This post was updated on June 12th, 2020
Time travels in a circle and the knowledge that humans possess diminishes with each generation and each yuga. Both of these statements seem highly illogical. Read my blog heading again. It is living proof of what has been explained in our vedas. My blog (or newspaper/magazine column) heading a few decades back would have been “Harmful chemicals substituting Ayurvedic natural substances in our daily lives”. Since time travels in circles, we are at a point where we are replacing harmful chemicals with natural ones again. Since the body of knowledge decreases with each generation, even Ayurvedic experts in Kerala do not know some of the natural alternatives to chemicals that were in use a century back! It’s a downward spiral. Even as we try to go back to natural, the very definition of what’s natural will change in the future. Natural organic Kiwi fruits that you come across in stores all over the world is a modern fruit with global footprints. It is a wild plant of China, domesticated in New Zealand and sold in US in the 1960s . Immediate concerns like allergic reactions were addressed. Prolonged use may bring about serious consequences to the fore. Natural & purely organic food might kill you in the future. For now, let’s concentrate on surviving.
Here’s a list of products that have chemicals that we either ingest, inhale or come in contact with almost on a daily basis:
- Handwash/ Hand sanitizer
- Facewash/ Soap
- Hair oil
- Prayer/ Holy Items
- Air Freshners
- Detergent/ Household cleaners
- Car Perfume
- Pesticides/ Fertilizers
- Processed food
- Cooking pots/utensils
- Bottled water/ RO/ Tap water with pesticide
- Chemically treated fabric
- Mosquito repellent/ Household pest control
- Medicines (Antibiotics)
New research comes up every day on how chemicals in these products cause everything from hormonal imbalance to cancer. Our grandfathers were not exposed to any of these. Let’s go back in time and take a look at a day in his life. The links in the content will take you to Amazon, from where I ordered most of the stuff. I have only linked to products that I tried out (& they were of good quality) or now use regularly. Companies get greedy in pursuit of profit and adulterate their own products, so if you find something lacking in quality, let me know in a comment and I’ll run a check again.
Toothpaste/ Mouth Wash
Rajiv Dixit in one of his talks lists down datuns (manual toothbrush: Amazon’s translation, not mine) to be used in each of the 6 seasons. If you strictly wish to follow Ayurvedic rules, you could actually order babool twigs, neem twigs, mango twigs, peepal twigs for each of the recommended seasons online to brush your teeth & scrape your tongue. How to brush your teeth & why to scrape your tongue can be a separate blog altogether & can easily put dentists out of business.
I upgraded to Patanjali’s Dantkanti about 7 years back and never bothered to look at the ingredients even as I subjected everything else to scrutiny (almost all products failed). When both my wife and me had tooth sensitivity, I had a hard look at the toothpaste. Sodium fluoride, preservatives, it had it all. Only 1.5% of the toothpaste content is ayurvedic!  The last chemical product in my house had an abrupt end. Datuns is something I eventually want to use, but I need more research. Till then, I’m using Goseva’s Dantmanjan with amazing results. Instead of mouthwash, practice oil pulling.
Mosquito repellent/ Household pest control
Use a mosquito net while sleeping. It may spoil the look of your bedroom, but (hopefully) no outsider is watching while you sleep. it’s the most effective solution against mosquitoes. Next in the list is a combination of neem oil & camphor. If you feel spending Rs.250 for mosquitoes is a little out of budget, let me tell you that the mixture is dense and lasts much longer when filled in an empty mosquito refill bottle. If you don’t prefer plastic, burn the mixture on bay leaves. It does not need electricity and drives mosquitoes away faster.
I’ve moved beyond these to what my grandfather used; dhoop aarti. Indian sal wood gum or jhuna (You can buy it here, although I easily get in in the pooja shop in my locality), dried desi cow dung cake, neem oil and camphor. Depending on your mood and availability, you can add more stuff to it to create the right smoky ambience.
Warning: According to a report published in Lancet, a noted medical journal, indoor air pollution caused 1.24 lakh premature deaths in India in 2015. Air quality in Indian households, especially in the rural areas, is lethal due to the use of wood or cow dung as cooking fuel coupled with poor ventilation. . You have the facts in front of you. Go ahead & burn some cow dung cake!
You can buy a combination of dried pods of Reetha, Amla & Shikakai. Soak it overnight, heat till it boils in the morning, cool, mash, strain & use it like normal shampoo. Too time taking for your daily morning grind? Storing the shampoo in normal refrigerator spoils it. Make ice cubes & use a couple of them every alternate day (Thanks Hair Buddha for the pro tip). I prefer fresh shampoo though. Another detail that the seller has missed out is the proportion. It’s 2 parts Reetha, 2 parts Shikakai & 1 part Amla, which means 100g amla is left over in each pack 🙂 The same solution can be used as a conditioner.
Why am I even writing about chemicals in your hair oil? Isn’t it logical to simply buy the oil you have decided to do champi with? A friend of mine gave a very logical explanation. Take mustard oil for example. Mustard seeds are available in the wholesale market for Rs. 4000 per quintal, which works out to Rs.40/kg. We need 2.7 kg of mustard seeds to get 1 litre of oil. We tried this at home with a portable oil press machine & needed 3kgs of seeds, but maybe companies have economies of scale and better equipment. Even at 2.5 kg, the raw material cost comes to Rs.100 per litre. Overheads (plant & machinery, salaries, transportation, distribution, etc) costs will add up to Rs.30 per bottle. The manufacturer & retailer add up their margins. You should be getting your 1 ltr mustard oil bottle for anything above Rs.170 at the minimum . How do you get it for Rs.120? Are oil suppliers deep discounting their products like cool Silicon Valley startups? it’s more likely that they are adulterating it to keep costs down.
Use pure essential oils & mix them with chemical free carriers. There are enough beauty experts online who will tell you what to mix with what. Use oils according to your dosha. Vata types should use sesame, almond or bhringaraj oil. Pitta types benefit from sunflower, coconut, castor, or ghee.
If you are still with me, you are probably ready to give up on organic and resign to a life full of chemicals. You just don’t seem to have the time to live the Ayurvedic life. It is nearly impossible for a city dweller to live a completely organic life. You can make a start though. Fortune favors the brave, so try your Ayurvedic fortune. It will start a chain reaction. The leftover ayurvedic shampoo serves as a good utensil cleaner. The ash from my fully burnt cow dung cake makes for some shiny teeth. Everything gets reused and slowly becomes a part of your daily routine. Eliminate one chemical product & it will start a chain reaction. You will soon start finding organic substitutes on your own.