Ayurvastra is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘life cloth’. It is an ancient method of dyeing fabrics with herbs that posses medicinal qualities. Organic cotton fabrics are permeated with herbs and oils that promote physical and mental wellbeing. Ancient Indian practices involved carrying new born babies in fabrics that were dyed with herbs so as to give anti-bacterial protection to the child. Skin received the medicinal benefits of the herbs through the clothing.
Skin is the largest organ of our body and works as a protective barrier and a conduit for foreign particles to enter our body. It is thus exposed to environmental toxins. These toxins get absorbed into the body through our skin. Ayurveda mentions that the skin has seven layers and each layer has a distinct function. Any imbalance in these layers cause skin infections. Herbal clothing improves the skin’s ability and provides immunity against environmental toxins. Anything which has the ability to enhance the natural qualities of the skin to block harmful substances from entering the body is good for health.
Organic cotton is hand loomed without mechanical processing. No chemicals are used for spinning, weaving and during finishing. This yarn is then dyed in herbal dye solution that is prepared according to the requirement. Herbs, flowers, plants, barks and roots are used for making herbal dyes. Different herbs have different benefits. Turmeric, madder root, neem and sandalwood treat skin infections while curry leaves are used for treating arthritis. Tulasi the sacred herb in Hinduism promotes respiratory functions, health and longevity. Neem is described in Charaka Samhita as ‘sarva roga nivarini’ (remedy for all diseases). Karisalankanni is the herb of choice for treating liver related issues. Sometimes a combination of herbs are also used to treat specific conditions. A blend of champa flower, shoe-flower, touch-me-not, cumin, and shoe-flower is used for healing diabetes.
Making of the fabric
Fabrics are dyed manually and without using any other colorants. Hues of the fabric are only obtained through the herbs that are used for its dyeing. Dyeing gum is also herbal and does not pollute the environment like synthetic ones. The processed cloth is washed with mineral rich water and sea salt to remove the sizing, gums and oils used during the weaving process. The fabrics are bleached with biodegradable; organic cleaning agents and surfactants like Phenila and is then dried naturally in direct sunlight. During the finishing process pure water is sprinkled on the cloth and fabric is stretched using castor oil, aloe vera and hand rolls. Any solid wastage in the process is used as bio manure or to generate bio gas. Liquid waste is used to water farms. The fabric thus made is sustainable, biodegradable and is free of synthetic chemicals and irritants. Natural resources of the planet are also protected from harmful chemicals which are generally used in the making of conventional textiles.
The right time to wear herbally dyed clothing is when the body is at rest, like sleeping, meditation or simply while relaxing. This is the time when our body is healing and establishing its balance. Herbs release their medicinal qualities into the body and strengthen the skin’s ability to fight with harmful substances. When wearing herbally dyed clothing, the toxins in the body are flushed out and its metabolism is balanced. Herb dyed organic clothing helps to treat skin conditions like blood pressure, diabetes and respiratory issues like asthma.
The concept that clothing made with herbal dyes can treat specific issues is quite fascinating. Nature provides us with much inspiration and materials to create vibrant hues. Herbal dyes are nature’s art is it own unique arcade.