post partum hair fall and related vata disorders and how the root cause of this can be traced to uncontrolled vata dosha because of a lack of proper post natal care that follows Ayurvedic principles.

As we have discussed earlier, Ayurveda opines that the birth of a child causes an imbalance in the body’s doshas as a large gap is created in the womb that was once occupied by the fetus and her placenta. The process of childbirth which is physically demanding and rigorous excites Vayu. Once Vayu is aroused, it is in its nature to rush in and occupy empty spaces and childbirth gives Vayu a large empty space to occupy.

blog-post-1-vata-and-pregnancy

Traditional post natal practices therefore centre around nourishing, oil and ghee based warm food and regimens like abhyangas to remove fatigue, provide strength back to the body and reduce the likelihood of vayu rushing in and upsetting the body’s dosha balance.

Our posts on post partum health have led to a lot of enquiries on how mothers should be looked after post child birth for good health. So we are fortunate today to carry a piece written by Seetha Anand Vaidyam on the traditional post natal practices that were followed in her home for both her pregnancies.

Seetha is a holistic educator, remedial therapist and an author (a longer bio follows at the end of her piece). Along with her piece, we have also included textual references to the practices described wherever relevant to clearly establish that these time honored practices flow from Ayurvedic first principles.


Old is Gold,

I was always told,

This advice I followed,

Especially when lo behold!

The most precious being in my hands I hold.”

Seetha Anand Vaidyam

 Good news! You are pregnant!” — My Gynecologist told me. I was 22 years, I had been married for 2 months, I had gone for my check up alone and I was nervous. “What should I do Doctor… In terms of how should I take care, what foods should I be eating…anything I should bear in mind… ? “, I asked her in part shyness, part embarrassment and even fear. I wanted to have children and had planned it, but now that I was pregnant, I was nervous, especially since I was in a new city away from my own relatives.

“Just act as normal as you are. You can do all what you did … just be normal.” my doctor said to me. And I did try. Surely a blanket “be normal” is not the soundest of advice and this is something I re-learned in my research and working with children of different needs in later years.

Pregnancy is the time to begin the nourishment of the baby in-utero. Seldom are first time mothers aware of the extent of influence their lifestyle can have on the baby. Stress, sadness during pregnancy can be especially detrimental. Sadness brings a kind of constriction in the abdominal region for most people, (we use terms like stomach churning feelings etc.) This constriction, tension can damage the tender nerves and muscles of the fetus in-utero. Nothing, nothing but the well being of the baby is paramount in that period and for this the pregnant mother’s wellness of body, mind and soul is imperative.

blog-post-2-pregnancy-special-period Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Putrakamiya chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Sattvaviseshakarani Punarmathapithrasvadyoganatharvarthnyah:  Shruthyaschabhikshanam

Swopachintah cha karma bhavathi Poorvabhayschethi”

 This can be roughly translated as: “ The factors that influence the mental makeup of a child are the mental traits, purity , behavior of the family, cleanliness and purity of parents, the sounds that the fetus hears, the sounds and vibrations the pregnant women hears, and the karmic effects of the past lives of the fetus”.

 

It is to be noted here that Acharya Vagbhatta says that the collective set of emotions, thoughts, feelings and the sensory stimuli offered by the external environment shapes the mental makeup of your child. In this context , a pregnant woman and her caregiver must evaluate the television she watches, songs she listens to, people she meets and books and newspapers she reads and ask herself if each of these influences are positive and useful for the growing child.

Fast forward … 9 months later I was in another city, my home city and I was now a mother of a new born! This time, both my mother and me nervously asked the doctor, what I should be fed, if we could follow our traditional post natal care at home (especially since my first delivery was a Cesarean section and my mother had no experience of that, she was very confused as to what should be done), if we could give the traditional “orai marundhu” to the new born etc. My obstetrician said something similar to my gynecologist in the other city: “Just give her normal foods, no massages, use simple baby soap for the baby, and just stick to mother’s milk and if the baby is not satisfied top feed!!!” And what was worse, she said, “Don’t come running to me if an infection develops in the baby due to use of traditional oils and powders!”

blog-post-3-harsh-synthetics

Being from and married into a traditional family, the words of the Doctors were ignored with contempt. My mother and mother in law consulted each other and a few other elderly aunts and grandmothers and the plan for my massage and diet and that of my baby were chalked out.

My pregnancies are not something I relish writing about since till date I wish I had taken better care of my babies when they were inside me! I was in a new city, unaware, helpless and overwhelmed by so many things in my new life! But like they say no point in getting negative with regret. The post natal care that my mother lovingly provided me and my babies hopefully made up for most of my earlier shortcomings. I will share details of traditional post natal care based on my own experiences and observations.

Post natal care is extremely elaborate and specific in South India. Even in today’s times of hospital deliveries, many of the customs are followed.

 

The design of the New Mother and new born baby’s Chamber

The room where the new mother and baby are housed, is kept spic and span and fumigated with sambrani over a ‘kumiti’ or iron stove with coals. It is a well lit room but not overly bright or close to noises, the windows were closed by dusk. The room is kept very warm and cozy. The room is protected from strong sensory stimuli such a smell, sound and light.

blog-post-4-fumigation

Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“The chamber that holds the new born baby and recovering Mother should be architecturally beautiful, equipped with all necessary materials, should not have too much wind, and should have only soft wind blowing from the east. The room should be entered only by a few elderly women and physicians and should be free from bedbugs, mice, mosquitoes and other vermin. The room should not be too dark, or too bright. The cradle, bed, and bed sheets should be clean, well washed, unwrinkled, soft and fumigated with rakshoghna drugs.

 

It is important to note again, that Acharya Vagbhatta specifies that the baby’s nursery should have restricted entry with good cleanliness and fumigation using certain drugs. This helps prevent infections as Ayurveda considers that both a new mother and the baby have low immunity and depleted strength. The mention of controlling wind in the nursery is also a point to be noted – this is because Vayu (air) is already considered high in the mother post delivery. So additional Vayu is not to be allowed in as a strong breeze. Ayurveda actually classifies wind as having different properties depending upon the direction from which it blows!

blog-post-5-ayurvedic-nursery

Clothing

Both the mother and baby are given soft cottons, often used clothes. New clothes for the baby are actually discouraged. Often old cotton dhotis and saris are converted into “jablas” /tie string tops and diapers. The diapers from the first day of the baby made from old saris or dhotis are thrown away and not washed. Later they are rinsed and then soaked in hot water with herbal powders, brushed, washed and dried in the sun. Care is taken not to have them washed by unmarried, young persons who may have an aversion for tending to soiled clothes.

blog-post-6-soft-white-cloth

Even the repulsive feelings that a person may have for the soiled clothes were considered strong enough to harm the tender baby. Such was the extent of sensitivity towards the new born! And of course the new mother was forbidden from wetting her hands or staying near moist areas. She was considered to be in a delicate physical state and vulnerable to colds and infections after the hard task of child birth. If the delivery happened during monsoons, the washed napkins were dried indoors but were further dried on top of sambrani fumes that were covered with a metal rice sieve.

Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Fumigation of the nursery and the linen and bedding of the mother and child should be done with guggulu and other rakshoghna resins which are mentioned in the prescribed texts. The child and mother should also be adorned with small bundles of herbs like Vacha, and other rakshoghna herbs to ward off the evil eye and deter krimi and germs”.

 blog-post-7-vacha 

Negative energy and the warding off this are addressed with a great deal of care across Ayurvedic texts including the Ashtanga Samgraha. The use of specific herbs, chanting of mantras and specific stotras, prayer, and restricted access to the new Mother and baby helps protect both and helps them conserve their spiritual energy.

 The mother and baby are kept warm, ears of the mother are covered with cotton, and the mother’s waist is bound by a folded sari tightly so that the sagging belly after delivery is held tightly. I went through this procedure after both my deliveries, the first being cesarean while my second was normal delivery. The baby’s head and ears are well covered, feet are protected with socks.blog-post-7-covered-ears

Ayurvedic first principles: the procedure described by Seetha above to cover the ears, feet and bind the stomach of the New mother all flow from the principle of correcting excess Vayu. The ears and feet are the seat of Vata dosha, so it is kept covered in both Mother and Baby to prevent entry of excess Vayu.  The space in the stomach is kept physically restrained in the Mother to restrict the space available for Vayu to rush in and fill the now empty womb.

 

Daily Rhythms of a post natal home

A post natal house functioned like clockwork. Sleep, wake, bath, meal, visitor timings were all strictly followed. It is considered healthy for babies to wake up early. Lactating mothers need as much rest as possible and new born babies sleep long hours and need frequent feeds. Child birth is considered to be a tiring effort sapping the mother of energy and certain essential nutrition.

Therefore apart from the special diet given, the daily rhythms or routines were sacrosanct since they also build up the etheric forces/ life forces of the mother which tend to get weak during the birthing process. The baby is tender and depends immensely on a precise rhythm to build its body clock and bio rhythms. Today modern medicine talks so much about the connection between health and bio rhythms, which traditional wisdom always believed was sacred.

