Because our lives are so busy, we almost never put any extra thought into putting on an article of clothing or using a towel to dry off our bodies. We simply finish this task and focus on more important items on our to-do list. But having said that, this simple act of getting dressed or drying off can have long-term health consequences—and some of them can be extremely serious.
In recent years, we have started to see examples of how the chemicals in clothes, towels, and other items applied to our skin can affect our health. In fact, several companies have had to deal with employee or customer complaints due to chemicals that are found in clothing. For instance, over 1,600 individuals at American Airlines and United Airlines recently complained about itching, rashes, scratching, and hives from the rollout of new wool uniforms. Primark, the discount clothing chain, recalled thousands of men’s flip-flops which contained chrysene, a chemical commonly used in dark-coloured dyes that are suspected of being a carcinogen.
These are just two examples but clearly, the chemicals in our clothing and towels can lead to unintended, adverse health effects. Azo dyes, for instance, are believed to be linked with cancer. Acrylic fabrics can cause liver damage and other nasty side effects. Phthalates, found in things like plastic raincoats, artificial leather, and waterproof clothing, have been linked to reproductive problems in male rodents. The list goes on and on. It is easy to simply ignore these potential threats and go about our days, but we will absolutely regret taking a casual attitude to these threats if the worst case scenario actually happens.
So what can be done? How can we protect ourselves from groups of chemicals that can negatively impact our health—especially since we probably interact with these chemicals every day?
We believe that the secret lies in returning to old, tested practices. We’re specifically speaking about ayurvedic dyeing. The ayurvedic dyeing process started in India before synthetic dyes and chemical dyes were introduced. While textile manufacturers have found it cheaper and easier to resort to chemical dyes and synthetic dyes, we believe that using ayurvedic dyes in items that touch our skin will benefit our health and our planet. By returning to our roots, we can live in a future that is safer, healthier, and better for our world.
Ayurvedic Dyeing: The Basics
Before explaining why ayurvedic dyeing can protect us from unintended illness, it is important to explain what it actually is. Ayurvedic dyeing is derived from Ayurveda, which is an ancient Indian method of Vedic healthcare that is still practised in southern Asia. We can look at the term Ayurveda itself, which is quite insightful. In Sanskrit, Ayur means health and Veda mean wisdom. There is also the term Ayurvastra, where Vastrameans clothing.
Essentially, the basic idea behind ayurvedic dyeing is that dyes in clothing, towels, and similar items are free from chemicals and toxic irritants. Instead, the dyes are created from all-natural, herbal dyes that are blended together from ingredients like various medicinal herbs, plants, flowers, roots, and barks. In other words, ayurvedic dyeing allows cloths and textiles to contain all of the benefits of traditional Indian medicine, allowing individuals to avoid some of the common symptoms—and perhaps even more serious side effects—from textiles that are dyed with synthetic chemicals.
The process of actually creating ayurvedic dyes requires patience and diligence. It can be quite complex and time-consuming. The dyes are crafted with special care, as manufacturers carefully control the temperature of the dyes, duration of all of the dye soaks, and the particular blend of herbs and equipment. Once the dyes are applied to a textile (whether it will comprise an article of clothing, towel, or something else), it is allowed to cool, washed several times, and then dried in the shade. No chemical processes are involved when a manufacturer dyes and processes the fabric.
While it may be slower than the traditional dyeing process, patience is rewarded in that ayurvedic dyes avoid some of the significant health effects from synthetic dyes and chemical dyes (as we will discuss shortly).
The Downfalls of Synthetic and Chemical Dyeing
Synthetic and chemical dyes, while cheap, present numerous costs not only on individuals but the environment as a whole. Let’s start with health effects. Synthetic dyes contain endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals that can interfere with our endocrine systems. As illustrated in some of the examples above, synthetic dyes can cause a number of symptoms like itching and hives. However, these symptoms can be signs of greater problems. Synthetic dyes can potentially cause life-threatening illnesses like cancerous tumours, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. This is especially true for children. According to a briefing produced by CHEM Trust, these type of chemicals have a significant impact on child brain development. For instance, the prevalence of the hyperkinetic disorder among ten-year-olds has increasingly risen in countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Finland due to chemical exposures. While synthetic dyes and chemical dyes may be cheaper for both textile manufacturers and consumers, the individual costs—most notably, serious health issues—are extremely significant.
But even beyond the potential health issues of applying synthetic or chemical dyes to your skin, there is also a significantly deleterious effect on the environment. Wastewater from the textile industry contains a variety of polluting substances—including these synthetic and chemical dyes—and they can harm the environment once that wastewater is released into the world. While the wastewater is often sent through a wastewater treatment plant before being released, the effectiveness of such treatment is often poor in developing countries. Released wastewater that contains these chemical dyes or synthetic dyes can end up causing damage to our earth’s rivers and streams, along with impacting individuals who use that water to wash their clothes or as the source of their drinking water.
The Benefits of Ayurvedic Dyeing
Considering the discussion above, synthetic and chemical dyeing is something that can cause significant harm to individuals and our environment. By contrast, there are significant benefits to ayurvedic dyeing in your clothes, towels, and other items that you apply to your body. Ayurveda and ayurvedic dyeing are based on the fundamental idea that the skin is the body’s largest organ. While the skin protects us from many foreign influences, it can still be a conduit for outside substances—like synthetic chemicals in your clothing.
Because of these facts, clothes, towels and similar items containing ayurvedic dyes provide numerous health benefits. They can help individuals who are currently suffering from eczema, skin diseases, arthritis, psoriasis, rheumatism, and high blood pressure. Ayurvedic dyes can also be used as an energy booster, mood enhancer, and can help you cool down. In addition to the vast number of health benefits within ayurvedic dyes, these dyes also don’t cause pollution and harm our earth—unlike synthetic and chemical dyes.
Several studies in India have shown the efficacy of ayurvedic dyeing and ayurvastra, including studies by the Dravyaguna Department of Government Ayurveda College and by the Ministry of Health, the Department of Coir Development, Government of Kerala. Current research in India and around the world continues to support the significant health benefits of ayurvedic dyeing and ayurvastra. For instance, a recent paper in the REST Journal on Emerging Trends in Modelling and Manufacturing confirms that ayurvedic dyeing and ayurvastra provide immeasurable health benefits while avoiding the negative externalities imposed by synthetic dyes and chemical dyes. The researchers—both from the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies—touted the many features of ayurvedic dye, including its eco-friendly nature and ability to improve an individual’s mind, body, and soul. Researchers continue to examine how ayurvedic dyes improve health. That said, the consensus is that ayurvedic dyes are correlated with good health and the avoidance of negative environmental effects.
Consider Ayurvedic Dyes
We hope that the discussion above has at least piqued your interest in the benefits of ayurvedic dyes. Whether you are searching for your next article of clothing or towel, we encourage you to ensure that the item contains ayurvedic dyes. Doing so will not only improve your overall health, but it will ensure that you are giving back to the environment. Both of these positive attributes are simply missing with synthetic dyes or chemical dyes. Even though it may seem like a simple decision, choosing ayurvedic dyes over the alternatives will bring immeasurable benefits to your life. It could even help you avoid some life-threatening illness.