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Beyond Brushing

Nourishing your hair with Ayurvedic herbs also calms the mind.

By Miriam Hospodar

Best known as the classic text for yogis, the Bhagavad Gita also dispensed a bit of ancient hair-care wisdom. Long, luxuriant hair reflected a control of the senses, according to its pages, and Lord Krishna bore the name Hrishikesha, or "lord of the senses," and "one with long hair." Today, this traditional association between healthy tresses and overall well-being is still the basis for ayurveda">Ayurvedic hair and scalp treatments. Experts in this ancient health science advise that in nurturing the hair, we can also improve the nerves, brain functioning, and even our meditation practice.

Rama Kant Mishra, an Ayurvedic expert who specializes in dermatology, recommends nourishing your locks from the inside out with herbs and foods rich in hair-strengthening nutrients.

The Ayurvedic herb bhringaraj (Eclipta alba), known as the "king of hair," promotes hair growth and helps relieve stress. Bhringaraj also calms down pitta dosha, the fiery element that can cause premature graying and hair loss.

Brahmi, or gotu kola, is another powerful rejuvenating herb that calms the mind and nourishes the hair. You can take bhringaraj (250mg to 1g) and brahmi (250 to 500mg) in the form of daily capsules, or brew the dried plant into an herbal tea. Applied topically, hair oils infused with these two botanicals feed the scalp, and when used before bedtime, help calm your mind to promote sound sleep. (You'll find these hair oils in Indian markets.) Also be sure to eat plenty of foods high in calcium and iron, such as leafy greens, carrots, beets, tahini, soy, yogurt, milk, and fresh, homemade cheese. Fresh coconut and sweet seasonal fruits will also help your hair thrive, as will black pepper, turmeric, cumin, and fenugreek.

Shampoos containing harsh chemicals can strip your hair of its protective oils and cause an imbalance of the dry, airy vata dosha. Avoid this problem with a milder cleanser, coupled with a daily to weekly Ayurvedic oil massage. Mishra recommends almond oil if you have thin, dry, easily split vata hair, coconut oil for quick-to-gray pitta hair, and olive oil if your hair is of the kapha type: dark, thick, shiny, and prone to oiliness. Apply oil to your hair and gently massage into your scalp. Allow it to penetrate for at least one hour, or leave on overnight; then wash it out.

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