Use of Essential oils in Ayurveda – Aromatherapy

Ayurveda is an ancient science which is said to be 40,000 years old, with texts said to be about 6000 years old. Ayurveda originated in what is now India. It gives us a complete paradigm of life. It covers not only the medicinal aspect, but it touches our consciousness, mind, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Ayurveda helps us to achieve a body which works in balance, and when this is achieved, it radiates throughout the body. For example, when our body is attuned to our innate nature, our diet and lifestyle, then we can maintain good health. First, here are some of the important key terms for you to understand more about essential oils and their importance.

Key Terms

Dosha: The functional intelligence within the human body that is responsible for all the physiological and psychological processes in a person. One of three functional energies in nature: vata, pitta, and kapha.

Prakruti (or prakriti or mind-body type): Constitution that we are born with; the unique ratio of “vata”, “pitta” and “kapha” doshas established at conception and resulting in a unique set of physical, emotional, and mental tendencies, strengths, and vulnerabilities.

Kapha.: One of the three “doshas” (functional energies in nature); kapha is made up of the earth and water elements and governs structure, liquidity, growth and cohesiveness.

Key words used to describe qualities of kapha are heavy, slow, cool, oily, smooth, dense, soft, stable, gross, and cloudy.

Pitta: One of the three “doshas” (functional energies in nature); pitta is predominated by mainly fire and some air and water elements, and it governs transformation, governing all metabolic processes. Key words used to describe qualities of pitta are light, sharp (or penetrating), hot, oily, liquid, and spreading.

Vata (also called Vayu): One of the three doshas (functional energies in nature); vata is predominated by the space and air elements and governs movement, transportation, drying and separating functions and communication. Key words for vata are light, cold, dry, rough, mobile, subtle, and clear.

Essential Oils in Ayurveda – Aromatherapy

Once we understand the doshas and the elements they are made of and the qualities that each of the dosha is related to, it is easy to pick essential oils for each dosha.

Vata – when aggravated, brings dryness and coldness in the body, and stress, fear and anxiety are key emotional imbalances experienced. To balance, we need a mix of warm and sweet aromas. Vata aggravation is treated by oils that are wet (hydrophilic), heavy, calming and warming. So some examples of oils that we can use are rosewood, sage, cinnamon, black pepper, oregano, patchouli, ginger, basil orange, rose geranium and clove.

Pitta – Especially when aggravated, brings heat in the body. The quality of pitta being hot and wet, it is treated with cooling, sweet aromas that are heat dispelling, drying, nutritive and calming oils. Some oils that are useful for pitta are blue chamomile, lavender, clary sage, labdanum, fennel, ylang ylang, sandalwood, rose, mint and jasmine.

Kapha – is made up of water and earth elements and associated with qualities like cold, moist, slow and heavy in nature. So it can be treated with warming, drying, lightening, and stimulating aromas, with spicy overtones. Diuretics to reduce water may also be beneficial. Some oils that may be useful are lime, orange, juniper, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, thyme, black pepper, eucalyptus and marjoram.

Essential oils in Ayurveda - Aromatherapy

Essential oils were used in many parts of India since 1000s of years, forming a very important part of the lifestyle. They were even gifted to kings and queens as a token of gratitude.

Let us look at some simple examples:

  1. A pitta (fire body type) looking for oil and help with ingestion, looking for carminatives will find coriander or oregano oils useful. But of the two, coriander is cooling but oregano is heating. So we would choose coriander for pitta (fire dosha) ), bringing cooling effect but may choose oregano for vata type person (space and air in body) or kapha dosha body type (has water and earth and cooling in nature)

2) Sesame oil as carrier oil can be useful for vata body type or vata imbalances like stress and anxiety with its warming quality. For pitta imbalances, we can use coconut oil as base oil and for kapha, sesame, sweet almond, corn or mustard oils may be good carrier oils. Apricot kernel, jojoba, or wheatgerm oils can be useful for any, body-type.

Aromatic Plants Used in Ayurveda

The Ayurvedic pharmacy is filled with aromatic plants that are well known throughout the world, as well as its own collection of unique species. Herbaceous species include tulsi (holy basil), coriander, sages, fennel and mints. Aromatic roots include vetiver, valerian, and calamus. Flowers include roses, jasmine, champa, marigolds and lotuses. Tree species include sandalwood, cedar, agarwood, pine, and eucalyptus. Many resins are utilized, including frankincense and guggul, a species of myrrh. Ayurveda is also rich in spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, long pepper, ginger, nutmeg, and clove. Several aromatic grasses are found, such as lemongrass.


DISCLAIMER: The pathogenesis of each person’s condition is unique, and so the recommendations must be unique to the individual and the unique root causes of the condition in your body. The article here is for general knowledge and learning. It is not meant to replace the need for any specific recommendations for your specific health issue. The best way to do this is with a one on one consultation with your Ayurveda or other health practitioner. If you have a known medical condition, consult your physician before using this.


Photo credit: Tiny Mountain


Neerja Ahuja
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