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Shirodhara at The Hale Clinic

May 11, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

During my last trip to London, I had the pleasure of visiting The Hale Clinic – a 25 year old institution that offers a wide assortment of alternative and complementary therapies and resources. The primary objective of this world renowned center of healing is to integrate holistic principles into the conventional medical paradigm. In addition to providing access to holistic practitioners, Hale also has a natural pharmacy and reading room on premises.

One of the many treatments offered at The Hale Clinic is an Ayurvedic practice known as Shirodhara. In it, a patient lies face up on a table as a consistently slow stream of warm milk or oil is poured on the forehead. Dr. Ujwala Luthia, a graduate of the University of Mumbai and a registered member of the British Register of Complementary Practitioners, administers this soothing modality as part of a comprehensive approach to mind-body wellness.

In recent years, science has begun examining whether Shirodhara is more than just a relaxing activity advocated by traditional Indian healers. To the surprise of many, the results of several, peer reviewed clinical trials show that there is, in fact, a basis for it. To date, it’s been established that repeated Shirodhara treatments: 1) reduce diastolic and systolic blood pressure; 2) improve reaction time and other symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD; 3) offer a viable adjunct and/or alternative to hormone replacement therapy for menopause; 4) support sleep quality in patients with insomnia; 5) positively affect balance and coordination in those living with progressive degenerative cerebellar ataxia, a neurological condition that affects muscle control; 6) bolster immune function by increasing natural killer cell activity and decrease anxiety by lowering noradrenaline levels.

There are a number of suspected modes of action that underlie the benefits attributable to Shirodhara. In some instances, essential oils or herbs are infused in the warm milk and oil applied to the forehead. The medicinal properties of these ingredients may very well be absorbed through hair follicles, skin and sweat glands. The warming effect of the liquids is also believed to induce circulatory benefits as a result of acute vasodilatation. However, perhaps most important is the noted activity of Shirodhara on the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain that influences everything from body temperature to stress response. According to a recent evaluation, this interaction likely results in “relief of most of the psychic and somatic disorders” seen in the current batch of studies.

The one downside of Shirodhara may be the price tag. At The Hale Clinic, a 60 minute session costs £110. In the United States, the famed Chopra Center charges over $200 for a 65 minute treatment. Multiple sessions are typically called for and sometimes require daily administration for the first few weeks, followed by less frequent maintenance therapy. Like many other alternative and complementary therapies, most health insurance providers do not currently cover the expense.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – The Role of Psychic Factors in Pathogenesis of Essential Hypertension … (link)

Study 2 – Ayurvedic Approach for Improving Reaction Time of Attention Deficit (link)

Study 3 – An Assessment of Manasika Bhavas in Menopausal Syndrome and its (link)

Study 4 – Evaluation of Insomrid Tablet and Shirodhara in the Management of (link)

Study 5 – Improvement of Balance in Progressive Degenerative Cerebellar Ataxias (link)

Study 6 – Psychoneuroimmunologic Effects of Ayurvedic Oil-Dripping Treatment (link)

Study 7 – Pharmaco-Physio-Psychologic Effect of Ayurvedic Oil-Dripping (link)

Two Weeks of Shirodhara Improves ADHD Symptoms

Source: Ayu. 2010 Jul-Sep; 31(3): 338–342. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Mental Health, Women's Health

5 Comments & Updates to “Shirodhara at The Hale Clinic”

  1. Mary Brighton Says:

    Would love to find this treatment near where i live in SW France. It sounds so relaxing….! Thanks for sharing-lucky you to have experienced this.

  2. JP Says:

    Hi Mary,

    Shirodhara is becoming more and more common throughout Europe – as Ayurveda grows in popularity. So, stay on the lookout! An opportunity for you to try it may present itself sooner than you think! 🙂

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update 03/13/15:


    Glob Adv Health Med. 2014 Jan;3(1):75-80.

    Ayurvedic therapy (shirodhara) for insomnia: a case series.

    BACKGROUND: Insomnia is one of the most common complaints faced by primary care practitioners after pain. Non-pharmacological management of Insomnia that is noninvasive is gaining interest among patients with insomnia.

    PURPOSE: To determine the feasibility of recruiting and retaining participants in a clinical trial on shirodhara, Ayurvedic oil dripping therapy, for insomnia in the United States and also to investigate the therapeutic usefulness of Shirodhara for insomnia using standardized outcome measures.

    DESIGN: Case series.

    STUDY INTERVENTION AND DATA COLLECTION: Shirodhara with Brahmi oil was done for 45 minutes on each participant for 5 consecutive days. Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) was used to evaluate the severity of insomnia as well as to determine the response to Shirodhara therapy. Data were collected at baseline, end of the treatment (day 5) and 1 week after the treatment ended (follow-up).

