If you are a follower of sustainable fashion, words like ‘cruelty-free’, ‘handmade’, ‘natural’, ‘organic’ are par for course for clothes you wear. But what about ‘herb-dyed’, ‘immunity boosting’, ‘non-toxic’, ‘medicinal’ clothes? Thanks to a growing interest in a natural way of life, ayurvedic apparel also known as Ayurvastra is gaining traction. The medicinal clothing is said to be healing,therapeutic and can get your doshas in place.
Ayurveda expert Dr Bhushan Bhavsar, managing director, Herbal Consultants says that ayurvastra translates to medicinal clothing and is based on ayurvedic concepts. “An ayurvastra is made of cotton and passed through herbs and oils that can treat diseases such as diabetes, skin infections, eczema, psoriasis, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, and even some forms of cancer,” he says. Herbs used include turmeric, neem and sandalwood, mimosa pudica (touch-me-not), cumin seeds, champa flower, and shoe flower (hudahal), to mention a few.
Like many quintessential Indian best practices, ayurvastra first took off in the West. Now, we have Indian slow fashion brands using this technique like the Pondicherry-based Upasana or Kolkata-based Ssaha Design that have ‘ayur’ sarees. Lecoanet Hemant that has been working on their Ayurganic line for a decade now. Designer Hemant Sagar says that healing textiles are enriched with nourishment that enhances the wearer’s mind, body and soul. “The aim is to make sure that everything, from the very cottonseed to the final garment, contributes to the well being of the wearer,” he says.
For ayurvedic fabric, Kerala is the big hub where ayurvedic doctors and researchers prepare dyes, macerations and treatments that infuse the textiles with medicinal characteristics. Bhavsar says that only trained ayurvedic practitioners can create ayurvastra. He says, “Mostly dyes for ayurvastra contain between 40-60 specifically blended medicinal herbs, plants, flowers, roots and barks. Ayurvedic clothing can be ailment specific as well. For example, herbs used in the dye for skin diseases are, turmeric, neem, and sandalwood.”
Sagar says that their process is a unique amalgamation of tradition and innovation as they use a variety of herbs like Chitrathai (ginger plant), wild basil, Vinca Rosea, bell plant tail, sandalwood amongst others. He says, “The convergence of Ayurvedic science and clothes seemed like such a natural fit but the territory was virtually unexplored in retail, where planned quantities of batches are needed.”
The designs of Ayurvastra are mostly fluid and basic because the end goal is not fashion vanity. Use it as sleepwear, bed sheets, towels, meditation clothes, and coir mats. The medicinal effect typically lasts for 20 washes. Sagar adds, “The medicinal properties are enhanced with use and gentle washing and drying is suitable for
upkeep.” Choose fabrics based on your dosha and you can also study about the benefits of the herbs, plants, flower or oil used.