Ayurvedic Beauty

By Shyam Gupta, PhD, Bioderm Research | September 15, 2008

The Ayurvedic discipline of physical, mental and spiritual well-being has been successfully practiced for over 5000 years. A harmonious balance of body, mind and soul provides optimal ingredients for a happy, healthy, meaningful and balanced life. Consistent with this philosophy, Ayurveda emphasizes the role of daily routine, environmental factors, seasonal changes, lifestyle, diet, exercise and nutritional-medicinal supplements in balancing bodily well-being. For psychological health, the senses and psyche must be in balance, requiring intellectual, social and spiritual harmony of man and his environment. Yoga provides a broad-based treatment for body, mind and soul in the form of physical exercise for body and meditation for mind and soul.
Yoga is a part of good general health and vitality in Ayurveda. It is defined as the inhibition of fluctuations of consciousness. In practical terms it restricts any disorder in mental activity. Mind is composed of three faculties: brain, intellect and ego. Yoga teaches the means by which the mind is controlled and redirected to constructive, positive thinking channels. Modern day yoga is conceived as a combination of physical postures and breathing exercises. Yoga, however, has several components that, in combination, provide balanced psychological health for mind and soul: physical posture exercises, breathing exercises, sensorial practices, meditation practices and ethical practices, which must be performed daily.
In Ayurveda, health is defined as the state where physical and psychological aspects are in a natural state with respect to the body and its functions. The body itself is composed of biomaterials and psychological components. The biomaterials component is composed of three somatic factors, which constitute “tridoshas” of Ayurveda: energy pool (Vata), chemical activity (Pitta) and material substance (Kapha). The primary elements in Vata, Pitta and Kapha are air, fire and earth, respectively. The solid material composition of body is Kapha; chemical activity, such as digestion, is Pitta; and energy pool of motion and movement is Vata. The psychological aspect has three components: satogun, rajogun and tamogun. The existence of tridoshas can be understood in terms of modern macromolecular and micromolecular biology. Vata controls the respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, excretory and reproductive systems. Pitta is responsible for appetite, thirst, digestion, metabolism, body heat, eyesight, mental calmness, intelligence and skin pliability. Kapha functions via control of immune system, body fat and mucous systems. An imbalance in biomaterials and/or psychological components is considered to be the main cause for the onset of a disease.

Help for Body and Mind

Dietary and lifestyle interventions are initiated to balance malfunctioning of any tridoshas and the physical and mental constitution of a patient. These Ayurvedic interventions are accompanied by spiritual and devotional training, removal of worries and mental anguish, exercise and yoga. If vata were imbalanced, the diet would include oils, butter and sweet food. The misbalance of kapha is treated with a diet of bitter, sour, vinegary, spicy, dry food. For pitta imbalance, a diet of mild tasting food, grains, lentils, and moderate amount of oils and sweets is recommended. Depriving the patient of water helps in ascites, edema and kidney diseases where large amounts of water are retained by body.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also defines good health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely as absence of disease or infirmity. Ayurveda, therefore, has the potential to become a part of a global medical system in view of its comprehensive focus on all health-related matters.
Ayurvedic management of an illness (Chikitsa) consists of four procedures:
1. Cleansing (Samsodhan); 2. Palliation (samsaman); 3. Rejuvenation (kaya kalp) and 4. Mental and spiritual healing (sattvavajaya). Cleansing  includes five procedures (panchkarma), which includes the removal of toxic products, both endogenous and exogenous. Palliation consists of adding herbs and minerals to the diet, as well as changing lifestyle. Seven types of palliation are practiced: digestive power enhancement, toxic waste elimination, fasting, observing thirst, yoga exercise, sunbathing and breathing exercise with meditation.
A healthy lifestyle is very important to maximize the effect of any palliative treatment for a physical disorder. Ayurveda recommends regular sleeping schedule, regular exercise, intake of healthy food and meditation. Nutritional-medicinal compositions (rasayanas) are also part of daily nutritive intake.
Rasayana refers to the transportation of nutrition in body, which, in practical terms, refers to preparations containing multiple herbs and minerals that are taken on a daily basis that improve the transportation of nutritional materials to body tissues and also provide key elements missing in daily food intake. Three forms of rasayanas are provided: nutritional-dietary (Ajasrika rasayana) is taken regularly with food as nutrition; Kamya rasayana (health promoter) is indicated to improve vigor, vitality and positive thinking, and Naimittika rasayana is provided to combat a particular disease or ailment. Kamya rasayana is further classified into three groups: Pranakamya Rasayana (promoter of vitality and longevity), Medhakamya rasayana (promoter of intellect) and Srikamya rasayana (promoter of skin complexion and luster). Rasayanas are the Ayurvedic equivalent of modern dietary supplements, a part of overall balanced diet, as they improve vitality, rejuvenate body tissues, improve immunity and prevent aging. The multitudes of vitamins, minerals, biologically active agents, antioxidants, tannins, glycosides, polyphenols and lignans present in various Rasayanas provide a good natural source of essential nutrients to the body.

