Everything you need to know about Nasya

Nasya Oil applicationNasya is the administration of herbal medicine through the nasal passage.  According to Ayurveda, the sinus cavity is the gateway to our consciousness, prana vayu and the Nervous System.  Nasya is one of the five main cleansing therapies in Pancha Karma, the traditional Ayurvedic detoxification program; but also is used for daily administration as part of a healing Ayurvedic routine.  Nasya is typically done using an herbal infused oil such as sesame, ghee or coconut, but also can be done using medicated milk, fresh juice of herbs, and decoctions.  Nasya is used to treat a wide range of disorders including mental-emotional imbalances, memory issues, high stress levels, sleep issues, chronic sinus issues, prana disorders, chronic headaches or migraines, stiffness in the neck, jaw or shoulders; eye, ear and throat disorders; epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, sexual debility and any residual doshic imbalance after cleansing treatments.

As you can see, Nasya can be used to treat quite a wide variety of disorders.  Therefore there are several different types of Nasya that can be used for one’s various needs.  Here is a quick overview of the main types of Nasya according to Ayurveda.

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Main Types of Nasya Treatment

1. Bruhana Nasya:

Bruhana is translated as building, and this Nasya method is used just for that.  Since this is considered an anabolic treatment, it is typically useful for most Vata and prana vayu imbalances, while contraindicated for many Kapha disorders.  Common herbs used for Bruhana Nasya include many rasayana (rejuvenation) herbs such as Shatavari, Bala, Shankapushpi and Ashwagandha.  An appropriate base is ideally also “building” and Vata-pacifying by nature such as herbal-infused ghee, milk or sesame oil.  For anabolic Pitta treatment options coconut oil, ghee, sunflower oil, medicated milk or cucumber juice can be used. 

Indications for Bruhana Nasya:
  • Vata imbalances
  • Nervous System disorders
  • Dry sinuses or throat
  • Headache due to dryness or constriction
  • Sleep issues
  • High stress levels
  • Mental exhaustion
  • Restless mind
  • Anxiety, worry, fear and insecurity
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Tinnitus
  • Stiffness in the neck, jaw and shoulders
  • Dizziness, spaciness or vertigo
  • Post-cleanse rejuvenation therapy when indicated
Contraindications for Bruhana Nasya:
  • Pregnancy
  • Menstruation
  • Congestion
  • Foggy, dull mind
  • Overall heaviness
  • Most Kapha disorders
  • Mental toxins

2. Shamana Nasya:

Shamana means pacification and this Nasya type is used to pacify specific doshic imbalances.  A Vata imbalance will often have a sesame oil base infused with grounding herbs such as Shankapushpi, Jatamansi or Ashwagandha.  Pitta disorders may indicate either a ghee or coconut oil base infused with herbs such as Brahmi, Neem, Jatamansi or Guduchi.  Tikta Ghrita (lit. bitter ghee) can also be beneficial in many Pitta conditions.  Kapha disorders will need stimulating formulas using a warming oil base such as sesame oil.  Herbs used for Kapha Shamana Nasya may include Vacha, Punarnava, Neem, Pippali, Black Pepper (maricha) and Ginger.

Indications for Shamana Nasya:
  • Most Vata imbalances such as anxiety, worry, sleep issues, dryness, debility, emaciation and epilepsy can be pacified using the proper Vata Shamana Nasya
  • Most Pitta imbalances such as headaches, temporal migraine, psoriasis, eczema, nose bleed, MS, excessive heat, rashes, hot-flashes, anger and inflammation can be pacified using the proper Pitta Shamana Nasya   
  • Most Kapha disorders such as chronic sinus issues, congestion, dull mind, sluggishness, slow digestion, depression and lack of motivation can be pacified using the proper Kapha Shamana Nasya
Contraindications for Shamana Nasya:
  • Pregnancy
  • Menstruation
  • No others if the substance used is indicated for the specific imbalance and body type

3. Navana Nasya:

Navana Nasya is a lubricating Nasya application and is typically done with medicated oils for their unctuous quality.  It is a form of snehana or oiliation therapy and can be used during cleanses (if indicated) or as a daily treatment.  This Nasya can include the Bruhana Nasya or the Shamana Nasya.  It is said to reduce stiffness in the neck, increase mental clarity and intellect, reduce dryness and remove obstruction in the nasal passage. 

