South Asians – descendents of the Indian subcontinent, which includes India, Pakistan, Bagladesh, and Sri Lanka -- have respected nature for thousands of years. Plants and flowers have been used since ancient times to cure disease, promote health, and rejuvenate the skin. The residents of Babylon, Assyria, and Sumer recorded herbal remedies on clay tablets dating as far back as 4000 B.C. Many records of medical plants have also been discovered in the wall-paintings of Egyptian tombs dating back to 2700 B.C.
Ayurveda, derived from the words ayur (“life”) and veda (“knowledge”), is an ancient system of Indian medicine. In ancient India, wisdom was passed from one generation to the next through poems and songs which were memorized by scholars and physicians. Body, mind, and soul are each believed to contribute to overall health. While Ayurveda relies upon herbs and natural remedies for the treatment of common ailments, it is also been linked to beauty. Rose petals are believed to soften the skin, milk is used to purify the body, and neem is used to clear the skin of blemishes.
Thus, the Indian subcontinent possesses an extraordinarily rich history of beauty rituals which have survived to modern times. These beauty secrets are still passed down from mother to daughter among South Asians, and this begins almost immediately after birth. A new born girl has her eyes lined with kohl to strengthen the lashes and vision. Her head is massaged with oils to promote healthy hair, and her skin is rubbed to ensure that her natural body hair will fade. As a young woman, she learns to prepare creams, lotions, and scrubs for the face and body, using natural ingredients from the back yard. On her bridal day, she and her husband will each undergo a ritual bath with herbs and milk to cleanse and nourish the body.
This respect for nature and its power to cleanse, nourish, and heal the skin has recently achieved recognition in the West. As we begin to consider our planet and its resources, our thoughts turn towards sustaining and replenishing what we have so generously been given. This return to nature is another part of the cycle of renewal, and ultimately will benefit not only our planet, but also ourselves.