Pilot study investigating the effects of Ayurvedic Abhyanga massage on subjective stress experience

J Altern Complement Med. 2011 May;17(5):435-40. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0281. Epub 2011 May 13.


Objectives: Many providers of Ayurvedic massage treatments make unsubstantiated claims regarding their potential psychologic and physiologic benefits. While these claims are based on ancient traditions of the Indian medical system as well as personal experience, no attempt had yet been made to verify the effect of Ayurvedic oil massage within the Western-scientific context. This pilot study assessed the single-dose effect of Abhyanga, the classic Ayurvedic oil massage, in terms of its impact on subjective stress experience.

Design: Ten (10) healthy women (mean [M] 36.4 years, standard deviation [SD] 4.62) and 10 healthy men (M 37.0 years, SD 3.23) underwent a 1-hour Abhyanga massage treatment. The study employed a repeated-measures design for the collection of stress data using a validated and published questionnaire, as well as for the collection of heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) values, immediately pre- and postintervention.

Results: Subjects showed high statistically and clinically significant reductions in subjective stress experience. A consequent analysis of physiologic data indicated likewise reductions in HR, while a BP reduction was not recorded for the total sample, but was only found in the prehypertensive subgroup.

Conclusions: Findings indicate that Abhyanga massage is promising in reducing subjective stress experience. It may be beneficial in lowering HR in all, and BP in prehypertensive subjects. The results of this pilot study encourage further research with more stringent methodology.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Medicine, Ayurvedic*
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception
  • Pilot Projects
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires