Ayurveda Day 70: Oleation

What is oleation?

Oleation is the practice of oiling the body either externally (via abhyanga massage, bastis, etc.) or internally (via medicated ghees and oils swallowed directly or in some teas).

In Sanskrit, the term for this is known as snehana, a wonderful word which translates literally as “to love”. In Ayurveda, love and oil are interchangeable. When we perform any oleation practice, we are taking care of our self, loving our self! Our busy society and lifestyles often cause us to neglect this aspect of self love. Through snehana we are allowing the oils to lubricate the tissues of the body as well as promoting self care and love.

The oils have the power to penetrate deeply into the cells of all layers of the body. To name but a few benefits: they nourish the phospholipid layer of the cells, the nervous system, and build ojas.

In addition to tonifying the body and protecting us, they loosen and liquify ama. These are the indigestible substances that find their way into the body via the digestive system. They can block absorption of nutrients (ex – mucoid plaque), and especially with highly processed foods, they are able to pass through the walls of the small intestine and cause all sorts of problems.

Oleation is also used in preparation for Pancha Karma, an intensive purification process.

When should I use oils?

Pretty much all the time! As part of a daily practice, it helps to pacify the doshas (especially Vata/Pitta), and increases ojas. This self abhyanga stimulates the flow of the lymphatic system increasing immunity.

Oils should especially can be used for any Vata type conditions, including:

– dry, rough skin

– hypersensitivity

– weight loss

– weakness

– dizziness

– low ojas

– anxiety, worry, etc.

What oils should I use?

The best oil to use isn’t even oil – it’s ghee! It’s tridoshic, meaning good for all doshas. Aside from that:

Vata: Sesame or almond in large amounts

Pitta: Sunflower, coconut, or olive in moderate amounts

Kapha: Safflower or mustard in minimal amounts.

Should I take it internally or externally?

Great question. Anyone can do the external abhyanga as part of their daily routine. Seeing a CAS will open up other massage and oil treatments that you can’t otherwise do on your own. These techniques can help to pacify imbalances immensely. Oil can be used on the head for mental imbalances, on the eyes for any vision related ailments, on the skin, in the ears, rectally…

Internally, we use medicated ghees or oils. This takes the form of 1 part herb, 4 parts ghee/oil, 16 parts water. It is then boiled until all the water is gone and strained. It is best to speak with a CAS to find out which herbs are best for you condition. Typically, the ghee/oil is taken over 7 days, starting with 1 tsp on day 1, 2 tsps on day 2, etc. up to 7 tsps on day 7. They are taken in the morning on an empty stomach.

How do I know if I need oleation?

Clear signs of under-oleation are dry skin, lips, eyes, etc. as well as hard stools.

Too much oleation manifests as loss of appetite, paleness, nausea, vomiting, mucous buildup in mouth, stools, or respiratory system.

You want the Goldilocks zone – just right: skin is soft, stools are oily.

Saran, this is way too much information. I mean come on. Ayurveda tells me I should do a million things everyday, seriously where do I find time for all this???

Even better question! As with any practice, start small. Be forgiving of yourself. There is no one judging you to do this everyday. If you struggle with this practice of self oiling, then set an attainable goal. Maybe for you that goal is to do it once a week. If that is too much, try once every 2 weeks. Then slowly build towards a daily practice. The best part about oiling is it supports nervous system function, so the more you do it, the easier it will actually be to form these good habits.

In a more general sense, yes, living a healthy life takes work. We often may have to re-evaluate the priorities in our life. As humans we are a funny breed, because even if something works and we believe it will work, we often refuse to try it or change it due to fear, judgment, or attachment. This is why seeing a CAS is important, as we can help support you in healing holistically, as a complete individual.

For more information on oleation, check out my previous blog.

With gratitude,



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