Shirodhara is a form of Ayurveda therapy that involves pouring liquids gently over the forehead and is one of the steps involved in Panchakarma. The name comes from the Sanskrit words shiro (head) and dhara (flow). The liquids used in shirodhara depends on what is being treated. It can include oil, milk, buttermilk, coconut water, or even plain water. Shirodhara has been used to treat a variety of conditions including eye diseases, sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, greying of hair, neurological disorders, memory loss, insomnia, hearing impairment, vertigo, and certain types of skin diseases like psoriasis.
It is also used non-medicinally at spas for its relaxing properties. Studies report that Ayurvedic Shirodhara is a safe option to improve sleep quality among people who have sleep problems. Shirodhara is also effective in treating mental conditions such as anxiety, and mental stress. The calming effect produced by Shirodhara is similar to that obtained with meditation. There are specialized forms of shirodhara called ksheeradhara, thakradhara, tailadhara and jaladhara. Shirodhara may begin with a full-body massage known as Abhyangam. Shirodhara also involves a head massage. Shirodhara is thought to work by relaxing the hypothalamus in the brain. It can also normalize the functions of hormones that regulate sleep and emotions.