 

Visitors and Outings for the Newborn and Mother

Visiting new borns and new mothers was highly restricted. Only certain inmates of the house entered the room. Relatives and friends from outside were allowed for one day on the 11th day after birth where the child is given a formal bath and placed on a cradle and the naming ceremony is carried out. After the completion of the function, restrictions continue and visitors are not encouraged.

blog-post-8-naming

Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Shoorairayodhibheergupathmadrashyam nagaram paraiha

Yatha shishovarpurathdhwagatho thaovirddhibhigrahaiha”

 

“Just like a city is protected from enemies by brave men with suitable weapons, similarly the body of a child must be protected from different kinds of invaders / evil spirits using appropriate methods”

 

This is the concluding verse in the Balopacaraniya chapter which brings together the point behind all of the prescriptions of newborn and maternal care in Ayurveda. Every single ritual prescribed is done with the view of protecting the health of the child and mother – the care given post child birth to the Mother and in the first year of the child are seen as critical for establishing the lifelong health patterns of the Mother and Child.

After 30 days, a visit is made by the new born and the new mother to a nearby temple. The child is brought outside the room to sit in a place where the evening sunlight falls. By the end of the second month the child is allowed to be placed in the other rooms of the house. The mother is still not very active and is confined to feeding the baby, in some cases bathing and changing diapers, folding clothes. Physically exerting activities are not carried out by the mother.

 

Massage and Bathing Rituals

Nothing is discussed, prepared for and spoken about as much as massage rituals in a post natal household!!! In some houses a masseur is appointed these days, but traditionally the mother or grandmothers who were usually in a fit condition bathed the new mother and the new born baby.

 

Cold pressed Sesame oil or Coconut oil was used for the massage. While the baby received a full body and head oil massage every day after the 11th day of birth, the mother received an oil massage for the body everyday and head oil massage every alternate day. After the 11th day of giving birth. The mother’s body oil was mixed with generous amounts of kasturi manjal and especially rubbed well on the waist, feet, elbows and face.

blog-post-9-turmeric-sacred-bath

This everyday oil massage of the body helped prevent dryness and itchiness that result after delivery. In case of girl babies too turmeric was added to the body oil. Massaging around the navel area for both mothers and babies was regarded important and also on the area on top of the head where there is a slight depression, considered to be the crown / sahasrara chakra.

Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“An abhyanga with a special herb infused oil should be done every day. Medicated oil prepared, with herbs like Bala, Chandana, Kushta, Ashwagandha, Eranda, Tila and other herbs is ideal for massage. “

 There is a special emphasis on muscle and dhatu nourishment and growth and vata reduction given in Ayurveda which percolates the philosophy behind formulating abhyanga oils for babies and new Mothers. As we have discussed before herbs like Bala are extremely useful in balancing excess pitta and vata and are extremely nourishing and helpful in building muscle mass and relieving fatigue and tiredness. Ashwagandha is excellent for skin and also helps with inflammatory conditions that the Mother could face.

 blog-post-10-glowing-skin

 Tila as mentioned as the oil of choice here and this is different from what has been practiced in Seetha’s home. We must be cognizant here of regional differences and modifications in Ayurvedic practices depending upon the geography and climate. Being hot and humid, Ayurvedic practices in Kerala have traditionally adopted coconut oil as the base oil of choice. However, to control the kapha promoting nature of coconut oil, the oil is usually prepared with certain warming herbs and spices to control any kapha based excesses.

 blog-post-11-tila-taila

The oil for the baby was prepared at home by my mother. She would grate enormous amounts of coconut and then extract milk from it, this was gently heated till oil emerged from it. ‘Venda Velichennai’ or virgin coconut oil thus got was carefully stored in glass bottles or ceramic ‘baranis’/’jadis’. This oil smelled like ghee and was prepared in a kind of secrecy away from the eyes of all so as to avoid any feelings of greed or lust for the oil. It is amazing how the new born was protected even from negative thoughts and feelings. Such was the reverence for a new life in the olden days. This is now considered as discrimination and blind belief. Thoughts and feelings produce energies and babies are very sensitive to energies.

The entire bath water was heated and then allowed to cool down a wee bit before being used (cold water was never added to make the hot water tolerably warm) And of course in the days of yore, copper boilers or cauldrons were used to heat water over firewood and coal.

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Ayurvedic first principles:

 Acharya Vagbhatta and Acharya Charaka recommend bathing the baby and the mother with water which has been boiled with Jivaniya herbs (restorative and vitalizing herbs). Some of these herbs include Mahameda, Kakoli, etc.

 The purpose of using Jivaniya herbs is to restore Prana to the tissues, promote the longevity and health of all the dhatus and promote deep nourishment.

 

New born mothers and babies thus massaged and bathed glowed with soft and well moisturized skin. Especially mothers and girl babies looked golden due to the application of turmeric. Hair of new born mothers under such care generally became lustrous and thick and abundant. At least for the first three months when she gets maximum personal care pampering!!

Soaps were a strict no no! A Bath powder for babies was made with moong dal/ channa dal while for mothers vasanai podi or ubtans were made at home with various herbs and lentils. Hair wash powders for the mothers were also made at home with Shikakai, karsalanganni, ponnanganni, hibiscus flowers and leaves, lime peels, fenugreek, curry leaves, many other flowers, leaves, seeds, seed pods — which were all cover dried in the sun and powdered. These powders and oils were sent with the new mother when after a period of 3 months she returned to her in laws and husband.

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After bath babies and mothers were well dried and gently warmed with sambrani fumes. Kajal or kann mai was the only cosmetic item that was allowed. This was applied even to the eyes of boy babies and their forehead marked with a dot/bindi/tilakam. In order that the bindi/ tilakam/ pottu did not smudge, a bit of vibuthi that was again home made with cow dung ash was rubbed slightly over it. Thus there was no need for any chemicals in body care. This not only ensured glowing skin but also made sure that there was adequate probiotic microbial activity in the body which is the foundation of immunity and health.

The fragrance emanating from new born babies and mothers under such a personal care regimen has to be experienced to understand the value of such homemade, pure, chemical free personal care products. My mother’s sister sent me home made kann mai made from castor oil, pachcha kalpooram, nadyaravattai flower extracts. It smelled good and brought a refreshing tingling in the eyes when applied.

Ayurvedic first principles: the use of herb enhanced collyrium

Collyrium / Kajal is an Ayurvedic medicine and is so much more than a regular cosmetic product. It has been designed to protect the eyes which are an important secondary seat of Pitta by reducing excess Pitta. As the eyes are also made up of kapha based fatty substances, the use of herb infused Kajal helps the healthy removal of fat based toxins from the eyes .

 blog-post-14-kajal

 Rasajnana is a famous Ayurvedic extract made from Daruharidra, which is used in Ayurvedic Kajal. Rasanjana when prepared properly helps promote the dislodging of kleshma (fat based toxins) by triggering a watering reaction in the eyes.

Diet

While babies were strictly only fed mother’s milk, they got just a dash of ‘orai marundhu’ which was a mixture of a set of seeds/herbs, gold etc which were rubbed on a stone along with a drop of mother’s milk and applied to the baby’s tongue. Babies were fed in a private area and a serene silence was maintained during the baby’s feeding time.

In case baby is taking very short feeds and falling asleep only to wake again very soon for another feed, the mother is advised to caress the ear lobes gently. I was given this advice too and I found that the baby sucked for longer when I did this!!! Babies were fed with solely mother’s milk for upto 10 months and were fed mother’s milk in addition to other foods even after the first year. Some scriptures and ancient texts indicate that mother’s milk was given till the fall of, milk teeth. With changing times, consciousness changed and priorities changed.

Children lost their dreaminess, unconscious behavior and innocence prematurely. So as a result, it was considered embarrassing to feed children with mother milk once they became conscious. Mother’s milk is loaded with microbes and lauric acid. This helps the growth of beneficial gut bacteria which are the essentials of a strong immunity system in the body.

The first thing a new mother is given to eat is a ‘legyam’ again home made with so many different heat inducing herbs, spices, lemon, ginger, ghee etc. A gooseberry sized ball of this is given in empty stomach. This is a decongestant, anti inflammatory and digestive. The beneficial properties of this is passed to the baby through the mother’s milk.

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Babies and mother’s are especially hungry after a laborious bath!! So usually the mother’s were fed while the baby is being bathed so that they are not hungry while feeding the baby. Bathing soon after a meal/feed for anyone was absolutely forbidden.

Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

 “A child should not be fed with the breast milk of the women who is hungry, grief stricken, tired, exhausted, angry, whose tissues are diseased, who is pregnant, or who is indulging in unhealthy foods”.

 Ayurveda is very particular about the health of the mother as this science recognizes the deep spiritual, mental, emotional and physical connection between the Mother and her baby. By nurturing the Dauhridini (pregnant woman) from the stage of pregnancy, keeping in her in good spirits and providing her loving emotional and physical care post child birth, Ayurveda ensures the baby too is well looked after and has the chance to develop well.

 blog-post-16-ayurvedic-focus

 Many of us have seen tired, exhausted and depressed or even hungry modern mothers tending to their children’s needs. This is not a healthy practice and you are not supposed to sacrifice your well being for that of your child. Ayurveda recognizes that only if you are nourished and healthy, can you give your child the right environment to be nourished and healthy as well.

Mother’s diet consisted of short frequent meals. Parboiled rice was given preference since it is easier to digest. Tuvar dal and channa dal were avoided since they induce vata or gas. Moong dal was given in limited quantities. Lots of iron rich curry leaves, drumstick leaves, bean varieties, perandai or bone setter thogayal that is rich in calcium, dried sundaikkai or thai brinjal, manathangalikkai which had properties of healing wounds and ulcers were included every day. Gourds were by and large avoided, so were brinjals, potatoes, sweet potatoes etc. In short gas producing foods were avoided. Pepper was the preferred spice and chilies were avoided or minimized.