Indications for Navana Nasya:
  • Dryness in the eyes, nose or throat
  • Most Vata disorders
  • Emotional imbalances including anxiety, worry, stress, fear, anger and hyper-skepticism
  • Mental rejuvenation
  • Nervous System disorders
  • Sleep issues
  • Ear ache
  • Oiliation therapy for cleanses or daily needs
  • Hair loss
  • Nasal polyps
Contraindications for Navana Nasya:
  • Pregnancy
  • Menstruation
  • No others if the substance used is indicated for the specific imbalance and body type

4. Shodhana Nasya:

Shoshana Nasya is a cleansing treatment and is done using dry herbs (no oil base).  Ideally one would use a dry, powdered herb such as Vacha, Brahmi, Jatamansi or Trikatu; depending on one’s healthcare needs.  ***This can be a very intense treatment and should only be done with the guidance of a trained Ayurvedic physician. 

Indications for Shodhana Nasya:
  • Kapha disorders such as chronic sinus issues, congestion, runny nose, inflammation in the nasal passage and a dull, foggy mind
  • Poor appetite, slow metabolism, sluggish digestion
  • Nasal or sinus infection
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Brain tumor
Contraindications for Shodhana Nasya:
  • Pregnancy
  • Up to one month postpartum
  • Menstruation
  • If proper guidance and knowledge is not available
  • Chronic cough
  • Dryness in the nasal passage or throat
  • Most Vata types and Vata imbalances
  • Facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy)
  • Emaciation, weakness or debilitation

Once you find out the proper Nasya type that is beneficial for you, then it is time for application!  Nasya can be done at various times during the day, according to your needs, current imbalances and desired outcome.  Something that will always remain the same however, are these major contraindications of all types of Nasya:

Do Not Perform Nasya:
  • Up to 1 hour before or after eating
  • Directly before going out into the cold weather
  • Before taking a shower
  • During pregnancy
  • During menstruation
  • Before age 7 or after age 80
  • If diarrhea is present
  • During high fever
  • While breathing is irregular or labored

So now you know the types of Nasya along with many reasons on when to avoid this treatment therapy.  We can now move onto the “how to’s” of Nasya, as we get to the good part.  Please remember to always contact a knowledgeable practitioner if you have any doubts or confusions on these powerful therapies.  Just as with everything, Nasya can be medicine or poison depending on the proper or improper administration and should never be taken lightly!

How to Perform Nasya for Self-Administration:

Step 1: Warm the oil.

Cold oil is never recommended to apply to any part of the body.  In order to warm the oil just right, I suggest placing the Nasya bottle into a large container of mildly hot (not boiling!) water until you have reached the desired temperature.  It should be about body temperature or slightly cooler to avoid harming the mucus membrane.     

Step 2: Lay in a comfortable area that allows the head to tilt back.

Once you have the oil ready for application, lie down on a bed or couch allowing the head to come off the end a bit, tilting it back comfortably.  You will be here for several minutes, so please make sure the neck is supported and not strained!  To be extra safe, I suggest placing an old towel over your clothing to avoid any drips.  Remember, oil does not come out in the washer.  Also make sure the Nasya oil is nearby, as application is the next step.

Step 3: Apply the Nasya to each nostril.

Take the warm Nasya oil and open the bottle.  Squeeze the dropper “nipple” allowing the glass dropper to fill with oil.  Carefully bring this over to the right nostril.  Slowly and gently, squeeze the nipple allowing the desired amount of drops to go into the right nostril.  Then apply the same amount to the left nostril.  Ideally one will add an average of 1-5 drops into each nostril, depending on their specific needs.  If this is your first time using Nasya, definitely begin by only applying 1-2 drops and increase as appropriate over time. 

Step 4: Take a large inhale.

After the drops have been applied, put the dropper back into the bottle and close tightly.  Place the bottle to the side in a safe place.  Take your hand and cover the left nostril, taking a deep inhale through the right.  Then cover the right nostril, taking a deep inhale in through the left.     

Step 5: Sit back and allow penetration.

Now it is time to lay back.  Keep the head tilted, close the eyes and allow the Nasya to work its magic.  Stay here for 1-3 minutes before slowly getting up.  Feel free to blow you nose if needed. 

***Please note that this information is for educational purposes.  I do not recommended the practice of self-diagnosis or self-treatment without the proper knowledge or guidance.  Please contact me if questions arise!

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  1. Ayaz November 22, 2016 at 2:22 am #

    So it was my first time
    I had a cold or flu like symproms for about a week and I just used the oil about 4 drops each
    But the bottle stated don’t use during cold or flu, so I am worried on what’s next
    Is that harmful?
    Also I didn’t warm.the oIL

    • Danielle January 2, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

      Hi Ayaz! Sorry for the delayed response. If there is an active sinus infection, Nasya should be avoided. If it is a chronic low grade issue, the proper Nasya can be beneficial however. The best Nasya during chronic infection will have ingredients such as Neem, Turmeric, Kalmegha and other antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory herbs in it. It is best to warm the oil slightly, but this is not mandatory unless you are using ghee or coconut oil that has solidified. Thanks for the question!


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