Australian designer Julie Lantry sells bras, knickers and tops that promise you more than you would expect — herbal healing. Her collection, Soulmate Intimates, made of certified organic cotton, is infused with healing herbs such as tulsi, neem and aloe vera through ancient ayurvedic techniques. These natural plant dyes have antioxidant, antibacterial and antiseptic healing properties.
Lantry says your skin is your biggest organ and don’t take chances with what you wrap it in. “Conventional dyes and synthetic trims can be toxic to the wearer and the environment, especially to those with sensitive or irritated skin,” she says. Christine Snow, another designer, based in Bath in UK, sells “Affordable Ayurvedic Undies from the lush forests of Kerala“.
Many designers are putting neem in your knickers and basil in your bra after an ancient tradition of administration of healing ayurvedic herbs through clothes has been revived in the Indian province of Kerala. More than a decade ago, the government started a project called Ayurvastra to revive manufacture of textiles dyed in medicinal herbs. Most designers who create medicinal lingerie and other clothes source their fabrics from these manufacturers.
Since no synthetic dyes are used in ayurvedic clothes, the colour range remains limited. Samantha Kamala, who runs fashion house Monsoon Blooms, another seller of ayurvedic clothes, offers three shades — a hue of olive green from tulsi, a pastel pink from sandalwood, and a creamy colour from neem. The herbs used in cloths are not just for better skin; they have wide-ranging functions.
According to Kamala, basil improves cognitive function, memory, and depression; sandalwood is good for fever, burns and skin ailments; and neem has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antihistamine properties. She explains the benefits of dyes derived from sappanwood, neem, tulsi, turmeric, aloe vera and fenugreek. Kairali Exports, which sells ayurvastra textile to designers, uses 12 herbs to make ayurvedic textile and mentions benefits of each.
Even elite designers are venturing into ayurvedic clothes. Didier Lecoanet and Hemant Sagar, who founded a couture house Lecoanet Hemant and opened a store in Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris in 1981, have launched Ayurganic, a stay-at-home collection. Soon they will launch a new line of organic, herb-infused clothing for “conscious yoga practitioners to deepen their practice with holistic fabrics”.
Two studies conducted in Kerala by the Government Ayurveda College and the state ministry of health found benefits of ayurvedic medicinal clothes for patients of skin diseases, arthritis and rheumatism. Yet more and better research is needed to establish exact therapeutic effect of such clothes.
While ayurvedic herbs used in the making of such clothes have proven health benefits, we don’t know yet how much they transfer their healing effect to body through these clothes and how safe such clothes are for long-term use.