Clinical Trial: Studying the Benefits of Abhyanga Using Daily Massage Oil
The practice of self-massage with oil, known in Sanskrit as abhyanga, is one of the most well-known and beloved components of an Ayurvedic daily routine. It has long been revered for its many physical and emotional benefits, including its ability to calm the nervous system, support a healthy lymphatic system, increase circulation, and promote healthy skin.
Banyan Botanicals’ Daily Massage Oil recently underwent a clinical trial to track the effects of abhyanga on stress levels, sleep, and quality of life, and to measure these results in comparison to professional massage.
With the intention of bringing a scientific lens to this ancient practice and to assess the benefits that have long been attributed to abhyanga, this study provided an opportunity to put daily self-massage with the use of oil to the test.
This study was led by Vrinda Devani, MD, and Ayurvedic practitioner Tikka Kumar, and was supported by Edward De Vol, who has a Ph.D. in Biostatistics and specializes in epidemiology and scientific computing. When presented at the 2021 Evidence-Based Traditional Asian Medicine Conference held by Stanford University, this study won first place among several other research presentations.
In this article:
- The Ayurvedic Perspective on Abhyanga
- A Look at Daily Massage Oil
- The Clinical Trial
- The Results
- Final Thoughts
The Ayurvedic Perspective on Abhyanga
For anyone who’s ever had a massage, it’s no big surprise that the act of therapeutic touch can help relieve tension from the muscles and release pent-up stress. Ayurveda recognizes these benefits and believes they can be further enhanced with the addition of an Ayurvedic herbal massage oil.
The hydrating and nourishing quality of the oil, especially when infused with beneficial healing herbs, penetrates deep into the tissues to bring a wide range of benefits to the body.
These benefits are said to include:
- Musculoskeletal and nervous system health
- Proper circulation and lymph drainage
- Improved sleep patterns
- Softer, stronger skin
- Healthy vision
- Graceful aging
- Lustrous hair
- Firm, strong limbs
- Tone and vigor for the body’s tissues
- Increased longevity
- Nourishment for the whole body
A Look at Daily Massage Oil
Banyan’s Daily Massage Oil was formulated to provide a hydrating and nourishing massage oil that is appropriate for all three doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha.
Daily Massage Oil contains the following organic ingredients:
- Sesame Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Refined Coconut Oil
- Brahmi/Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
- Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia)
- Bhringaraj (Eclipta alba)
- Bala (Sida cordifolia)
- Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna)
- Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
- Lemon Verbena
- Lavender Flowers
The base of both warming and cooling oils creates a simultaneously penetrating and soothing effect. These oils are then infused with powerful Ayurvedic herbs that rejuvenate the tissues, invigorate the circulatory and lymphatic systems, and tonify the nervous system.
Along with these physical benefits, the oil also contains herbs that help soothe and support the strength and well-being of the mind and emotions. This tridoshic option is one of Banyan’s collection of herbal massage oils designed specifically for the Ayurvedic practice of abhyanga.
The Clinical Trial
The objective of this trial was to survey the effects of self-massage using Daily Massage Oil compared to professional massage. 49 participants completed the trial. These participants were split into three groups:
- Group 1. The first group had 18 participants. They conducted a 30-minute daily self-massage with Daily Massage Oil.
- Group 2. The second group had 15 participants who received a 30-minute professional massage twice a week with Daily Massage Oil.
- Group 3. The third group was the control group. 16 participants conducted daily self-massage without the use of oil (known as dry massage). This control group could help determine whether any positive results came from massage alone or from the presence of oil.
Number of Participants
Type of Massage
Self-massage with Daily Massage Oil
Professional massage with Daily Massage Oil
Self-massage with no oil
Length and Frequency
30 minutes daily
30 minutes twice a week
30 minutes daily
Setting Up the Trial
The trial followed each group over a period of 15 days and measured the outcome of three main variables—stress levels, quality of sleep, and overall quality of life.
Participants in each group completed well-established questionnaires to measure these variables. Participants completed these questionnaires at the beginning of the trial, on day 0, and then again at the closure of the trial, on day 15.
Assessing stress levels: The study used the Perceived Stress Scale questionnaire to assess stress levels before and after the trial. Originally developed in 1983, this assessment tool remains a popular choice for helping to understand how different situations affect our feelings and our perceived stress. It asks a series of questions regarding one’s feelings and thoughts regarding stressors in their life and their ability to handle them.1
Assessing quality of sleep: The PROMIS Sleep Disturbance survey was used, which tracks variables such as one’s ability to fall asleep, to stay asleep, whether sleep felt refreshing, and so on.2
Assessing overall quality of life: The WHO Quality of Life-BREF questionnaire was used. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Quality of Life as “an individual's perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards, and concerns.”3
By the end of the trial, both oil-massage groups reported notable improvement in stress levels, quality of sleep, and overall quality of life.
The control group results were smaller by comparison—there was no change in stress levels, a slight change in quality of life, and some improvement in sleep.
After the 15-day study, there was a significant change noted in the abhyanga (self-massage) participants with a 16.4% decrease in stress levels. For the professional massage group there was a 17.4 % decrease in stress levels. The control group showed no significant change.
At the end of the two-week period, all three groups showed a significant change in scores from Day 0 to Day 15. For those in the abhyanga group, there was a 27.9% decrease in sleep disturbances, the professional massage group experienced a 33.2% decrease, and the control group reported a lesser, but still significant shift of 12.2%.
Quality of Life
For this portion of the study, the abhyanga and professional massage groups both showed significant improvement in overall quality of life, while the control group showed only a very slight change. The abhyanga group’s scores increased by 13%, the professional massage group showed a 14% increase, and the control group scores increased by 2.4%.
While this study is just one small step in shedding scientific light on the power of abhyanga, it revealed significantly positive results. The effects of practicing Ayurvedic daily self-massage with oil, using Banyan Botanicals’ Daily Massage Oil, were significant in the subjective parameters tested.
The results infer that performing self-massage with oil every day for 30 minutes yields positive effects, similar to those observed by receiving professional massage therapy twice a week. Because regular professional massage is not a feasible option for most people due to scheduling and cost limitations, this is wonderful news!
While the control group showed minimal changes in comparison to the other two groups that included oil, the results were still positive, highlighting the power of simple touch to promote positive change.
The study showed that with the addition of healing herbal oils, the power of touch is supercharged with the ability to positively affect one’s sleep, quality of life, and resistance to stress.