Topical Treatments

The topical treatments in Ayurveda relate mostly to rituals of body cleansing (with natural clays and herbal preparations) and massage. There are thousands of plant-based Ayurvedic treatments for curing various diseases. However, it is not uncommon for a single herb to possess multiple benefits for varied ailments. This is due to the presence of several different cosmeceutically “active” agents in a given herb, each having a specific effect on human biology. This opens up a wide, previously unexplored field for cosmetic and pharmaceutical sciences for the development of new topical agents. For example, Andrographis paniculata, which has been used for liver disorders in Ayurveda, offers a solution for skin aging via its anti-inflammatory active agent, andrographolide. Centella asiatica, commonly used for heart problems and the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, can be useful for skin anti-wrinkle treatments via its anti-irritant cosmeceutical agent, asiaticoside.
This article presents a balanced view of Ayurvedic herbal preparations, both in their application as ingested “inside” treatment for ailments and the application of cosmeceutical “active” agents obtained from the same herbs—via modern science—for comprehensive skin care as topical “outside” treatment. A number of Ayurvedic herbs have been discussed in an earlier publication by this author.1 An excellent book on Ayurvedic therapies is also available.2 Ayurvedic formulations for various treatments are now available in an excellent treatise.3
Before heading to the laboratory, formulators should adhere to the following guidelines when working with Ayurvedic ingredients.
• Formulators are advised to use the active agents from Ayurvedic ingredients in highly purified forms, whether they are in extract or powder form. This assures the quality, claimed use level, efficacy, formulation ease, and sensory consumer attributes.

• Formulators should be cognizant of the chemical structure of those active agents and determine their chemical compatibility with all other ingredients of the formulation, including excipients, processing aids, pH adjusting agents, chelating agents and minor additives. Nearly white in their appearance, Tetrahydrocurcuminoids, for example, can form colored Schiff’s bases due to their ketone groups when formulated with amines, amino acids, peptides or hydrolyzed proteins.
• Stability studies with every modification of a formulation are recommended, irrespective of how minor a change was made to the “base” formulation. For example, a mere change of fragrance from citrus to a vanilla-type aldehydic note can cause color and odor instability issues when amine-type ingredients, such as amino acids, peptides, or hydrolyzed proteins, are also present in that “base” formulation.
• The best ingredients also require proper delivery systems to optimize their intended benefits. Proper selection of delivery systems, in combination with consumer-desirable sensory attributes, via innovative ingredients, can lead to successful new products.

ABCs of Anti-Aging

A combination of ginger root powder, turmeric root powder, rosemary leaf powder and pomegranate seed powder in an oral dosage form is suitable for general ABCs of skin health. The purified cosmeceutical agents obtained from the same plants are formulated in a suitable cosmetic base for their complementary topical application to provide combination nutraceutical-topical skin anti-aging benefits.

Anti-Aging Cream

Ingredient                    %Wt.            Function

1. Deionized water    q.s. to 100
2. Glycerin                    5.0                Moisturizer
3. GMS-SE                    3.0                Emulsifier
4. Stearic acid                3.0             Emollient
5. Arlacel 165                   5.0            Emollient
6. Cetyl alcohol                0.5            Emollient/Viscosity
7. Glabridin                        0.5            Skin brightening, Antioxidant
8. Rosmarinic acid            0.5            Skin brightening, Anti-inflammatory
9. Ellagic acid                     0.5            MMP inhibitor, Anti-inflammatory
10. Andrographolide        0.5            Antioxidant, Collagen booster
11. Tetrahydrocurcumin    0.2            Antioxidant, Collagen booster
12. Boswellia Extract        0.5              Anti-inflammatory
13. Preservative                0.35            Preservative
14. Caustic soda (50%)    pH 5.5-6.0    Processing aid


Mix 1 to 8 and heat at 80-90°C until all solids have melted. Cool to 50-60°C with mixing, and add 9 to 12. Cool with mixing to 35-40°C. Add 13 and 14. Mix. Adjust pH. Homogenize, and then cool to room temperature. Add fragrance if desired.
For an Ayurvedic anti-aging internal treatment, consider Chyawanprash, a proprietary, multi-herb-and-mineral composition widely used in India for generations for health, vitality and anti-aging. It is commercially available in U.S.

Skin Whitening

Many cultures throughout Asia, Africa and South America the whitening of skin is one of the most desired cosmetic benefits. The dual strategy of treatment by utilizing certain Ayurvedic herbal preparations for an “inside” and cosmetic preparations composed of purified cosmeceuticals from those herbs as an “outside” treatment is summarized in Table 2.

Skin Whitening Gel

Ingredient                    %Wt.

1. Deionized water    67.0
2. Xanthan gum            2.0
3. Diglycerol                10.0
4. PEG-6                        15.0
5. Phytic acid                    2.5
6. Glabridin                        1.0
7. Rosmarinic acid            1.0
8. Ellagic acid                     1.0
9. Theanine (from green tea)    0.5
10. Preservatives                    q.s.


