This Is Why Aromatherapy And Ayurveda Matters For Everyone
Farida Irani, founder of skincare and wellness brand Subtle Energies, shares her wisdom on Ayurveda and aromatherapy.
Text Seda Yılmaz
When Farida Irani talks about natural therapies, you can see a twinkle in her dark blue eyes. She has a zest for life and holistic remedies. As an Ayurveda practitioner and clinical aromatherapist, Irani creates formulas to help balance mind, body, and soul. Through her practices, she guides people to elevate their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. “Aromatherapy complements conventional medicine,” she says. “We are here to complement the work doctors do.” I met the pioneer of Ayurveda aromatherapy at the Peninsula İstanbul, where she developed the unique treatments for the hotel’s spa.
You started working with essential oils in the early 90s. Back then, aromatherapy wasn’t as mainstream as it is today. What prompted you to get so passionate about the world of essential oils?
Well, I was an accountant many moons ago. Natural therapies always interested me because my father was a great believer in them. My grandmother used to massage my head with amla oil for me to have thick, lush hair. So, I am a product of natural therapies. The essential oils came into my life when I moved to Australia. I started with normal aromatherapy and popular oils like lavender, jasmine, clary sage, sweet almond oil, and jojoba. Around that time, my mother was ailing, so I went to India. Over there, I came across these rare and unique oils like mogra, gulhina, and saffron, which were not known in the aromatherapy world at all. I started doing clinical research with them in my clinic. I also discovered beautiful base oils like ashwagandha and black seed sesame oil. As I could see the therapeutic value of these, I became very passionate about essential oils.
You were born and raised in India. Then, you moved to Iran, Dubai, and finally to Australia. How do your upbringing and the different locations you’ve inhabited influence your practice? Are there some tips that you inherited from previous generations?
What you learn as a child always stays with you. We are the original people of Iran. We are called the Parsis, a Zoroastrian community of Persian descent. We took on a lot of the Indian culture, the positive aspects of the Indian culture. Ours is a small population consisting of 100,000 in the whole world. Our philosophy is very simple. It is based on good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. And there is no penance. Enjoy your life; live it up. However, you must be prepared for any wrong action that you do. When you have good thoughts, you have good actions. So we have to bear those principles in mind. Philanthropy and charity is very big in our culture.
My grandmother was very fond of herbs. She would make an infusion of cinnamon and cardamom clove if we had the flu. She mixed chickpea flour with fresh green herbs to use on my body. It’s like a natural exfoliator. Native medicine is very powerful in Australia. And they have some beautiful, very medicinal herbs and oils. We manufacture everything in Australia and get the raw materials from all over the world.
What is the philosophy behind Subtle Energies? What are some of your heroes from the brand?
All our products are created with the intent to empower. Our ethos is integrity and righteousness. When you create something, you put your intent into it, which should be unconditional and positive. That’s how you empower yourself and those who come to you for treatments or products. It’s all to do with intent. We make sure that everything is in its pure, natural form. You know, oils are like diamonds; they have grades. We always go for flawless oils. So that’s the way we work. My hero products are the Facial Blend, Aura Protection Mist, and Muscle Ease Massage Blend.
Can you elaborate on the Subtle Energies – Peninsula partnership?
Ours is a small family business. Peninsula is also a family-owned business, much bigger than ours, obviously. We created treatments and blends initially for the Peninsula. In 2018 and 2019, we launched in a few of their locations, including Tokyo, New York, Chicago, and Paris. And now Peninsula London and İstanbul. Our signature spa treatments and products are available at these locations.
Peninsula does a lot of charitable work. Philanthropy is a part of our philosophy as well. Because that’s the ethos of our culture. We have incorporated that in our business. In our clinic in Australia, we treat cancer patients for free. We believe that from what we receive, we have to give back. So this is our way of giving back.
How do you incorporate Ayurveda aromatherapy into your own life? Which essential oils make you feel better in different contexts?
Ayurveda is a lifestyle. Ayu means life, and veda means knowledge. It is actually based on the principles of five elements: air, water, fire, ether, and earth. But with what’s happening in the world right now, we have disrupted these elements, not realizing that we are made up of the same elements that nature is made up of. We balance these elements in Ayurveda. We are born with these elements, some more predominant than others, depending on our body types. So, when you have disrupted the rhythm of the elements in nature, you’re disrupting yourself. Ancient Ayurvedic practitioners gave us tools like diet, herbs, meditation, yoga, and aromatics. And that’s what Ayurvedic philosophy is all about. However, the Ayurvedic practitioners don’t use essential oils. Instead, they use herbal oil decoction, which is done with plants, water, and a base oil. I use this before the shower for detoxing. Whereas I use aromatic blends after the shower preferably. They go through the hair follicles into the bloodstream. They work on all levels: mental, emotional, and physical. I realized that there was a gap between Ayurveda and aromatherapy. So, I created this bridge between the two of them. We use the principles of Ayurveda to create aromatics. We are all master blenders. And we walk our talk. We live with these principles every day.
We never use one oil on its own. Essential oils should always be blended with a base oil. I use the muscle ease massage blend every night. I love Tulsi. It helps me with focusing, energy cleansing, and aura protection. My other favorites are eucalyptus, kunzea, and clove.
What is your favorite Ayurvedic recipe?
I’ll give you a tea recipe. First, boil cumin seed, coriander seed, ginger, and tulsi. Then add lemon and honey. It is really delicious and easy to drink. It scrapes off the toxins and helps to keep the blood sugar and blood pressure balanced.
What are the staples of your beauty and wellness routine?
My routine is to keep it very simple. Oils and Subtle Energies Mogra Rejuvenating Gold Cream are my staples. A beauty regime doesn’t start only on the skin. It’s also related to cleansing inside. So diet plays a very important role in my life. I make sure that I don’t eat foods that don’t agree with my body. What you don’t put in your mouth, you don’t put on your skin.
Sometimes, it can be hard to get into a new wellness regimen, especially if that regimen is an established one. What is your recommendation for an aromatherapy beginner?
We had workshops in the past just to give an idea of the basic blending of oils. Mixture is very important. We don’t recommend using only neat essential oils for a beginner. Many people say, “Oh, I vaporize my oils, and that’s all I love.” This is wonderful, too. It helps you with your feelings. I mean, it calms you down or cheers you up, depending on the oils you choose. You get an impact through the nose in two seconds. The key is to use the right quality and the right blend. When you apply oils topically, your skin cell renewal, muscle tone, and pigmentation changes.
At Wonderflaw, we believe that flaws and how we deal with them render us unique beings. What is your favorite flaw and why?
I’m very fiery and direct. I mean, if you can call these a flaw. Sometimes I’m a bit too direct, so I have to balance that aspect. That’s my flaw. But if I upset someone by being direct, I always go back and apologize. We have to step out from ourselves and observe our actions. One thing that I have learned in life is to be humble about what you’ve done.
In your opinion, what is one essential oil every person in the world needs today?
It’s hard to pick because one oil doesn’t suit everybody. I can recommend a few. Rose, mogra, and tulsi are very powerful and appeal to most people.