As powerful plant panaceas, botanical body oils hold the potential to elevate your everyday routine—providing a wealth of nourishment that goes far beyond a beauty régime. Promoting longevity, cellular renewal, stress reduction, circulation and detoxification, skin elasticity, enhanced immunity, and even sound sleep, these oils boast a myriad of benefits that sustain wellness as a whole. Long-renowned as therapeutic cultural pillars, botanical oil classics such as coconut, almond, and jojoba oils have historical significance that offer modern insight into the bustle of our day to day lives.
For centuries, ancient cultures across the world have incorporated plant-based oils into their health and beauty protocol, as well as religious rituals, traditions, and regional philosophies at large. With over twenty one documented uses for vegetable oils specific to beauty, the Egyptians (think Cleopatra with her glossy black silk hair and glowing complexion), anointed themselves daily to mitigate the harsh desert climates and prepare themselves for sacred ceremonies. The home of Aphrodite, unparalleled goddess of love and beauty, the Greeks were also known for beautifying rituals, alongside the native Hawaiians, who used kukui nut oil—derived from the candlenut tree—to soothe sun-drenched skin and heal wounds.
Stemming from the legendary natural medicine system of native India, the time-honored science of Ayurveda (roughly translated as the “science of life,”) offers extensive insight into daily skin oiling as a core principal to maintain holistic wellbeing. Known as abhyanga, this routine self-massage is not only referenced in the early scriptures, but is also a timeless practice that is still prized in our contemporary age. Including three main physiological attributes called vata, pitta, and kapha, each person is a unique combination of these constitutional qualities. Many modernized renditions of Ayurvedic oils exist, integrating individualized herbs and essential oils that support our continual quest for balance. We can apply this botanical knowledge as we navigate the inevitable pressures of life, utilizing these methods to operate from a preventive health context. From inner nourishment to outer radiance, find your favorite oil (coconut, almond, and jojoba are universal varieties highlighted below) and choose a beauty-savvy ritual uniquely attuned to you.
The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much, even if subjected to accidental injuries or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts, and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.— Charaka Samhita: Sutrasthana: V: 88-89
From the kitchen pantry to supple skin delight, coconut oil is a versatile staple with moisture-rich complex fatty acids, vitamin E, and sun protective properties that make it an incomparable tropical remedy. Composed of fifty percent lauric acid (also found in mother’s breast milk) paired with its sister, caprylic acid, coconut oil has distinctive anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, making it especially beneficial for irritation and oily acne prone skin. Also known to strengthen the epidermis against cellulite, the presence of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) make coconut oil an effective weight loss tool as well, speeding metabolism while boosting cognitive function. This resourceful oil satiates cravings from the inside out, and its slightly cooling effect is ideal for reddish, warm, freckle-filled sensitive skin types, known as pitta characteristics in Ayurveda.
Loaded with dense minerals and protein, almond oil is brimming with zinc, magnesium, and potassium, in addition to E, K, and B vitamins. A highly regenerative oil, its strong protein and amino acid profile have regenerative properties that make it excellent for collagen formation, complexion improvement, and skin damage repair. Like coconut oil, it also has sun protective properties, acting as a shield against UV radiation. Almond oil is ideal for vata skin—the most vulnerable type that tends to be cold, dry, thin, and hugely susceptible to environmental stressors, premature aging, roughness, and poor circulation. Traditional Ayurvedic texts denote almonds as deeply rejuvenating to the functions of muscles, bones, plasma, and reproduction system. The heavy, oily and warm composition of almond oil will provide tender skin types with the replenishment it needs.
Jojoba oil stands as an incomparable botanical gem, with an intelligent chemical composition that mimics the natural processes of human skin sebum production. The only known source of liquid esters in nature, jojoba is composed of 97% fluid plant wax that provides skin nutriment with diverse minerals like copper, silicon, selenium, zinc, vitamin E and B-complex, in addition to 82% iodine—a common mineral deficiency in western cultures. Thriving in arid, desert climates, jojoba endures the harsh climate year round, exuding anti-inflammatory, anti-degenerative, anti-fungal, and anti-oxidant properties. This light, yet reinvigorating oil coats the skin for a dewy glow, while remaining non-greasy and easy to absorb. Its mild, moist and cooling composition is considered balancing for all skin types (called tridoshic in Ayurveda), and jojoba is especially beneficial for sensitive, dry, eczema, and acne conditions—not to mention its extraordinary anti-aging capabilities for fine lines, tired eyes, and wrinkles.
- Begin with the oil of choice in the palm of your hand, slightly warmed is ideal.
(Tip: The skin is primed to receive moisture immediately following a shower, however traditional Ayurveda practices also recommend a rinse after the oil is applied. Experiment with what best suits you.)
- Sitting or standing comfortably, begin massaging the oil in a circular motion into your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaw line, moving in an upward motion.
(Tip: Often overlooked, your ears are also home to many nerve endings that crave touch. You can further stimulate circulation by massaging your head—giving the hair a conditioning boost.)
- Massaging towards your heart, use long strokes on your arms and legs, applying circular motions on your joints, including your elbows and knees.
- With broad clockwise motions, massage your abdomen and chest.
(Tip: To promote digestion, you can also trace the large intestinal tract, moving up the right side of the abdomen, then across and down the left side.)
- Conclude by massaging your hardworking ankles, toes, and feet.
- Let oil absorb for five to fifteen minutes.
- Enjoy a sense of nurturance and gratitude for the body that carries you throughout the day.
From the times of antiquity to our modern age, these botanical treasures hold essential attributes that revolutionize our relationship to the present-day. Supporting us as we aspire towards ultimate health and vitality, plant-based coconut, almond, and jojoba oils remain timeless beauty cornerstones—with the power to impact our quality of life and embrace the potential of each passing moment.