Mix 1 and 2 until gel forms. Mix 3 to 10 in a solution. Add to main batch and mix.

Anti-Wrinkle, Skin Soothing & Brightening Cream

Ingredient                                                            %Wt.

1. Deionized water                                                79.5
2. Cetearyl alcohol (and) dicetyl phosphate    5.0
  (and) ceteth-10 phosphate
3. Triethyl citrate                                                        2
4. Glyceryl stearate (and) PEG-100 stearate        4
5. Mango butter                                                            5
6. Rosmarinic acid    0.5
7. Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane    0.5
8. Glutathione    0.5
9. Diosmin    0.5
10. Resveratrol    0.5
11. Andrographolide    0.5
12. Ellagic acid    0.5
13. Phytic acid    0.5
14. Fragrance    0.5
15. Preservatives    qs
16. Sodium hydroxide (for pH adjustment)    qs


Mix 1 to 5 and heat to 75-80°C. Adjust pH to 4.0-4.5. Cool to 35-40°C with mixing and homogenize. Add 6 to 15 with mixing. Adjust pH to 4.0-4.5, if necessary. White to off-white cream.

Arthritis, Muscle & Joint Pain

The role of anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants (that act via their inhibition of COX and LOX enzymes) in controlling muscle and joint problems has been well recognized. Ayurvedic formulations can provide highly efficacious combinations of popular nutraceutical muscle and joint ingredients with synergistic anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients along with their topical counterparts for the dual benefit strategy discussed above.
Ayurvedic ingredients for topical pain relief are summarized in Table 3. In combination with currently popular nutraceutical pain relief agents, such as MSM, chondroitin, SAM, and glucosamine, the Ayurvedic ingredients offer one of the best available solutions for topical pain relief, the examples of which follow.

Ayurvedic/Nutraceutical Arthritis Cream

Ingredient    %Wt.

1. Deionized water    67.0
2. Glyceryl stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate    4.0
3.    Cetearyl alcohol (and) dicetyl phosphate (and) 5.0
ceteth-10 phosphate
4. C12-15 Alkyl benzoate    5.0
5. Dimethicone      2.0
6. N-Acetyl-D-glucosamine    5.0
7. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)      5.0
8. Sodium chondroitin sulfate (low mol. wt.)      1.0
9. Corydalis purified extract      0.5
10. Boswellia serrata extract powder      0.5
11. Ginger oil      2.0
12.Menthol    2.0   
13.Sodium hydroxide      qs
14.Preservatives      qs
15. Fragrance    qs


Mix 1 to 5 and heat at 80-90°C. Cool to 45-55°C with mixing. Add 6 to 12 and mix. Cool to 30-40°C with mixing and adjust pH with 13. Add 14 and 15 and mix, then homogenize. White cream, viscosity 20,000 (Brookfield), pH 5.5.

Ayurvedic Arthritis Treatments

The Ayurvedic Formulary of India recommends 1-50 grams of the following preparations in oral form, the details of which are available elsewhere.3 They are: Kanchnar guggul, Goksharidi guggul, Trayodashang guggul, Yograj guggul, Vyousadi guggul, Vatari guggul, Simhanad guggul, Ajamodadi curpa, Nimbadi curpa, Pancasma curpa, Vaisvanara curpa, Rasa parpati, Anand Bhaijrava rasa, Mahalaxmi villas rasa, Sarvanabhupati rasa, Rasnadi kvath curpa, Amrat ghrit and Jiraka modka.

Future of Ayurvedic-based Ingredients

The commercial availability of purified extracts from some lesser know Ayurvedic herbs is envisioned to open additional areas of nutraceutical-topical dual therapy product development benefiting consumers, marketers and manufacturers. It should be noted that many Ayurvedic herbs contain active agents that may have applications beyond the treatments recommended in Ayurveda (Table 4). The structure-activity relationships (SAR) so well-known in the pharmaceutical sciences should prove beneficial in finding new applications for new chemical entities identified by modern science in these and other therapeutic Ayurvedic herbs.
Ayurvedic ingredients can provide consumer-perceived health benefits via development of formulations based on nutraceutical-topical dual strategy delivery systems. The development of lesser-known Ayurvedic ingredients in their purified extract forms that can provide efficacy-boosted claims would be a welcome area both for ingredients suppliers and formulators: the end benefit for a consumer being in better health and desirable appearance.  n


  1. S. Gupta, “Ayurvedic Antiaging,” Happi, 46, August 2007.
  2. “Scientific Basis for Ayurvedic Therapies”, L.C. Mishra (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton (2004). See also www.unaniherbalist.com/cahb.htm for a listing of Ayurvedic botanicals and their biological names.
  3. Ayurvedic Formulary of India, 2nd Edition, ISBN: 8190115146, Govt. of India, 2003.
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