Ayurveda has used snehana nasya, or applying oil to the nasal passages, for thousands of years to treat problems of the nose, sinus and head, and help prevent physical and mental imbalance. As we live in a world literally awash with air-, water-, and earth-borne toxins, snehana nasya has perhaps never been so important—especially in this time of covid-19.
Applying warm oil inside the nostrils provides a thin moist coating that can catch airborne particles before they enter the body. Through this method snehana nasya can prevent the influx of yeasts, pollens, viruses, bacteria, and other elements and allergens that can challenge and disrupt the body. Doing so helps to prevent colds, flus, viral infections and allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
Oiling and moistening the nasal passages also works to lubricate, protect, nourish, strengthen and cleanse the sensitive tissues of the nostrils, mucus membranes and paranasal sinus. The Charaka Samhita and Bhavaprakasha, two important texts of Āyurveda, state that persons habituated to nasal oiling acquire good vision, smell, and hearing; a sweet and pleasant breath and voice; and avoid premature grey hair and wrinkles, and stiff necks and headaches.
Regular snehana nasya can also help to improve sleep and snoring issues, and benefit breathing and the yogic practice of pranayama. As the nose is the gateway to the brain, it also helps to nourish and clarify the mind and senses and support the cerebral tissues.
When to Perform:
Within the dinacharya or daily routine, all Ayurvedic constitutions can benefit from regular snehana nasya. In the morning, nasal oiling helps to remove excess congestion and kapha dosha. In the heat of the day it can help to cool pitta dosha. In the evening snehena nasya helps to mitigate the dryness of vata dosha.
In general, oil can be applied to the nasal passages twice a day—morning and evening. A good time to administer oil is after showering or bathing. But snehena nasya can also be performed when and as needed, according to your birth constitution, and current circumstances and season. For example, in a cold, dry winter, those with kapha dominance may best use a small amount of a pungent oil such as anu tailam. But during warm, moist seasons may not need to apply oil daily, or at all. If congested, kapha types, and anyone who with nasal or sinus blockage, can also use steam to help loosen nasal, sinus, throat and lung congestion. Vata types, who are constantly prone to dryness, can benefit from nasya year-round, and may apply oil more regularly in dry, and very hot and very cold seasons.
How to Perform:
- Firstly, choose the oil that is right for you based on your innate constitution, current health balance, and the season. Ask your Ayurvedic practitioner for advice. Various options include:
Untoasted, cold-pressed sesame oil – good for vata constitution and good for general use.
Plain ghee (clarified butter), or coconut oil – good for pitta constitution.
Extra virgin olive oil – useful for pitta and kapha constitution
Or try a medicated, herb-infused oil such as:
Anu tailam – a pungent oil with a strong cleansing effect – good for kapha constitution (you can also dilute anu tailam with extra sesame oil for congested vata types).
Bramhi ghee or oil (Bacopa monnieri) – good for pitta constitution, and if you are involved in intellectual work.
- Warm a small amount of oil on a teaspoon and take a little onto a clean pinkie or ring finger OR on to a cue tip OR take it into a glass dropper (if applying from a glass dropper, lie down on the back, tilt the head back; it may help to hold a small mirror).
- Administer 1 to 4 drops of oil into one nostril.
- Block the other nostril and sniff gently and deeply.
- Repeat the oil administration and inhalation on the other side.
- When administering snehana nasya it is advised to stay warm, calm and avoid over-stimulation of the senses in noisy and disturbing environments.
- Today, in our toxin and stress prone world, using snehana nasya as part of the daily routine is a great way to help bolster good health and immunity, and reduce the risk of infection and disease.
Dash, B. and Sharma, R. K. (transl.) Caraka Samhitā, vols; I—VII, Varanasi, Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series; 2015 reprint.
Ministry of AYUSH Ayurveda’s immunity boosting measures for self care during COVID 19 crisis. Available at: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/ImmunityBoostingAYUSHAdvisory.pdf
Murthy, S. K. (transl.) Bhāvaprakā ā, vols–II, Varanasi, Krishnadas Academy; 1998.
Tillu, G., Chaturvedi, S., Chopra, A. and Patwardhan, B. Public Health Approach of Ayurveda and Yoga for COVID-19 Prophylaxis. J Alt Compl Med. May 2020.360-364. http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2020.0129