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Betel leaves were given at the end of the meal and even in the evening to aid digestion and bring down acidity.  Ginger was another spice that was used every day. Coolants and cold foods were completely avoided. Ghee was served generously. Water was given in restricted amounts. The use of tamarind was restricted. Peanuts were avoided. Bananas especially the nendram variety was given to satiate odd time hungers. Par boiled rice gruel/ puzhungal arisi kanji with salted narthangai or salted lemon pickle were given. The baby’s stools were an indicator of whether the diet of the mother was suiting the baby. Greenish or whitish yellow stools were considered not healthy and immediately changes were made in the mother’s diet. Curds were not given.

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The practice of giving white bread, certain types of vegetables, etc might have crept in during the in-between period. What are truly traditional needs to be understood. After the entry of the Britishers in 1600 A.D., many traditional customs were modified. Cropping patterns were altered. Grains traditionally grown were discontinued and certain foreign ones introduced. Therefore even what has been practiced for 400 odd years may not be truly traditional!

 

Ayurvedic first principles – a healthy post partum diet

All the Ayurvedic texts that refer to kaumarabhrityam (gynecology, obstetrics and child care) have given special importance to the pathiyam diet that is given both to the pregnant woman and the recovering Mother.

 The purpose of the diet in each stage is different – in the pregnant woman the diet is meant to be nourishing, full of good fats and cooling. The diet is supposed to nurture the fetus at every stage of the development and not cause any ama or toxic residue in the body.

 The pathiyam post partum diet has a different purpose. The food is meant to nourish all the dhatus of the woman which may be depleted following child birth. It is also supposed to ensure that the breast milk is full of the nutrients required by the growing child. The food is sweet (madhura) and kapha promoting in nature to build the dhatus and nourish the tissues.

 The food is also cooked so that excess pitta and vata is controlled. So the vegetable and cereal selection is quite deliberate.

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The time immediately after delivery is usually an extremely restricted diet. It is high in nourishing liquids like milk cooked with galactologue herbs and ghee. Cleansing mixtures like panchakavya is also used to stimulate digestion, remove ama and toxins form the body as these may pass onto the baby through the breast milk.

 Post the first 15 days / month 1, the recovering Mother is put on a more solid diet. A very careful selection of lentils is given – if the Vaidya feels that vata is high, she may be advised a diet without any lentil except Mung dal and not lentil based vegetables like beans. Hard, difficult to digest lentils like peas, rajma, channa are usually restricted.

 Ghee is key to the pathiyam diet to promote adequate digestion, keep the body in a tridoshic state and reduce vata dosha. Warming spices like Maricha (black pepper), Sunthi (ginger) and Jiraka (Cumin) are also liberally used in the food to expel wind, promote digestion and cleanse the respiratory passages of mucous if present.

 

General atmosphere in a post-natal home

Care was taken to avoid overwhelming sensory stimuli. Noise levels were restricted. Loud noises which would startle a sleeping baby or disturb the deep sleep of a new mother whose sleep depended on her child’s sleep were consciously avoided. Very often grandmothers or elderly members of the house or the new mother would sing lullabies and other specific baby songs.

The entry of too many visitors as mentioned earlier was avoided. In some communities, the inmates of the house where a baby is born would also not go to other houses for a period of 30 days. This was like a quarantine that was observed. The close relatives of the new born could not even attend functions and festival celebrations for a period of 30 days after the birth of the child in their family.

Feeding time of the mother is considered sacrosanct. The mother is advised to be calm while feeding the baby since the babies are tender in every way and would be affected by any physical, emotional or mental disturbances around them.

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A post natal care household was full of busy activity — preparing bath oils, powders, fresh legyam, meals, fumigation, washing clothes etc. So there was no time for gossip or idleness. Today we hear so much about post natal depression and mood swings. In a traditional home, where so much activity is going on there is so much to observe and participate, to absorb and learn that one does not get the time to become depressed. Moreover the food given is so carefully chosen that it balances hormones and leads to emotional stability.

At the end of 3 months and in much earlier times after 5 months, the new mother left the luxurious pampering in her mother’s house and returned to her in-laws and husband.

Even then till the baby turned one year old, that is till the mother is lactating, she was not allowed to cook or go into the kitchen since the heat from the kitchen fires might interfere in the lactation. Mother’s milk was considered to be ‘oushadam’ or medicine and hence every measure was taken to safeguard it. New mothers were pampered, nourished and their motherhood and the baby’s childhood were cherished.

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The changing patterns of motherhood

In course of time life became fast paced and therefore roles changed and so have health and fitness. Stamina and stress do not go hand in hand. The elders in the family can no longer perform all the chores required of them during the birth of their grandchildren, mothers are not relaxed enough to lead life on a slow track for a certain period of time. Ambitiousness, restlessness, changed priorities have all resulted in the lack of reverence for the new born and the new mother.

The rise of full time working mothers with limited maternity holidays, emergence of packaged baby feeds, over exposure of children to excessive sensory stimuli prematurely — have all resulted in weakened bodies, minds and souls — of mothers and their babies!!

I hope this article helps in reviving the due reverence for the new born and the new mother. I hope at least some aspects of post natal care can be incorporated if not all.


seetha-anand-vaidyam-krya-blog-author-profileAbout the Author:

Seetha Anand Vaidyam, works through Ananda Foundation for Holistic and Healthy Learning & Living. Ananda, through its 3 wings — Learn to Move & Move to Learn; Plate to Planet and Art of the Hearts — offers hands on workshops, talks and one on one counseling sessions on Early Childhood, Remedial Therapy, Sustainable Living and Holistic Wellness across India and abroad. Seetha has authored ‘ “Good” Food — a guide to right cooking and eating’ which has 2 editions and 1 reprint to its credit. She can be reached at seethaanand@yahoo.com .

 


Krya would like to thank Seetha Anand Vaidyam for her generous, authentic and detailed piece on traditional post natal care today. This very important tradition of nourishing the mother and caring for her mental, emotional and physical well being which used be such an important part of Indian culture is fast disappearing today.

We hope that this post brought home the importance of these practices and you were able to appreciate the deep rooted Ayurvedic first principles behind these practices. Even if you are unable to recreate the exact set of rituals described by Seetha in this post, we hope you are able to incorporate atleast few parts of these rituals in your life or help out another young mother with knowledge about these practices.

 

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Ayurvedic baby massage : benefits for baby’s health and skin

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

Are you worried about the carcinogens and suspicious synthetics in the baby care products you have been buying? Looking for a truly natural, genuine, safe Ayurvedic baby massage oil? Read on, for a short introduction to the benefits of an Ayurvedic baby massage routine .

Krya baby massage oils: recent feedback received

“Hello Team Krya,

I have been using this baby massage oil for my baby since she was 1 month old. This is really good. My baby is feels good and fresh after taking message with this oil.  This is 100% better than those synthetic and chemical baby massage oils”. – Amit

Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & AshwagandhaKrya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandha - excellent for an ayurvedic baby massage

It’s not mild, its carcinogenic : why chemical baby products are toxic and un-safe

A Missouri based jury passed a verdict last year asking Johnson & Johnson to pay damages of 72 million dollars to the family of Jacqueline Fox. The jury concluded that her death by ovarian cancer was linked to her daily use (of over 30 years) of Johnsons baby powder and Shower to shower talcum powder.

A study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics studied baby and children’s products for the presence of 2 chemicals – 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde. These 2 chemicals are probable human carcinogens formed as toxic by products when certain chemicals are present in a product. The research study showed that over 61% of the baby products surveyed contained these 2 chemicals in more than trace quantities.

1,4 dioxane is a by product formed when sulphates like SLeS (Sodium Laureth sulphate), polyethylene, polyethylene glycol , ceteareth, oleth, oxynol, -xynol, and PEG are present in products. A quick read of the back of label of many baby products would find many of these chemicals listed in your baby’s “gentle shampoo” or “mild bodywash”.

Therefore most chemical baby products are un-safe, toxic and dangerous to use on everyone, especially vulnerable babies.

Why is your baby’s skin so vulnerable to chemicals?

Human skin is the largest sense organ in our body. It is considered the seat of the Indriyas / sense organs and is literally the seat of sight, sense, touch, feeling and hearing. Skin is our first barrier layer and helps protect our internal organs from damage and bacteria. It is a marvel of bio engineering and hosts a massive colony of micro organisms . This colony helps ensure a constant pH of 5.5 on skin, with an acidic mantle that keeps harmful organisms away from us.

The skin and hair structure in children is one of the last major systems to be formed. The sweat glands which help regulate temperature, eliminate toxins from our body and help maintain the skin’s natural acid mantle takes upto 3 years to form. This means that babies stay sweet smelling longer, but this also means that their body does not have the mechanism to readily eliminate toxins like adults do.

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The harmful effects of SLS & SLeS - one of the many synthetics in baby care products

This means that they can handle far smaller toxic loads than adults . Therefore it is critical to choose a safer, more natural skin care solution for babies. Genuine, carefully manufactured ayurvedic baby skin care products should be your first option

Ayurvedic baby skin care: a 5000 year old science

Ayurveda is considered a divine science in India, handed down directly from the Gods to Man. Ayurveda has 8 branches of which “Kaumara bhrityam” or Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Child care forms an important branch.

