Ayurvastra: The Science of Medicinal Fabric

Ayurvastra: The Science of Medicinal Fabric

We all have heard about Ayurveda in one or the other way. It is the popular ancient Indian system of medicine which is now gaining widespread recognition for its natural remedies. From herbal remedies to mindful practices, Ayurveda has touched innumerable aspects of our lives.

Rajan, from Handloom Weaver's Development Society, Thiruvananthapuram who’s explaining this to us, is the sixth generation of the Kuzhivila family is trading in this fabric. Their lineage goes back to the Silk Route, when they supplied rajas with turmeric-dyed cloth. The practice Ayurvastra, a convenient and memorable combination of the Sanskrit words Ayur—which means life, health, or longevity—and Vastra or Vastram—which means clothing. The cloth works as a mediator in carrying the goodness of ayurvedic properties and transfers it to skin, thus providing wellness to those who wear it.

This Ayurveda inspired herbal dyed clothing is known for its immense medicinal and natural properties that restore balance in human body and strengthen the immune system of the wearers. These herb-dyed textiles are known for preventing skin diseases, facilitating better immunity and regulating body temperature. Hence, Ayurvastra can be largely considered as a preventative health care and wellness clothing as there is evidence that supports the effectiveness of this clothing in preventing skin diseases like psoriasis, rheumatism, eczema, dry skin among others.



Supporting Research
Two studies have been completed on Ayurvastra’s effects in humans, both indicating positive results. The researchers in the Department of Pharmacology at the Government Ayurveda College (GAC) in Kerala found that patients who used bedding, rugs, and towels dyed with medicinal plants experienced relief in symptoms of eczema, psoriasis, and even rheumatism. Kerala’s Ministry of Health conducted its own study on the effects that herbal-dyed clothing, bed sheets, and mattresses had on patients with a variety of ailments. They also hung Ayurvastra cloth mats on their walls and ceilings. Researchers reported that patients’ arthritis and rheumatism symptoms improved, suggesting possible effects that go beyond dermatological responses.

“It is very difficult to pass any comment about the reliability and significance [of ayurvastra] without a comparative study between herbal decoction dyeing and chemical dyeing,” said Hari M. Chandola, MD, PhD, the head of internal medicine at Gujarat Ayurved University. “It needs scientific evaluation with multi-centric survey and trials before reaching to any conclusion.”

Dr. Chandola noted that because the Ayurvastra linens are natural and free of synthetic bleaches and dyes, people using them could have a minimized chance of skin reactions from possible allergies to non-natural substances. Also, he said, natural fabrics allow perspiration to evaporate properly, something that can be difficult when wearing synthetic clothing.




Traditional History
Dr. Chandola claimed that Ayurvastra is not referred to in the ancient or contemporary classics of Ayurveda. Instead, he said, some references mention certain plants that have a therapeutic result when applied to the skin by working through a mode of action called Prabhav, which means effect.
The use of medicinal plants to dye clothing is mentioned in some Ayurvedic texts, just not under the name Ayurvastra. Additionally, Vasant Lad, BAMS—president of the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico and a distinguished Ayurvedic doctor and author—said that the usage of fabrics dyed in medicinal plants is discussed in the Padma Purana, a Hindu religious text, and the Astanga Hridaya, a text that covers the Eight Branches of Ayurveda (oral communication, September 26, 2011). The color of the fabric can be used to balance the doshas, Dr. Lad continued, and the medicinal properties of the plants can be obtained through their energy and dynamic action.

Dr. Lad noted that in-depth Ayurvedic knowledge is scattered about in ancient Vedic literature. “It is there,” he said about documentation of the Ayurvastra process. He also said that the prescription of Ayurvastra by Ayurvedic practitioners in India and the United States is uncommon, but he recommends it for some of his clients—especially turmeric-dyed fabrics for people experiencing skin disorders.



Ayurvastra vs Normal Clothing : For Environment

Research suggests that modern western wear is unsustainable and exerts a huge burden on the environment. A pair of jeans takes 7500 litres of water in its making process unlike traditional Indian wear such as handloom or organic clothing that may take significantly lesser water to process. 

Regular daily clothing includes synthetic chemicals that are harmful both to those who wear it and the environment whereas organic clothing promotes human wellness and is eco-friendly. Ayurvedic clothing or Ayurvastra incorporates an inherent tradition of India that has long lived in a way in which it does not harm the environment.

As we start to adopt lives with greater consciousness, incorporating Ayurvastra can be one of the healthiest ways to start.

Benefits of Ayurvastra

Herb dyed organic fabrics act as healing agents, act as an absorber through skin. Each fabric is infused with specific herbs that can help treat skin conditions.

  • Herbs used in Ayurvastra are known to cure allergies having anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Ayurvastra is good for transpiration that helps in recovering various diseases. It may help treat a broad range of diseases such as skin infections, diabetes, eczema, psoriasis, hypertension, high blood pressure asthma & insomnia.
  • Ayurvastra can further be used as energy booster, mood enhancer, blood purification & cooling.
  • It is interesting to know that medicinal value of this cloth is increased if cloth is bleached with cow's urine.
  • The wide array of unique naturally occurring colors can't be duplicated with synthetic dyes, hence new shades can be developed, the effect of which will not be lost even after constant use. Use of herbal dyes improves the aesthetic value of the cotton fabric in the most eco-friendly & sustainable manner.


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