Nasya - Why we put oil up our nose

by Sandra Radja

In Ayurveda, medicines administered via the nasal passages affect the mind, sinus passages, throat, nose and head area. The Sanskrit term is Nasya (nose) and it is one of the 5 cleansing techniques used in Panchakarma.  As a therapy, there are various types of Nasya treatment.

  • Cleansing, for indications such as sinusitis, nasal congestion, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease (Kapha blockages)
  • Nutritive, for indications such as insomnia, loss of smell, dizziness, vertigo, nervousness and fear (Vata disorders)
  •  Balancing, for indications such as conjunctivitis, alopecia, psoriasis of scalp and neck, and nose bleeds (depends on the dosha)
  • Lubricating, for indications such as neck pain, dry eyes, hair loss, earache, sensitive teeth and neck pain (depends on the dosha)

I would like to encourage you to a daily practice of nasya, which can help to balance the mind, reduce stress and clear the nasal passages so congestion doesn’t become an issue for surgery.

Here are a couple of approaches -

Pratimarsha is the daily application of marsha, or the little finger is dipped into a small amount of medication oil or ghee and the nasal passages are gently massaged.

The practice – dip the little finger in oil (make sure to keep your fingernails short) and gently rub the inside of your nostrils in a clockwise direction, then counter-clockwise.  This practice helps to unblock emotions in the respiratory tract, improve your breathing patterns, calm heightened prana in the mind, relax the muscles and induce tranquility.

Organic unrefined sesame oil, ghee or a general nasya from a reputable manufacturer (such as Dr Lad’s super nasya) has a dropper that you can administer 3-5 drops in the nose whilst lying down in a supine position.    Sniff deeply and then remain for about a minute whilst the nasya oil seeps deep into the nasal passages.  It’s a good idea to lay a pillow/towel under your neck so your head is slightly tilted backwards.  I sometimes lay on the edge of the bed to achieve this posture.

Some general tips on nasya and it's application.

Here are some contraindications to be aware of–

  •  Avoid use by children under 7 and elderly over 80 because of fear of choking.
  • Don’t use during pregnancy in case of contractions.
  • During menstruation.  Nasya stimulates the upward moving energy (udana) and we need energy to move downward during menstruation.
  • Within an hour before/after bathing since bathing stimulates the vyana energy (circulation) and it may cause dizziness if the upward moving energy is being stimulated at the same time. The same goes for exercise which also stimulates the circulatory system.
  • Avoid using on a full stomach or immediately after drinking water.  You might feel nauseous.
  • Avoid after alcohol/drug use since nasya has a dilating effect on the brain and further dilation may cause rupture or hemorrhage.
  • Avoid after nasal wash (neti pot) since the oil and salt mix may cause a secondary infection. As a side note, once your nasal passages have been cleaned by neti and your have reduced excess kapha in your diet to avoid further congestion, a daily nasya may be all that’s needed to maintain clear sinuses.
  • Avoid if suffering from acute diarrhea because of intense movement downward.
  • If you are intensely hungry, then eat, doing nasya will further stimulate your digestion and may cause dizziness.

DAILY ROUTINE

Your daily routine should include a few drops of sesame oil/ghee in the nose.  If you don’t want to purchase a medicated oil, then plain sesame oil/ghee is still great. 

When you arise in the morning, post urination/defecation and an hour before bathing, do one of either practices described each morning.  Take note to avoid during menstruation and check in with whether you have digestive issues which may cause dizziness.  

An indication that it’s working for you – you should feel relaxed in the neck muscles, throat and nose feel lubricated and your voice may be more melodious.  Your breathing is easy, your sleep is sound and there is mental clarity and lightness in the head.

If you start to experience Kapha symptoms of fogginess and mental dullness and sinus congestion, you may be using too much or it might be worth switching to a medicated oil. Excessive cleansing nasyas could cause excess Vata in the mind.

Reference : Dr Lad's Ayurvedic textbook