Sagar manthan: the Churning of the ocean from which Lord Dhanwantri rose and gave the world Ayurveda

Samudra Manthan (Churning of the Ocean) which gave Ayurveda to the world

 

While Kaumara bhrityam has been dealt with in portions of the Rig Veda and even Purana Granthas like the Garuda-Purana, Kumara-sambhava and even the Artha Shastra, the Ayurvedic text which has the most material devoted to Kaumarabhritya is the Kashyapa Samhita.

Ayurevdic baby massage is an integral part of baby skin care. Taila Abhyanga Snana (baby massage with oil followed by herbal bath) is advised to be done daily for a baby starting from the first week of birth.

Typically Ayurveda recommends that baby massage be done first with Bala Tailam. This helps the newborn get rid of the exhaustion after child birth. Medicated herbal water made with a decoction of herbs like Bilwa (Aegle marmalos), and other aromatic herbs (sarvagandha dravyas). Bilwa is a powerful and renowned herb used in religious practices in India.

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Bilwa leaf used to worship Lord Shiva

We can see from the above description, how detailed, through and holistic Ayurvedic baby skin care is.

The deep connection between the Skin and the body as per Ayurveda:

The skin (Tvacha) in Ayurveda is said to be made of 6 layers. These 6 layers form from the blood while undergoing metabolic activity – this formation is described similar to the layers of cream that form when milk is boiled.

Therefore, in disorders of the skin, herbs and regimens that treat the blood at an underlying level are advised. Similarly, Ayurveda recognises that what is applied at an external level on the skin also has the twin capacity of treating the blood underneath . So, many blood based disorders are treated through herbal lepa (pastes) applied on the skin. This way, the herbs reach the blood and also influence the lymph secretions and the “rasa dhatu”.

Once we understand this connection, we also understand how critical it is to choose what we apply on baby’s skin. Chemical products and carcinogenic ingredients are highly unsafe and can damage baby’s health. On the contrary, a regular baby massage with an ayurvedic baby oil is safe and nourishing for baby’s skin. This practice also helps increase baby’s immunity, prevent infections and aid healthy bone and joint development.

The 5 tenets of Ayurvedic baby skin care:

Ayurveda recommends 5 tenets to care for your baby.

  1. Taila Abhyanga – baby massage using the correct ayurvedic baby massage oil
  2. Herbal Snana – Cleansing of baby’s skin using the correct ayurevdic baby ubtan followed by a bath using warm water or warm medicated water
  3. Purification of the nursery and surroundings using prayer, meditation and chanting
  4. Washing the baby’s linen and clothing using a prescribed mixture of herbs
  5. Fumigation of the nursery and baby’s clothing and linen using a prescribed mixture of herbs.

Each of the above steps are not just to care for baby’s skin. They also help build immunity, improve disease resistance, protect baby’s skin, keep down mucous accumulation and care for baby’s health.

Taila Abhyanga – Ayurvedic baby massage:

The Ayurvedic baby massage routine restricts moisturisation to the pre bath taila abhyanga or oil massage. This is a very special feature of Ayurveda .

Ayurvedic baby massage - important tenet of ayurvedic baby care

Taila Abhyanga - essential Ayurvedic baby care practice

Skin needs to constantly interact with the environment and continuously facilitate toxin removal.  Srotas are thin, tube like structures in skin, through which toxins are removed. When we apply a moisturizing product after Snana, the Srotas can get clogged. If a petroleum based, synthetic moisturiser is used, the srotas are fully blocked. When srotas are blocked, the skin is unable to do heat exchange properly. This traps excess heat within the body. Skin is also unable to eliminate waste products properly. This is why Ayurveda insists on pre-bath moisturization with a herbal taila, and not post bath moisturization.

Herbs chosen for the ayurvedic baby massage

The herbs chosen for an infant’s Ayurvedic baby massage are carefully selected. Bala is a commonly used herb in Baby oils in Ayurveda. Bala is a famous Ayurvedic herb that aids regulation of vata dosha. It removes muscle fatigue and exhaustion. Bala helps growing infants develop a healthy muscle and bone structure.

Bala is a rejuvenative and deeply nourishing skin herb : excellent for an ayurvedic baby massage

Bala (Sida cordifolia) - a powerful vata balancing and growth stimulating Ayurvedic herb

Manjishta is another common herb selected for an ayurvedic baby massage oil. Manjishta is an excellent herb that helps increase the microcirculation of the srotas in the skin, and improves the circulatory function. It is a good blood purifier and a famous “varnya” (complexion enhancing) herb.

Warming herbs like Tulsi often are used in preparations meant for infants. The Puranas compare Tulsi to “amrit” or the nectar that rose from the churning of the ocean and say just like amrit which gives ayu (long life), Tulsi is to be sought after and cherished.

Tulsi is a warming and kapha balancing herb - excellent for an ayurvedic baby massage

Tulsi - compared to "Amrit" in Indian tradition and revered for its ability to enhance physical endurance

Modern Science and research confirms what Ayurveda and long held Indian tradtion says about Tulsi: that it can cure both mental stress and enhance physical endurance.

In ayurvedic baby skin care preparations, Tulsi helps boost the overall immune system. It also adds warmth to the body, and is an anti bacterial and insect repellent. 

To recap:

Baby massage is a key part of the 5000 year old Ayurvedic baby skin care routine . When this is practiced, baby’s skin and health are both benefited. This is especially critical in the first year of baby’s life.

The texts speak about multiple benefits of the Ayurvedic baby massage routine with an Ayurvedic taila. At an immediate level, the ayurvedic baby massage relieves exhaustion, balances excess vata dosha, reduces high pitta dosha and improves the baby’s appetite, digestive power and allows for peaceful, undisturbed sleep. As a bonus, the taila abhyanga is an excellent skin aid – with this regular practice, the skin’s health and functioning is maintained, without sacrificing cleanliness or its receptivity to the environment.

The process of Ayurvedic baby massage is also extremely enjoyable to the baby. So it helps establish the vital connection and emotional bond between a Mother and the baby.

At a long term level, the Ayurvedic baby massage helps muscle development, correct minor growth deformities and aids proper growth and functioning of all large muscle groups and joints.

 

 

Krya’s products for an ayurvedic baby massage (Taila Abhyanga):

Krya has 3 products for Taila abhyanga for your baby:

  • Krya traditional baby oil with Bala & Ashwagandha
    • Made using a traditional, Ayurveda inspired formulation, Krya’s traditional baby massage oil uses time tested, powerful Ayurvedic herbs like Bala, Ashwagandha Vacha, Tulsi and Manjishta for your baby’s daily Taila Abhyanga. Regular use helps keep skin healthy and nourished and support’s baby’s growing immunity and health.

Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala and Ashwagandha - excellent for an ayurvedic baby massage

  • Krya Nourishing baby massage oil with Palmarosa & Rose
    • Made using traditional skin nourishing and healing herbs like the sacred Durva grass, Moringa, Indian Liquorice and Lodhra, this oil is a rich, skin oil that is free from petroleum by products like Light Liquid Paraffin (White / Mineral oil), parabens, synthetic preservatives, synthetic fragrances, silicones, thickeners and colours. Infused with natural Organic Palmarosa and Organic Rose petals
  • Krya Nourishing baby massage oil with Lemongrass & Grapefruit
    • Made using traditional skin nourishing and healing herbs like the sacred Durva grass, Moringa, Indian Liquorice and Lodhra, this oil is a rich, skin oil that is free from petroleum by products like Light Liquid Paraffin (White / Mineral oil), parabens, synthetic preservatives, synthetic fragrances, silicones, thickeners and colours. Infused with natural Organic Lemongrass and Organic Grapefruit leaf

Krya’s toxin free home care products for baby:

Krya all natural classic soapberry detergent - free from LABSA, phosphates, bleaches, enzymes and fillers. Hypoallergenic and baby safe

  • Krya All natural Classic Soapberry detergent (can be used in a machine) – made fromm organic, forest collected whole soapberries. Completely toxin free, and hypoallergenic and safe on delicate skin. Free from LABSA, Enzymes, Phosphates, Fillers, Bleaches, Enzymes and other Chemicals. Completely Chemical free and made from whole plants.  Compostable & Biodegradable product .  Environmentally safe, Does not harm aquatic life . Grey water generated can be recycled in the garden. Recommended for baby’s nappies, diapers, clothing and linen

Krya All natural classic dishwash - free from LABSA, phosphates, enzymes, bleaches, fillers. recommended for baby's bottles, cutlery and dishes.

  • Krya All Natural Classic Dishwash Powder : made from whole organic and forest collected herbs. Completely toxin free, and hypoallergenic and safe on delicate skin. Free from LABSA, Enzymes, Phosphates, Bleaches, Colours, Fragrance & other Additives . Hypoallergenic, Toxin & Synthetic free, Made from Ayurvedic herbs . De-greases and cleans dishes thoroughly , yet Gentle and Safe on skin . Compostable & Biodegradable product .  Environmentally safe, Does not harm aquatic life . Grey water generated can be filtered to remove kitchen wastes & then recycled. Recommended for baby’s bottles and other dishes.
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True Lice : Launching the new Krya Anti-Lice System

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Raise your hand if you are a parent whose child has missed school due to an attack of head lice. I am typing this sentence with one hand, with the other hand raised up. Schools, especially the kindergarten variety, routinely conduct lice checks on their wards and send the kids with lice infections home to get immediate treatment.

