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Indian Beauty, Health Traditions Reborn

Many of the health and beauty treatments we pay top dollar for in the U.S. come from India and are hundreds -- if not thousands -- of years old.



You can make your own Indian body scrub with ground chickpeas or rice. "Take it in your hand and scrub your body when you bathe or shower." Sugar scrubs cost a fortune at spas and even do-it-yourself kits can be pricey but Tejpal says that you can make your own using pure limejuice and sugar. "It has zero chemicals and you can use it on your entire body to make skin silky and smooth," she tells WebMD.


Her recipe: Use three parts sugar and one part lime juice.


Massages. Massage is big business in the U.S. and a growing number of studies are showing that it can have actual medical benefits on a host of conditions including staving off postpartum depression in new mothers and helping premature infants to thrive. "When kids are born in India, mother and child are given a full-body massage for 40 days -- from head to toe -- and then a warm bath to help the body recover," she says. "Now we hear so much more about baby massages here and that they help women to prevent post-partum depression." In India, it works like this: the masseuse comes to the house early in the morning and massages the baby, then bathes him or her and holds him or her in the sun for vitamin D, and then when the baby sleeps, the mom gets a full-body massage and a hot bath.


Ayurveda. Perhaps you have read or heard about Ayurveda, the traditional healing system of India. With ayurveda, no particular treatment is offered for any specific symptom -- instead, each person is looked at individually and treatments typically involve diet, herbal remedies, exercise, and spiritual practices including yoga and transcendental meditation. It is based on the 5,000-year-old tradition of Vedic medicine, explains Nancy Lonsdorf, MD, medical director of The Raj, Maharishi Ayurveda Health center in Vedic City, Iowa. "I have seen ayurveda medicine go from being on the fringe to being totally mainstream for prevention to serious illness," she tells WebMD. "There is a real great appreciation that something natural is needed to enhance health and I have seen the use of ayurvedic medicine grow tremendously."


Ayurvedic medicine puts a lot of emphasis on the mind-body connection through specific techniques such as transcendental mediation, she says. "I see that this medical approach is going to continue to gain popularity and eventually be used as the primary approach to any chronic condition and prevention," she says. "Modern medicine will be reserved for car accidents and life-threatening emergency situations," she predicts. In fact, its popularity in the U.S. has grown so much there is now an actual city -- Vedic City, Iowa -- built according to Vedic principles. The city uses nontoxic construction materials and all buildings face east and are built on flat land. "We have a population 150 and growing," Lonsdorf says. Vedic City also includes a few hotels and a Maharishi University. And transcendental meditation, a facet of Ayurvedic medicine, is now offered in schools, hospitals, law firms, government, corporate offices, and prisons.

Brush Up on Beauty

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