    RESULTS: Two males and eight females with a mean age of 40 years (range 23 to 72), SD ± 14.2, were enrolled in the study. One dropped out of the study, but all remaining nine participants experienced improvement at the end of treatment. The percentage of improvement range varied from 3.85% to 69.57%. At follow-up, most participants continued to improve. Comparison of means between baseline and day 5 indicated an overall significant improvement (P < .005), but in a comparison of baseline vs 1 week posttreatment the improvement was not significant (P < .089). No adverse events were reported during the study. CONCLUSION: Shirodhara with Brahmi oil may be beneficial for moderate to severe insomnia. It is feasible to recruit and retain participants for such therapies in the United States. It is important to validate these findings and investigate the mechanism of action using a larger sample and rigorous research design. Be well! JP

  4. JP Says:

    Update 03/13/15:


    J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2013 Jan;4(1):40-4.

    Shirodhara: A psycho-physiological profile in healthy volunteers.

    BACKGROUND: Shirodhara is a classical and a well-established ayurvedic procedure of slowly and steadily dripping medicated oil or other liquids on the forehead. This procedure induces a relaxed state of awareness that results in a dynamic psycho-somatic balance.

    OBJECTIVES: The objective of the study is to evaluate the psychological and physiological effects of Shirodhara in healthy volunteers by monitoring the rating of mood and levels of stress, electrocardiogram (ECG), electroencephalogram (EEG), and selected biochemical markers of stress.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: The study was conducted in the human pharmacology laboratory. The study design was open labeled, comparing the baseline variables with values after Shirodhara. The subjects (n = 16) chosen were healthy human volunteers who gave an informed consent. Shirodhara was preceded by Abhyanga – whole body massage. The Shirodhara method was standardized for rate of dripping with peristaltic pump and temperature was controlled with a thermostat. Mood and stress levels were assessed by validated rating scales. The pre- and post-Shirodhara ECG and EEG records were evaluated.

    RESULTS: Student’s paired “t” test was applied to the means + SE of the variables to calculate statistical significance at P <0.05. There was a significant improvement in mood scores and the level of stress (P <0.001). These changes were accompanied by significant decrease in rate of breathing and reduction in diastolic blood pressure along with reduction in heart rate. The relaxed alert state, after Shirodhara, was co-related with an increase in alfa rhythm in EEG.

    CONCLUSION: A standardized Shirodhara leads to a state of alert calmness similar to the relaxation response observed in meditation. The clinical benefits observed with Shirodhara in anxiety neurosis, hypertension, and stress aggravation due to chronic degenerative diseases could be mediated through these adaptive physiological effects.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 12/17/15:


    J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Dec 15.

    Effects of Ayurvedic Oil-Dripping Treatment with Sesame Oil vs. with Warm Water on Sleep: A Randomized Single-Blinded Crossover Pilot Study.

    OBJECTIVES: Ayurvedic oil-dripping treatment (Shirodhara) is often used for treating sleep problems. However, few properly designed studies have been conducted, and the quantitative effect of Shirodhara is unclear. This study sought to quantitatively evaluate the effect of sesame oil Shirodhara (SOS) against warm water Shirodhara (WWS) on improving sleep quality and quality of life (QOL) among persons reporting sleep problems.

    METHODS: This randomized, single-blinded, crossover study recruited 20 participants. Each participant received seven 30-minute sessions within 2 weeks with either liquid. The washout period was at least 2 months. The Shirodhara procedure was conducted by a robotic oil-drip system. The outcomes were assessed by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) for sleep quality, Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) for daytime sleepiness, World Health Organization Quality of Life 26 (WHO-QOL26) for QOL, and a sleep monitor instrument for objective sleep measures. Changes between baseline and follow-up periods were compared between the two types of Shirodhara. Analysis was performed with generalized estimating equations.

    RESULTS: Of 20 participants, 15 completed the study. SOS improved sleep quality, as measured by PSQI. The SOS score was 1.83 points lower (95% confidence interval [CI], -3.37 to -0.30) at 2-week follow-up and 1.73 points lower (95% CI, -3.84 to 0.38) than WWS at 6-week follow-up. Although marginally significant, SOS also improved QOL by 0.22 points at 2-week follow-up and 0.19 points at 6-week follow-up compared with WWS. After SOS, no beneficial effects were observed on daytime sleepiness or objective sleep measures.

    CONCLUSIONS: This pilot study demonstrated that SOS may be a safe potential treatment to improve sleep quality and QOL in persons with sleep problems.

    Be well!


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