Lice (singular: louse) cannot fly but they can crawl really fast. So the principal method by which they spread is close human contact, which is why the smaller kids in school who play together are infected easily by lice. Lice also cannot survive for more than a few hours away from the human scalp – so generally they do not spread fast through personal items like combs and towels.

Nevertheless, sharing combs & towels in a home under lice attack is not a good idea as parents and others in the home could get lice infection from the kids. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that every year 6 million to 12 million children in the age group 3 – 11 years in the U.S.A get an attack of head lice. (As an aside, it would great to have such meticulously collected statistics for India. Since it is not readily available we are using the U.S data to get a idea of the size of the global lice scourge) .

Head lice are wingless, blood-sucking parasitic insects that can only live on the human scalp. They lay their eggs on the human hair shaft, which hatch in about nine days. Lice can live for about a month and the female louse can lay about 10 eggs per day. So it is very easy for the lice infestation to spread really fast on a person’s scalp.

Lice are annoying. Really Really Annoying.

They spread fast and cause severe itching and irritation on the scalp. If left untreated for a long time, chronic lice infestations can cause Iron deficiency anemia due to the constant blood sucking.
Lice also cause secondary trouble by harboring several microbes that can cause other infections to the host human.

For example the typhus bacterium Rickettsia prowazekii can spread through the head louse to the hosts. Typhus , which spread through lice, was a global scourge even till the early part of the 20th Century. In 1812, Napoleon’s army of half a million men was reduced to a mere 35,000 men due to a Typhus outbreak. Typhus, courtesy of lice, killed millions of people in eastern Europe around the time of the first world war. Vladimir Lenin famously complained that “either socialism will defeat the louse or the louse will defeat socialism” .

Thankfully the Typhus epidemic has been nearly eradicated and is not a threat.

But the lice still remain with us. As they have, apparently since the dawn of time.

A wooden comb was discovered in an archaeological dig in Israel’s Negev desert, dating to ~ 100 B.C, covered with 10 head lice & 5 nits. In others finds in Egypt, lice nits were discovered on a mummy dating to 5000 B.C. interestingly the mummy was buried along with lice removing combs. So the preferred method for removing lice even 7000 years later remains the same.

What lice beneath: The problem with current lice treatments

The immediate treatment when you first discover the dreaded lice itch is to physically remove the lice with the eponymous comb. This provides temporary relief and does not carry the risk of spreading the contagion through the comb, since lice cannot survive a few hours away from the human scalp. But these little critters leave several tens of their nits (eggs) attached to the hair shaft, which hatch in the next days to continue the attack on the host’s head. Nits are very difficult to remove with the comb. This necessarily means that apart from the comb, a topical treatment like a lice-oil or shampoo is required to win the battle.

Malathion and Permethrin are two common chemical insecticides used in lice treatment products across the world.

Malathion is a very common organophosphate used as a pesticide in agriculture & in public health programs to kill mosquitoes. It is also now used commonly in head lice products where it works by killing lice and partially killing the nits ( eggs)

Malathion is bad news for human health and for the environment. While manufacturers of malathion claim that it is of low toxicity, it is also known that if malathion is absorbed into the human body, it easily metabolizes into Malaoxon which is 61 times more toxic than its parent compound.

Children who ingest malathion may experience headache, dizziness, fatigue , seizures, muscle weakness and even paralysis. Anti-lice products which contain malathion have to be applied & left on the scalp for several hours before wash off. This provides a route for malathion to easily enter the body especially when applied on small children. These products do not provide permanent relief from lice and have to be used repeatedly which aggravates the risk of absorption into the body.

Malathion is now being replaced by another chemical called permethrin in anti-lice products.

Permethrin is a broad spectrum insecticide and works by killing live lice. Common side effects of permethrin are itching, swelling and redness, stinging, numbness, tingling & skin rash. Permethrin can be absorbed through the skin and is very toxic if it accidentally comes in contact with the eyes. If permethrin is accidentally inhaled, it causes irritation in the nose and lungs, difficulty in breathing, headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. After using a permethrin based product, we must remember to thoroughly wash our hands to prevent accidental ingestion with our food.

krya-anti-lice-system
On the krya blog, we have written on several occasions about the new global risk of “Super Bugs”. These super bugs are created when normal bugs develop resistance to chemicals used to kill them. Due to the indiscriminate wide-spread use of malathion & permethrin in lice products, US & Australia have now reported the emergence of “Super lice” and “ Super Nits” that can survive these chemicals. So now we have a dangerous situation where a permethrin based product is ineffective in controlling lice, causes severe side-effects and after prolonged use creates “Super lice”.

The phenomenon of Super bugs happens only with chemicals because they are inert and fixed in their pathways. However bugs like lice are alive, smart and are capable of mutating fast to evade the chemical pathways and emerge as new super bugs. This does not happen with plant based solutions as plants are intelligent, live beings capable of adapting to the bugs and helping humans fight them without any side-effects.

Now to put this in perspective , most lice products are used on small children, who are experiencing severe itching, irritation and pain due to the infestation. Why do companies formulate products with chemicals like Malathion & Permethrin which can cause irritation when used as advised and are very toxic if accidentally inhaled or ingested ?

On this note, there are several “natural” Anti-lice products which use plant based insecticides like the seeds of the Sitaphal ( Annona Squamosa / Custard Apple). Now this seed is a very effective anti-lice product and has no side-effects. However if it accidentally falls on to the eyes, it is very toxic and can even cause blindness. Due to this at Krya, we strongly advise against the use of Sitaphal seeds in Anti-lice products – the risk is just not worth it.

We have been receiving several Lice Oil requests for sometime now. We finally bit the bug (pun fully intended) last week and made our second batch of the Krya Anti Lice oil (our first test batch was met with a lot of success 2 years ago during our testing phase). For stubborn infestation cases, we’ve added an Anti Lice hair mask and made an anti Lice hairwash to go with this system.

The first people to test out the revised formulations were 2 Krya employees with slightly older school going kids with a severe lice infestation. These kids had been subjected to the usual round of anti lice brands available in the Pharmacy. They reported high eye irritation, feeling of heaviness and headaches with using their previous brands of highly toxic lice oil and shampoo. They were uncomfortable with the lingering smell of these products and also reported slight hairfall after using the commercial anti-lice shampoos. The parents were extremely concerned about the medium and long term safety of using such strong, poisonous substances in such close contact with their children.

After trying out the samples of the Krya anti lice oil, my employees were sent to work with a special request from the kids – to please buy much more of the product for any future Lice infestations!

The kids loved the fragrance of the oil, the way their scalp felt after massage, and most importantly they reported being able to easily comb out both nits and lice after oil application – the lice were not dead, but were incapacitated and were easy to comb out.

We will be talk much more about exactly how we formulate the Krya anti lice system in later posts, but for now, if you are looking for a really natural, non toxic, gentle solution to a lousy problem, explore here:

1. Krya Natural Anti Lice Hair Oil with Thyme & Tamanu –http://bit.ly/kryaantilicehairoil
2. Krya Natural Anti Lice Hair Mask with Sweetflag & Ram Tulasi –http://bit.ly/kryaantilicehairmask
3. Krya Natural Anti Lice Hairwash with Lemon Eucalyptus & Curry Leaf –http://bit.ly/kryaantilicehairwash
4. Krya Natural Anti Lice Hair System – comes with the Oil, Mask and Hairwash (especially recommended for chronic infestation ) –http://bit.ly/kryaantilicehairsystem

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The Suspicious Seven – 7 deadly villains hiding in your baby’s skin and hair care products

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

A recent verdict by a Missouri based jury left many parents feeling both shocked and angered. This jury passed a verdict asking Johnson & Johnson to pay damages of 72 million dollars to the family of Jacqueline Fox, whose death by ovarian cancer was linked to her daily use (of over 30 years) of Johnsons baby powder and Shower to shower powder.

One of the questions we often get asked at Krya, is about the safety of synthetic baby products and alternatives to these which are completely natural and safe for tender skin.

Human skin is the largest sense organ in our body. It is considered the seat of the indrayas / sense organs and is literally the seat of sight, sense, touch, feeling and hearing. It is our first barrier layer and helps protect our internal organs from damage and bacteria. It is a marvel of bio engineering and hosts a massive colony of micro organisms which work along with us to ensure a constant pH of 5.5, with an acidic mantle that keeps harmful organisms away from us.

The skin and hair structure in children, is one of the last major systems to be formed. This along with the sweating mechanicm is only fully developed when a child reaches the age of three. This makes children’s skin and ahir especially vulnerable and easy to damage, which therefore makes their internal organ systems also easy to damage as their barrier function is still not properly developed.

A study by the campaign for Safe Cosmetics examined baby and children’s products for the presence of 2 probable human carcinogens – 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde. Both of these are not put in intentionally by manufacturers, but are toxic by products that are formed because of the presence of other chemicals in tehse products. The research study showed that over 61% of the baby products surveyed (across leading brands), contained these 2 chemicals in more than trace quantities.

We are often asked at Krya, what the hidden dangers are in using synthetic baby and child care products. So in this newsletter, we’ve compiled a list of the Suspicious 7 – deadly, carcinogenic and plain irritating ingredients that you would find in your favourite brand of synthetic baby products.

