Cold and Flu : Massage May Boost Immune System

By Dhailey, Saadia S

A relaxing massage also gives body's immune system a boost, say experts.

Our ancient medicine and sciences hold the most spellbinding rejuvenation therapies. The magical healing properties of herbs and oils in Ayurveda, in fact, always told what research worth millions now only confirms - the oh-so-heavenly massage actually boosts your immune system.

Researchers in Cedars-Sinai's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences have found that people who go for massage experience measureable changes in their body's immune and endocrine response.

Yes, this research indicates that massage doesn't only feel good, it also may be good for your overall well-being. The study found that people who got a massage experienced significant changes in lymphocyte numbers and percentages white blood cells that play a large role in defending the body from disease.

It also caused a large decrease in Arginine Vasopressin (AVP) a hormone believed to play a role in aggressive behavior. It also indicated a decrease in levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Though preliminary, so encouraging are the results that researchers suggest that a single massage may deliver a measurable benefit.

Dr Meghna Dixit, who practices Ayurvedic medicine explains the basis of these conclusions, "A massage helps in the lymphatic drainage. It leads the toxins and the waste products from the blood and the serum from the lumph nodes to the kidney and through it throws it out of the body. Thus the blood and the body overall is purified."

She says it also increases the basic metabolism rate, and activates the cells to perform the best, and thus give a boost to one's immunity.

Physiotherapist Dr Aijaz Ashai, who specializes in sports physiotherapy, says a massage has a two-fold benefit, "It relives both mental and physical stress." He explains how muscular tension is relieved. "A nice rub facilitates the release of lactic acid accumulation, but," he cautions, "It's very important to differentiate between stiffness from lactic acid accumulation and spasmodic condition." In the later, rest is need, he says.

According to Dr Dixit, when a complete body massage isn't possible, one should at least massage the feet, leg and the back. "Chandan bala lakshadi tel can do wonders for cough, cold and asthma attacks and boost one's immunity," she says. And for those who are regular with massages, sesame oil is good, she says.

However, it may be interesting to note that city neurologists do not endorse a similar opinion on the benefits of a massage. Though Dr Mayank Pandya says that a massage raises the level of endomorphin, it can't be attributed to healing. "Each case is different, and most of the times, the local relief is due to what we call 'counter irritation'. For instance when you apply a balm, the relief is due to the burning sensation that takes over and last only that long."

More on oil therapy

To be able to enjoy a massage and reap maximum benefits, the choice of the oil is very important. While at a spa, you are more likely to be treated to a blend of aromatic oils, if you are planning to get yourself the soothing treatment at home, here's are the options you can pick from:

Sweet almond oil

It's one of the most popular massage oils even among massage therapists. Pale yellow in color, it's absorbed fairly quickly, thus not making you feel greasy.

Apricot kernel oil

Rich in Vitamin E, it is a good alternative to sweet almond oil for people with nut allergies. However, it's slightly costlier than almond oil.

Jojoba oil

Jojoba is actually a wax extracted from the seed of the jojoba plant. It's a good option for most people prone to back acne because it is thought to have antibacterial properties and contains long chain wax esters that closely resembles skin sebum. One drawback: jojoba oil is so silky and quickly absorbed, you may need to reapply it often or mix it with other oils.

Fractionated coconut oil

Although you may think of coconut oil as being a thick, white solid oil, but fractionated coconut oil is actually a light, non-greasy, liquid oil, and completely affordable. But perhaps the top feature of fractionated coconut oil is that it tends not to stain sheets, a problem with most massage oils.

Sunflower Oil

The oil, extracted from sunflower seeds, is rich in the essential fatty acid linoleic acid, as well as palmitic acid and stearic acid, all components required for a healthy skin. But sunflower oil can go rancid quickly, so it should be purchased in small quantities and stored in a dark cool area. Squeezing one or two capsules of pure vitamin E oil into the bottle may help to extend the shelf life.

Times of India

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