In 1906, the English researcher Sir Henry Dale discovered a substance in the pituitary gland that could speed up the birthing process and promote the expression of breast milk. He named it oxytocin, from the Greek words for ‘quick childbirth labour’. Oxytocin was later shown to play a role in relaxation as well as influencing many vital operations in the body. Older hospital patients who receive massage sleep better, experience less pain, need less medication and often become less confused and more sociable – probably due to increased oxytocin and endorphin levels. Although we normally associate this hormone with childbirth because it is produced in response to uterine contractions, both females and males have the same distribution of oxytocin-producing cells. It is possible to elevate levels of oxytocin with stimuli such as warmth, touch and massage. Studies show that the person administering ‘touch’ also experiences heightened levels of oxytocin. According to Kerstin Uvnas Moberg, author of The Oxytocin Factor (2003), many massage therapists exhibit the effects of high levels of oxytocin, such as lower levels of stress hormones and lowered blood pressure.


Many factors affect the growth and condition of hair, such as illness, diet, stress, medication and over-processing, and these are discussed in Chapter 8. Such factors can result in: thinning hair/baldness loss of hair colour hair that lacks shine dry, brittle, lifeless hair dry, itchy, flaky scalp skin conditions affecting the scalp, such as eczema.

Indian Head Massage techniques promote healthy hair by loosening scalp muscles, stimulating circulation and promoting relaxation. Many hair problems can be further alleviated by the use of oils. Oils are often applied at the end of an Indian Head Massage treatment. When oil is applied to the scalp it is absorbed into hair follicles, with the following benefits:When aromatic oils are used on the scalp, the molecules quickly reach the nose and this can relax the client further and promote deeper breathing. The use of oil is optional at the end of a treatment. It can be gently heated to open the pores, increase circulation and aid penetration.

Oils known as ‘carrier oils’ are extracted from vegetables, flowers, nuts or seeds and have therapeutic properties in their own right. For therapeutic use the oils should be cold-pressed and, where possible, organic. Oils are highly recommended within Ayurvedic medicine and have been used for centuries in Indian families to keep hair strong and shiny. These oils include sesame, almond, coconut, neem and mustard. Oils are often mixed with henna and essential oils such as sandalwood, lemon or rosemary and herbs that are less known in the West, for example brahmi, bringraj, shikakai and amla.

Carrier oils should be kept in airtight containers and stored in a cool, dark place to prolong their shelf life. Some carrier oils, particularly nut oils, can provoke allergic reactions so avoid using these on clients with a nut allergy. See the Bibliography for details of an article on the safety of nut oils and recommended alternatives (Buck and Bensouilah, 2005).

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