  1. Talc

Talc is extremely useful to dry out baby’s bottom, but it also often contains asbestos as a contaminant. This is because talc is a mineral that occurs in rock formations – these rock formations are found mixed with other magnesium silicate minerals like asbestos. When mining talc out of the ground, it is extremely difficult to avoid picking up some asbestos as well during the mining process, which is how it comes to contaminate products like baby powders and other cosmetic powders. Asbestos is a probable carcinogen and a lung irritant, and is extremely polluting to the environment as well.

  1. Fragrances

Fragrances generally made from coal tar and petroleum derivatives, are generally used in the consumer products industry to mask the odour of the other chemicals that are added to the product and to cue a particular scent or emotion among consumers when they use the product: for example, that innocent, sweet smelling “fresh baby” smell that comes from synthetic baby products. The effects of synthetic fragrance are long lasting as they tend to linger on skin for hours and can cause respiratory damage, neurological damage and skin allergies. Growing evidence points to fragrance being an important trigger for childhood asthma as well.

Fragrance 1

Identifying Fragrance in baby, beauty and household products

Unless the label specifies “un fragranced” or “unscented” or declares 100% of the ingredients without any mention of scents or fragrances, every single baby, beauty and household product contains a synthetic fragrance.

 

  1. 1,4-Dioxane and Ethylated surfactants (like SLS, SLeS) – the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 57% of baby soaps are contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane. Although it is never listed as an ingredient, 1,4-dioxane is an unwelcome intruder in many beauty products, as it is a toxic by-product that occurs when ethylene oxide is added to the many chemicals in your synthetic baby / beauty product. Ethylene oxide is a known breast carcinogen.

foam and bubbles 1

Identifying 1,4-Dioxane & Ethylated surfactants in baby, beauty and household products

Ingredients that contain the letter “eth” indicate the possible presence of 1,4-dioxane – this includes polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, SLS (sodium Laureth sulfate), ceteareth, oleth, oxynol, -xynol, and PEG.

  1. Proplyene Glycol is a “penetration enhancer” that is added to cleansing and certain moisturizing products to forcibly open the pores of skin and let the chemicals in the products in. This chemical is easily absorbed by skin and may be carcinogenic. Propylene glycol is found in wiper fluid and to remove ice from the windshields and bodies of airplanes after high altitude flying. It is also found in disposable baby wipes. Look out for close cousins Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) and Polypropylene Glycol as well.

Avoid at all costs:

Proplyene Glycol, Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) and Polypropylene Glycol .

  1. Mineral Oil

Synthetic baby oil is basically a combination of mineral oil, sometimes a scanty amount of hexane extracted vegetable oils and some fragrance thrown in. Mineral oil is a by product of petroleum processing, which I wrote about in detail in my last newsletter. It creates an occlusive barrier on skin , essentially forming the equivalent of plastic cling film on skin, and does not allow skin to interact with the environment or to freely release toxins.

What to look for in your baby / beauty product label:

Masquerades under the innocent sounding mineral oil, white oil, paraffin oil, light liquid paraffin

  1. We have written before about the 2 deadly Ps on the Krya blog (Parabens and Pthalates) . Parabens are a big family of preservatives found widely in the cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical industries and are the synthetic industry standard for anti bacterial and anti fungal properties. Research from the CDC’s National Centre for Environmental Health found that the blood of over 60% of the children surveyed during the National Health and Nutrition examination survey was contaminated with more than 8 toxins including significant levels of 3 kinds of parabens.

One alarming property of parabens is their ability to enter the body through the skin, something that most people are not aware of. This has been widely studied in underarm cosmetics like deodorants and whiteners. Breast cancer research shows a higher concentration of parabens in the upper lateral breast near the armpit corresponding to the use of deodorants which contain parabens. Globally most governments have not re-examined the safety of parabens. Some outliers are the Danish government which has banned the use of products for children below 3 years. In India parabens are commonly used in cosmetic and other applications.

What to look for in your baby / beauty product label:

Is labeled as ”X-paraben” – for example Methyl Paraben, Ethyl Paraben, Propyl paraben. Also stay away from benzoic acid and Propyl ester.

  1. Triclosan is an anti-bacterial agent and will find its way into your home in a surprising number of products. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and is also being linked to cancer. A new concern is also looming. Due to the uncontrolled use of Triclosan, several strains of bacteria are developing resistance to it causing new “super-bugs”.

Triclosan renders our environment sterile, weakening the development of baby’s natural immunity, increasing the likelihood of allergies and makes anti bacterial treatments less effective when we really need them to work. Is found in anti bacterial soaps, washes, and a whole lot of “sanitized” or “bacteria free” products like toilet seats, baby furniture, wipes, etc

What to look for in your baby / beauty product label:

Is labeled as Triclosan. Suspect any product that claims to be sanitized or “anti bacterial”.

 

We are going to spend most of May talking about synthetic baby products and talking to you about the healthy natural alternatives to commercial baby products. I hope you found this newsletter informative and thought provoking. See you next week!

Krya now has an authentic, natural baby, toddler and children’s range of skin and hair care products , inspired by the wonderful Indian system of medicine. Krya’s baby range is free from the suspicious Seven and. Does NOT contain mineral oil, SLS, SLeS, Parabens, Preservatives, thickeners, colours, fragrances and anything synthetic.

krya's baby ubtan range
Here are our current set of baby , toddler and kids products:

  1. Krya For Baby (Newborn – 1 Year)
  2. Krya For Toddlers & Kids (1 +years)

 

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Urban Survival 102 – reading cosmetic labels

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

This is the second part of our article on the science of reading product labels, in which we will decode cosmetic product labels. In the earlier part we dived into the different elements that make up a food label in the Indian context. Krya does not make food products. We work only in household and skin care products. However we are also aware that good nutrition and health are fundamental to great skin and hair, which is why the earlier article examined food labels.

 The amazing human skin

The skin is the primary recipient of personal care products and to a lesser extent the scalp and hair. It is also our first line of defense and very integral to good health. Therefore I am constantly appalled by how poorly we treat our skin by applying products on it without due diligence.

Consider these skin facts :

  • The skin is the largest organ in the body.
  • The skin renews itself every 28 days ( it is a living growing organ !)
  • The adult human skin can weigh around 3 -4 kg and covers approximately 20 square feet in area.
  • The skin can absorb up to 60% of any product applied on it. (It is not a inert physical barrier like a raincoat)
  • A baby’s skin can be three times thinner than an adult’s skin (& therefore is more vulnerable)

The cosmetic products industry is beset with two main problems today which makes label reading a vital survival skill.

  1. Lenient regulatory standards

A good friend who is the marketing director for a global brand of powder fruit juice concentrate revealed that in India, their formulation contains 96% white sugar, 2.5% preservatives and just 1.5% fruit juice extracts. Even at just 1.5 % levels, they can legally show lush pictures of fruit orchards and claim all the benefits of eating the fresh fruit from the tree. So if you went to the store with just the image carried over from TV advertising and purchased the product without reading the label, you will be sugar high and nutrient low.

8. Oranges_and_orange_juice

What is actually in your “straight from the orchard” orange juice? Mostly sugar?

 2. Creative re-interpretation

Creative re-interpretation is the other side of the same coin that also has lenient regulatory standards. Benefit claims made by brands today are stretched to the point be being farcial or even false. A common example is the use of the word “goodness” in many food and cosmetic products. It is legally possible to add 1% olive oil to 99% liquid paraffin’ to create a massage oil and then claim the benefits of pure olive oil. Here the trick is to use the word “goodness” of olive oil in the claim.

In this backdrop we would like to provide you with 4 filters to scan any cosmetic label to help you make a technical decision, and hopefully a better decision.

The 4 things to think through when reading a cosmetic or household product label

  1. Does it add up to 100 %?

This is the first point to check on a cosmetic label and ask yourself whether it all adds up.

The norm is to provide a full list of ingredients. This is not followed by many products. Then there are cases where complete declaration rule is relaxed, which we will talk about shortly. If the ingredient list says “key ingredients” mentioned with their percentages, you should quickly add the numbers. They will not add up to 100% and often the list of ingredients will account for only 30%-40% leaving you in the dark about the remaining 60% -70%. This is cause for concern.

Example 1: The label of a leading herbal hair wash powder calls itself completely natural and goes on to claim it is a proprietary Siddha formulation. The label declared many wonderful natural ingredients like Soapberry (which we use across our Krya cleaning and hair care formulations), Shikakkai and Amla (which goes into our body wash products). However, the ingredients declared were only key ingredients adding up to just 27% of the product.

6. Acacia concinna

Acacia concinna: a wonderful natural herb used throughout India for hair care. A common ingredient misrepresented in “herbal” products

But what about the remaining 73% of the product,  which is really the major part of what is being applied on your hair. I found the composition of the remaining 73% on the label of the export variant of the same product. The balance 73% contained the following

  • sulphates (a cheap foaming agent)
  • hydroxy propyl tiammonium chloride
  • Hydrated aluminium silicate
  • Preciptated silica
  • Dimethicone
  • Glycerol

None of the above ingredients are good for hair. Let us leave aside the debate of whether they are toxic to hair and environment. At the very least I can aver that the composition of the 73% not declared on the pack is nothing to be proud of and the claim of “herbal hair-wash” is certainly misleading.

