Shirodhara is an ayurvedic treatment which has become fashionable among therapists in the UK and the West.

It is a soothing and appealing therapy in which warm oil or other medicated fluid is allowed to flow on the forehead from a certain height.

This stimulates the fifth cranial nerve, which takes messages back to the brain and causes reflex activation or relaxation.

The benefits of the treatment are enormous provided it is administered in the correct manner by a fully-qualified, ayurvedic doctor.

The area of the forehead on which the oil is allowed to drip, the height from which it drips and the rate at which it drips are of paramount importance.

Administered incorrectly, the treatment can cause vomiting, headaches, agitation and anxiety.

Many spas and natural health centres offering shirodhara therapy have sprung up in the UK and Europe.

The problem is, most of the practitioners have undergone only two or three weeks of exposure in India or a short course in the West before offering this treatment to the public.

The dangers of shirodhara were highlighted recently by Dr Hadpad, professor of panchakarma at Manipal Medical University, India, at the conference Dangers Of Western Dilution Of Ayurveda.

The conference was organised by the British Ayurvedic Medical Council and members of the British Association of Accredited Ayurvedic Practitioners and the Ayurvedic Company of Great Britain.

Dr Hadpad talked about the risks of shirodhara being administered incorrectly. He cited examples of a clinic in the Midlands and a spa in London which give up to 30 quick treatments of shirodhara day.

According to Dr Hadpads sources, 30 per cent of clients treated had to attend hospital due to adverse effects such as headaches, vomiting and severe agitation.

Disciplines such as homeopathy, osteopathy, aromatherapy and massage therapy have three to four-years training and accreditation.

Ayurvedic medicine is a medical science for which a full training of five-and-a-half years is mandatory in India, following which, a degree of BSAM (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) is awarded.

Stringent regulation of training and standards of practice and registration to a regulatory body are essential for all complementary medicine practitioners and anyone receiving a complementary therapy should verify this for their own safety and benefit.

The Thames Valley University offers a four-year BA Honours course in ayurvedic medicine which is the only accredited ayurvedic course outside India. For more information, call Dr S Warrier: 020 7224 0908.