Oil bath 101: Tradition, How-to and Benefits

Ayurveda advocates that having an oil bath before sunrise is good for our body. Deepavali is the only time it can be enforced on us as a tradition.


Diwali oil bath, Diwali 2020, Diwali 2021, Deepavali traditions, herbal oil recipes, sesame oil benefits, Divassence, makeup and beauty blog, home remedies for glowing skin


The Festival of Lights is celebrated because Narakasura was killed and good won over evil. The tradition of having an oil bath, also known as Abhyanga snan, on Deepavali is also based on this concept. An oil bath is a cleansing ritual where the use of herbal oil is said to remove toxins from our body and helps us rejuvenate.

The only thing that motivated me to wake up early on Deepavali during my childhood days was the thought of wearing new clothes and eating sweets without any restriction. That’s what motivates me now as well. This sleepy head needs her beauty sleep.


Oils to use 

Traditionally sesame oil is used for an oil bath on Deepavali morning. You could also use coconut oil, almond oil, olive oil, castor oil or a combination of some of the oils mentioned. 

Why Sesame Oil? 

Sesame oil, better known as Gingelly Oil in India, is commonly called Nallenai in Tamizh. Nalla means good and Ennai means oil. This oil has been used for generations not only for oil massages but for cooking and direct consumption as well.  

Research¹ shows that the antioxidant present in sesame oil acts as a shield against the damage caused by UV rays. Topical application of  sesame oil, which contains alpha-tocopherol, helps reduce skin damage such as sunburns, skin cancer and wrinkles.   

Sesame oil is held in the highest regard in Ayurveda. A massage using Sesame oil improves energy flow and removes toxins.

This golden oil is said to have healing properties. Sesame oil can also be used an anti-bacterial mouthwash. Whenever I have mouth ulcers, I rinse my mouth using sesame oil due to its healing and anti-bacterial properties. Applying sesame oil during PMS helps relieve the pain. This is something I do whenever I have menstrual pain. I follow it up with a warm water bath and it immediately helps reduce the pain.



Diwali oil bath, Diwali 2020, Diwali 2021, Deepavali traditions, herbal oil recipes, sesame oil benefits, Divassence, makeup and beauty blog, home remedies for glowing skin, benefits of ginger, benefits of pepper, benefits of curry leaves


Ginger: This root is packed with antioxidants and is also known to decrease inflammation and pain. Ginger is also said to have anti-microbial properties.

Curry leaves: Curry leaves are a staple in any South Indian household. Curry leaves help reduce hair fall, premature graying of hair and aids hair growth. 

Black Pepper:  Pepper is known to contains Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Iron and many other essential nutrients. It also has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

Cumin seeds: These seeds are said to have antioxidant properties and are high in Vitamin E and Vitamin B. You can add regular cumin seeds to your oil. You may use black cumin seeds or black cumin seed oil as well. Black cumin seeds are said to have anti-inflammatory properties and are said to promote hair growth. 


Since I don’t follow measurements when it come to a recipe unless it absolutely calls for it, I have no idea about the ratio of oil to the add-ons. Have you met me?

I’m going to list out what I’ve learnt from the elders in my family. Hope that helps. 

On Deepavali morning, we keep it simple by just adding fresh ginger and dried black peppercorns to sesame oil. I like smashing the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle before adding it to the oil.

  1. Make sure you wash and dry ingredients like curry leaves and ginger thoroughly. Chop ginger into small pieces before adding it to the oil. 
  2. Add the ingredients to the oil at room temperature. Heat this mixture on a low flame till the oil is warm and the smell of ginger wafts through your kitchen. Do not worry about the froth. Turn off the stove and let it cool a little if the oil is too hot. The oil should be warm yet at a temperature comfortable to use on your skin.

    sesame oil alternative, difference between sesame oil and gingelly oil, what is sesame oil used for, Diwali oil bath, abhyang, oil massage, benefits of oil massage, Divassence, benefits of oil massage, oil massage Ayurveda, best oil for massage, oil massage for body benefits, oil massage for face, corona ayurveda, best skincare products 2020
                                                       Heating the Oil: Before, During and After
  3. Start by applying the oil on the crown of your head. Massage the scalp using your finger tips in a circular motion. Then apply the oil on your face, the upper half of your body followed by the lower half. End the ritual by massaging the oil on your soles.  
  4. Leave the oil on for 15-30 minutes. Wash it off using shikakai or gram flour. I’ve noticed that using one of these helps remove the excess oil without leaving the skin oily or dry. The skin feels moisturised and supple.

Benefits of an Oil Massage 

A research article titled ‘A Traditional Review On Oil bath’² published in the International Ayurvedic Medical Journal talks extensively about the process and benefits of an oil massage. 

A good oil massage: 

  • facilitates removal of heat from our body.
  • improves appetite. 
  • helps the body relax and aids deep sleep. 
  • prevents hair loss provided the right oils of good quality are used. 
  • helps reduce the redness in eyes and relieves eye strain. A good oil massage corrects the hot-cold imbalance in our body. If there’s too much body heat (also known as Ushnam), it affects the overall functioning of the body. 
  • is said to reduce stress; A deep muscle massage combined with healing herbs and a warm bath helps relax immensely. 

¹ Nagendra Prasad MN, Sanjay KR, Prasad DS, Vijay N, Kothari R, Nanjunda Swamy S (2012) A Review on Nutritional and Nutraceutical Properties of Sesame. J Nutr Food Sci 2:127. doi:10.4172/2155-9600.1000127
² Ambika Dhiman & Janani: A Traditional Review on Oil Bath. International Ayurvedic Medical Journal {online} 2017 {cited February, 2017} Available from: http://www.iamj.in/posts/images/upload/443_446.pdf

Note: MLA is the preferred method of citation on Divassence unless and until the author of the research paper prefers otherwise. 

I hope this guide helps you. If you have anything to share, please leave a comment below or you could mail me at divassence@gmail.com.