  1. Excipients , QS

Many formulations contain active, potent ingredients which need a carrier medium or a buffer or a diluting agent known as excipient, which can safely deliver the active ingredient. These excipients can be natural or synthetic and are usually cost effective, inert, bulking agents. The excipient concept has its origins in medicines. For example bitter medicines for children were given with honey as an excipient to mask the taste. The excipient concept and the format for declaring it has now been borrowed by processed food and cosmetics industries as well.

It is common on labels now for brands to declare their ingredients by weight per 5 gm of the product with the excipient listed at the very end with the suffix “q.s”. Now q.s. from the latin ”quantum satis” is an instruction to add “quantity sufficient “of the excipient to make the formulation. It is also assumed that formulator has an understanding of the safe limits in which the excipient can be used. This is a tricky situation for someone interested in decoding the label. The manufacturer need not disclose what the name of the excipient used neither is there any clear guideline on what chemicals or ingredients that can be called excipients.

Example 2: For example I used an Ayurvedic toothpowder and found it to be rather sweet. The label had listed several herbs well known for oral care which added up to nearly 40% by weight of the product and the balance 60% under excipients. Now I assumed that the excipient would be salt which is rather common. However after tasting the toothpowder and finding it to be really sweet, I discovered that the excipient was mostly sugar, which is not a good idea at all in a toothpowder.

2. toothpaste on brush

Sugar: a common excipient used to make the taste of toothpaste more appealing

Then there are cases where the excipient appears to outright misleading. After our earlier post on sunscreens, a mother messaged us requesting an audit of the Ayurvedic sun screen lotion that she used on her kids. Now the product’s ingredient list read as follows:

  • Key ingredients like aloe , zinc oxide , oil etc at 11%
  • Bees wax at 7.5 %
  • Purified water Q.S.

It appears that water is the excipient forming 91.5% of the lotion. Here is the problem which the lay person would not be aware of.

It is just not possible to form a stable water based lotion with just beeswax as the emulsifier. In the lotion industry a number of other chemicals like cetyl alchohol, stearic acid, polysorbate, carbomer are used as emulsifiers to product a stable lotion in all conditions.

Further with 91.5% water and a long shelf life, some preservatives are required. The industry depends on chemicals like parabens and benzoates for preservative action, which are also not listed in the ingredient list.

This raises many questions: how did this brand of Ayurvedic sun screen lotion achieve a stable product with just beeswax? Is any ingredient deliberately left out to protect the intellectual property? Is it just plain omission?

The only option here is to directly write to your brand and ask them for a complete disclosure of all ingredients including excipients.

  1. Claims & Mis-directions  

Product claims are stretched to the absolute limit today. What started off as creative interpretation of the law can now be stretched to the point where it is no longer true.

Example 3: An example that immediately comes to mind is the line used by an Ayurvedic preparation which claims that their product helps you “stay slim and smart”. I have always wondered about the use of the word “stay” for this therapeutic product. If I am already slim and smart, why do I need this product? The visual communication gives us the impression that it is a problem solver, so if you do not notice the fine print you could easily conclude that this product will “make” you slim and smart. Sadly I know that many consumers have purchased this product in the hope of losing weight. I am not sure whether it worked for them or not.

The other disturbing trend in Indian cosmetic industry is use of the “Ayurvedic” tag to claim the halo of this sacred branch of our tradition. It is possible with some legal jugglery to add a few ingredients that have mention in Ayurvedic texts to an otherwise basic chemical formulation and pronounce the product as “Ayurvedic medicine”. Apart from the obvious benefit of piggy backing on Ayurveda, there are some licensing and tax benefits which motivate brands to borrow the Ayurvedic cloak.

In his book, India Unbound, Gurcharan Das recounts the story of how Vicks Vaporub became “Ayurvedic” when faced with the twin problems of very poor profits and a boycott by the Pharmacies in India. He recounts in the book that in this dire situation someone came up with the idea of re-classifying Vicks as an Ayurvedic formulation. Coincidentally some of the key ingredients are also mentioned in Ayurveda as remedies for common cold and the government approved their reclassification. They then were allowed to distribute the product widely in all stores and not just pharmacies. They also claimed tax benefits allowed to Ayurvedic medicines and scripted a spectacular financial rescue.

Is this really Ayurveda? Is this really presenting a true picture to the consumer who reads the label and trusts that Vicks is a genuine Ayurvedic formulation originally created by a qualified Ayurvedic doctor?

Ayurveda is a very exact and exacting science that has great reverence for the patients well being as well as for the plants, animals and minerals that provide the raw materials to create Ayurvedic medicines. For herb collection Ayurveda specifies place of origin, method of cultivation, time , season of methods of collection and storage.  I very much doubt if Gurcharan Das and the rest of the team at Procter & Gamble regularly invoked the blessings of Lord Dhanvantari at the factory manufacturing Vicks Vaporub as prescribed by Ayurvedic tradition.

This was most likely the first incident in India of a brand exploiting the Ayurvedic classification loop-hole. Since them this is a route abused by so many brands that is has also corrupted many hoary Indian Ayurvedic companies. Many Ayurvedic brands in India have now incorporated “bad habits” from cosmetic companies. For example, I know of an Ayurvedic company that manufactured only tooth powder for over 80 years. The current generations of owners have suddenly started manufacturing a tooth paste with the known cosmetic villains like SLS, sugar, artificial colours and flavors and still continue to call it an “Ayurvedic formulation”.

Charaka, one of the father’s of Ayurveda has said that medicine is that which restores health and brings longevity. He also avers that a pure medicine is one which when eliminating disease should not give rise to even the slightest cause for another disease.

4. Is this product free from known Chemical Villains?

In this blog, we have written several articles putting forth our point of view on several industrial chemicals in cosmetic products that are toxic to some or all humans. These chemicals are skin irritants, endocrine disruptors and even carcinogenic. This is not the place to present a case for or against these chemicals. So we will go straight into our recommendation. Given the bewildering array of what could go wrong with chemicals in cosmetic products it is far easier to look for what is NOT present in a product that read the ingredient list. In our opinion the following claims on a product label should help you make a better choice. So look for

  • Sulphate ( or SLS ) free
  • Paraben free
  • Petrolatum free
  • Fragrance free
  • Aluminum free
  • Lead free
  • Cruelty free
  • Phthalate free
  • DEA / TEA free

We hope that this article and its companion on reading food labels will give you the basic skills to survive shopping in a supermarket aisle filled with thousands of potentially harmful ingredients. Hopefully, you will walk out carrying products that genuinely fulfill the promise they made to you in their communication of being safe and natural for you and your family.

This article is a part of Krya’s series on toxics in household and personal care products. Through this series, we hope to inform, educate and inspire you to look around your home and detox it and yourself from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today. The natural world is full of safe, environmentally sustainable, cruelty free options to care for yourself and your home, and our series will try to present atleast a small part of this exciting world to you. 

If you would like to explore our series further, here’s what we’ve written before this piece:

  1. An introduction to the series
  2. Common carcinogens implicated in breast cancer found in your home
  3. Is it a conspiracy? A pre-planned genetic supremacy race? Or simply misinformation? Some reasons behind common toxics & why they continue to be used
  4. Are we putting our children at risk by using these products on them? Here are 3 toxins that plague children through the products we use on them.
  5. Do the products we buy contain toxins? How do we decode what goes into them? Here’s Urban Survival 101 telling you what you should look for in food product labels.

 

 

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3 toxins that plague children and a recommendation

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

A few days ago I noticed my neighbour also getting ready her two year child ready for school. Just before bundling that child into the car, her mother was slathering her with sunscreen, made for babies. Sunscreen was evidently recommended by the school authorities, who these days are really careful about the children entrusted to them.

The sunscreen encounter got me thinking about the wide array of toxics that are marketed to and find their way into the bodies of children across the world today.

Here are the numbers

In this series on toxics, I have relied on US data due to the paucity of Indian studies. A recent study by the US Centre for Disease Control & Prevention concludes that BPA and 7 other toxics are building up within the bodies of their children. Over 60% of the children tested had significant residues of Bisphenol A (BPA) and other phenolic toxins like benzohenone-3, Triclosan, 2-4 dichlorophenol, and 3 parabens.

Bisphenol A is a common chemical found in plastic utensils and dishes, even those sold for children’s use. Triclosan is found in anti bacterial soaps, wipes and washes, Benzophenone-3 is also called oxybenzophenone is a common ingredient in many sunscreens.  Dichlorophenols are used in many herbicides and pesticides and parabens are found in many skin and hair care products.

In India, apart from these, heavy metals are a particular concern. A study done by Centre for Science & Environment in 2014, found that Mercury, prohibited for use in cosmetics in India, was found in 44% of the fairness cream brands surveyed. Lipstick samples tested had both chromium (50%) and nickel (43%).  And this despite what you may assume, is a concern for children as many paediatricians and dermatologists attest to the fact that in India colour cosmetics and fairness creams sold to women routinely get applied on children as  well.

DSC08827

Colour cosmetics: a special concern for parents of young girls in India

We are extremely concerned about the the chemical and environmental toxin load on children’s bodies. As we have seen in our earlier articles on environmental toxins and industrial chemicals, many of them have a debilitating effect when exposed at an early stage. Children are particularly vulnerable at various stages in their development to the effect of endocrine disrupter chemicals and carcinogens. The Endocrine Society’s statement on these 2 chemical classes states that there is a latency of exposure: and that these chemicals when exposed at a critical developmental window can do great harm even in small doses.

no safe dose

There is no safe dose in certain chemical classes

The blood work of children being examined in western countries reveals environmental toxins in alarmingly high quantities. The route of exposure to these toxins are multiple. Some come through skin contact; some from cleaning product residue in the food we eat; some through the leachates of the potentially harmful cookware & cutlery we use, and through inhalation.

