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Indigenous Healing From the Himalayas

By: Carina Chatlani
Posted: January 28, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
shirodhara at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai

Spa therapies such as ayurveda and shirodhara, performed here at the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, have their origins rooted in the mountainous Himalayan region.

Originally from Mumbai, India, I’ve had many experiences journeying through the Himalayas throughout the years, and even when my life in a Himalayan boarding school in the 80s brought me face to face with various ailments, I still treasure the encounters I had with local healers who succinctly assembled an array of herbs that provided just the right remedy for my afflictions.

Mystical forces

The Himalayas, with a wealth of medicinal plants and traditional knowledge, has been home to a host of different people and tribes leaving their signatures and creating a mosaic of cultures. Local gods and goddesses have been equated with the divine, and the Indian epic Mahabharata describes how the Pandava people journeyed through the Himalayas en route to heaven.

Although the tale’s origin dates back to the Middle Ages, the ancient rishis and sages discovered truth and created great commentaries from it, shaping influences still seen today in the region.

Indigenous systems of medicine are specially conditioned by this cultural heritage and these myths. The Himalayan people believe that unhappiness of such local gods is the cause of disease and often use magico-religious and natural therapies to appease them.

Nature’s bounty

The biodiversity of the Himalayas is unrivaled. The rich, alluvial soil—rife with iron, aluminum and large amounts of minerals and nutrients—is very suitable for agriculture, creating an ample support system for skin and body care ingredients.