In this piece, we have focused on 3 potentially toxic products in our homes, and discuss alternatives to these for our children.

1. Sunscreen or Sunblock

The general recommendation from doctors in the US and Australia today appears to be this: Everyone regardless of skin colour should apply at least SPF 15 daily, even in winter. Suddenly in the space of a few decades, sunscreen is being positioned as an essential item of daily life, even for people who do not work in the fields or move around on horseback.

The sunscreen industry took off particularly when it became accepted that those with lighter skins like Caucasians were at higher risk. Also at risk were those living under a depleted ozone layer like the Australians.

So do Indians need sunscreen? Do Indian babies & children need sunscreen?

Sun sense

If you are concerned about sun exposure, the first step is to stay indoors during the afternoon. Secondly, when you do step outside, wear a hat and clothing that covers your entire body. Period.

Sunscreen is not an essential requirement. Even the cancer council of Australia, the country most paranoid about skin cancer runs a campaign called “slip, slop, slap, seek, slide “where prevention (through shade, clothing , hat etc) is the key weapon in fighting the potential harm of sun exposure. Further the cancer experts assert that sunscreen should be applied in a thick layer as directed by the manufacturer re-applied every two hours and cannot be used as a means to extend sun exposure like working on a tan at the beach.

Some sunscreen facts

Use of sunscreen is at an all time high across the world today especially in US & Australia. Yet here are the assertions by the cancer associations of those countries

  • 2 out of 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70
  • I in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime

Despite the increase in use of sunscreen, the prevalence of skin cancer in these countries has increased & is not at all in control. In a country like Australia with a population of just around 20 million, there are over 1 million skin cancer consultations with doctors annually.

Despite the patchy success of sunscreens and sunblocks, dermatologists and doctors continue to enthusiastically recommend these products. A May 2014 study by L’Oreal India said that over 94% of the 900 + dermatologists surveyed in India recommended use of a sunscreen as a “first line of defence” to their patients – atleast 3 times a day.

This state of affairs should provoke any right thinking person to  question the need or effectiveness of  sunscreen and sunblock. In fact we should be pulling at this thread further to investigate the potential harm caused by our sunscreens and sunblocks.

Unnecessary chemical overload

Imagine the drudgery of applying a thick coat of sun protection cream on your body daily for the rest of your life. The skin is the largest organ in the body, our first line of defence and under severe assault from environmental pollution already. To add to its woes we are applying a whole new set of toxins on our skin.

We have already written about the threat of parabens in this blog. Parabens are a common class of preservatives used in personal care products including sun screen and can be absorbed by the skin. They are best avoided.

sunscreen

Sunscreen: more harm than good?

Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide are the two main chemicals used in sun block around the world. While the debate rages on the safety of these chemicals, a new threat is upon us; Nano technology. The nano particle version of Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are also now commonly used in skin care products like sun block. Where the earlier molecules stayed on the outer layer of the skin as a physical barrier, now there is a threat that these nano particles can pass through the skin and enter the body. Oxybenzone, another common sun screen ingredient, is known to be a endocrine disruptor and skin irritant.

Children’s skin is upto three times thinner than adult skin and is vulnerable to the products applied on it. The ideal solution for children is to avoid the mid-day sun or at least use clothing and hats to protect their skin.

What about Vitamin-D?

In the rush to cover the skin with sunscreen we forget the vital role played by the sunshine in producing Vitamin-D. The global skin cancer scare has also created a parallel industry of vitamin-D supplements to be taken through food in the absence of healthy sun exposure. In Ayurveda, sun exposure at sunrise and sunset is recommended for healthy skin, regulating bio-rhythms and for producing vitamin –D.

Our personal experience with Vitamin D

Despite having over 300 days of sunshine in India, 80% of urban India and 70% of rural India are Vitamin D deficient today. This deficiency is suspected to be because of changing dietary habits, rising air pollution levels, and high concentration of toxins like pesticides in the environment.

Vitamin D deficiencies can manifest itself in a variety of symptoms including joint pains, inflammation, stiffness in the back. The Vitamin can prevent multiple sclerosis, diabetes, preeclampsia during pregnancy, low infant birth weight, and improve immune response to TB , asthma and Parkinson’s disease among other conditions.

 2. Phthalates

Phthalates are a class of chemicals used as plasticizers, to make physical products pliant and flexible – they can be found in vinyl flooring, raincoats, adhesives, detergents, nail polishes, soaps, toys and skin care lotions.

Because phthalates are physically bound into plastics using a heating process, they are very easily released when this physical bond breaks. For example when phthalate containing plastic dishes are washed with harsh chemicals or a child chews a toy containing phthalates.

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Plastic chew toys: not just an environmental hazard

India is slowly overhauling its regulations in children’s toys given the high probability of phthalate ingestion in chew toys for infants and toddlers. A BIS regulation formulated in 2011 have limits phthalates like DEHP and DBP to 0.1% or below for toys that are marketed to children under 4 years. However this guideline only addresses the use of single phthalates. Many toy manufacturers use a combination of 2 or more phthalates in a plastic product, and BIS does not address this exposure. And unfortunately this guideline is simply that – it is not a law and a manufacturer need not abide by it, especially if the buyers of these toys do not know about these safety regulations.

A 2012 study of plastic toys in India found that even a year after the BIS guideline was passed, over 45% of children’s toys marketed to the below 4 years segment exceeded international safety limits for phthalates.

The above BIS guideline as mentioned is not a law / directive or regulation. So at this point there are no measures in place to protect us from phthalate exposure in any form. It might be difficult to identify phthalate free plastic toys for your child, so look for fabric or wooden toys.

3. Bisphenol – A ( BPA)

 Bisphenol-A ( BPA) is an industrial chemical found in plastics and resins, especially used to store food. BPA can leach into our food in many ways. It is found in resins that coat the insides of tins used to package food. It is often found in food grade plastics and easily leaches into the contents under heat, especially in microwaves and dishwashers. Children are understood to be particularly susceptible to BPA , even ingesting it prenatally and through breast milk. Studies have shown concerns that BPA can affect brain, behaviour and prostrate gland in foetuses, infants and children.

Unlike phthalates, BPA –free products are widely available now and are clearly labelled.

However plastics are best avoided in relation to food. Beyond BPA there are other plastics that can still leach into food over time and through heat. Steel, wood , ceramic , enamel, clay are all options to store and serve food to children.

The Krya skin care recommendation for children

Children should be shielded from extreme weather like the afternoon sun, cold winds and the rain. When stepping out in the sun , ensure that they are wearing a hat, and their arms and legs are covered. Just clothing alone can provide the equivalent of nearly SPF 5 protection.

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Keeping it safe and simple: a hat!

If their skin gets burnt especially on a holiday, there are a number of natural remedies like oil , water & milk of coconut which heals burns and helps skin repair. The only after effect of extreme sun exposure to be concerned about is the dehydration of skin and subsequent cell damage.

To ensure your child’s skin remains well moisturized and that the external barrier is well protected either in the cold or after sun exposure, Indian tradition recommends the liberal use of cold pressed vegetable oil. Oils like coconut oil, and even coconut milk have been studied to rapidly heal damaged skin barriers and act as an emollient for the skin. Pure native cow’s ghee is also extremely good at removing excess pitta and adding much needed moisture lost in children’s skin. Keeping your child’s skin well moisturized and undamaged by drying and toxic agents like synthetic soaps is a great start to keeping your child’s skin healthy.

For babies and young children, Ayurveda recommends frequent oil massages (daily if your child’s skin is very dry, and weekly for most others). Different oils are recommended at different times of the year. But the overall effect of the oil massage is a calm, centered baby with a healthy and nourished body that heals better and grows better.

The use of a gentle grain or clay based cleanser is a perfect complement to vegetable oil. It mops up the excess oil extremely efficiently, but leaves behind a very tiny layer to ensure that young skin is not left completely dry.

Parenting and baby care today is faced with a commercial onslaught. It seems like a very complex maze that you cannot navigate without the aid of dozens of accessories and products. As parents with plenty, it seems almost wrong to lead a life with less, which is simple and natural.

While this is a matter of parenting philosophy, as a researcher , formulator and lifelong fan of the miracle that is human skin, I can safely say , that when it comes to parenting and products, less is definitely more.

This article is a part of Krya’s series on toxics in household and personal care products. Through this series, we hope to inform, educate and inspire you to look around your home and detox it and yourself from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today. The natural world is full of safe, environmentally sustainable, cruelty free options to care for yourself and your home, and our series will try to present atleast a small part of this exciting world to you. 

If you would like to explore our series further, here’s what We’ve written before this piece:

  1. An introduction to the series
  2. Common carcinogens implicated in breast cancer found in your home 
  3. Is it a conspiracy? A pre-planned genetic supremacy race? Or simply misinformation? Some reasons behind common toxics & why they continue to be used


Please explore Krya’s authentic range of natural, good for you skin care products for children below:

  1. Krya’s baby care range
  2. Krya’s Toddler and Kids Range

 

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