“Ayurveda has become a buzzword in this decade, like aromatherapy was in the 70s and 80s,” says Farida Irani, founder of ayurveda aromatherapy wellness brand Subtle Energies. What started as a complementary health clinic in 1993 — which still runs to this day — the brand launched in Hong Kong at Joyce Beauty last year to extend its offerings beyond the worlds of alternative medicine and the spa industry. It continues to expand its range, most recently introducing a dedicated skin care regimen to Hongkongers interested in balancing both their mind and body through the help of premium herbal concoctions.
Ayurveda is the ancient healthcare philosophy that has been practiced in India for more than 5,000 years, and today, its principles guide common household remedies in India, much like how ancient principles from traditional Chinese medicine are used in many Hong Kong homes — informing the way we eat, and live. These days, ayurveda is gaining traction worldwide as more people strive for holistic wellness. “People are tired of popping pills to treat diseases,” Farida tells us. “More people are becoming aware, and wanting to look at detoxification programs. With Subtle Energies, we have created a fusion of ayurvedic philosophy and aromatherapy science, whereby people get the benefits of both.”
“People think ayurveda is just pouring some oil on the body and eating some herbs,” says her son, Nick Irani, who’s the brand development manager for Subtle Energies, “but there are eight branches of medicine that deal with toxicology, psychiatry, surgery, rejuvenation (“rasayana”), and vigour and vitality (“vajikarana”). These last two — rasayana and vajikarana — are what we deal with.”
Another part of it is getting people to move beyond the misconception that aromatherapy is just about relaxation. “Aromatherapy is not just about the fluffy, good-smelling stuff, it’s actually a medicine,” says Farida. “Essential oils are the defense mechanism, the immune system of the plant.” With many oils boasting anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, they can be used for common coughs, colds and fevers. They can also help effectively treat emotional imbalances, such as from trauma or stress by working psycho-actively, stimulating hormones that can improve our moods.“Some chemical molecules escape into the bloodstream in the brain, impacting the thalamus and the hypothalamus, the limbic region of the brain where memories are stored,” Farida Irani says. As a result, aromatherapy can also be a way to slow down signs of ageing, of which the biggest cause is stress. “If you don’t address heart and mind as well, your anti-ageing ritual is counterproductive.”
Farida was a pioneer in introducing Ayurveda Aromatherapy in the 90s, but while traditional ayurvedic medicines tend to be more medicinal and herbaceous, the beautiful aromas are the difference here with Subtle Energies. And by smelling better, they also work directly to soothe the soul. “You get the traditional benefits and ingredients of ayurveda, but the wonderful aromatics as well,” says Farida. “The products are designed to be aromatic dressing, used after your shower. They act as moisturisers, they are anti-microbial, and they’re very good emotionally.”
What’s also different is the quality of oils used, sourced painstakingly from trusted distilleries in India in order to avoid the cheap duplication that’s rampant in the area. It’s also where the slightly higher price tag of the products stems from. “One kilo of Mogra (pictured above) oil would take thousands of kilos of flower petals to create,” Nick explains. “When you see a ‘pure’ Jasmine oil selling for US$50 for even a small amount, I’d be very dubious of that.”
Also known as the ‘queen of Jasmine,’ Mogra is an excellent ingredient for skin repair and rejuvenation, and is a star element in the brand’s newly launched Mogra Rejuvenating Gold Cream (HK$2,450/50ml). Said to help alleviate depression and anxiety, Mogra’s sweet, uplifting aroma provides a light sedative and calming effect, making it ideal for insomniacs when used in the evening. This cream also features 24K gold leaf, which helps support collagen production, resulting in a highly nourishing and hydrating moisturiser that works for day and night.
Indian Rose, above, also makes an appearance in the Gold Cream as well as Farida’s favourite product, the Facial Blend (HK$1,490/30ml). These particular roses are grown at high altitude, and in order to survive in such extreme climates they contain an enhanced, protective chemical composition, which gets amplified in its essential oil. It also happens to smell particularly lovely.
Containing Mogra, Indian Rose and the adrenal-flushing Ashwagandha, the Facial Blend oil is Irani’s ultimate daily go-to. “I use it almost every two hours, because it really hydrates me. It’s great from an anti-ageing perspective as well as an emotional balancing perspective, reducing anxiety, balancing emotions and sleep patterns.” Used like a serum, you only need a few drops of the oil to feel its nourishing effects. It’s also recommended for flights, where you need all the hydration and help with sleep you get.
To round out the latest release of skincare by Subtle Energies is the Saffron and Frankincense Facial Scrub (HK$590/50ml). Made to be used once every one or two weeks, the skin is exfoliated gently with finely ground walnut shells, while the essential oil blend provides a sweet, nutty aroma while also smoothing and plumping the skin.
What the family business hopes for is that people can slowly create their own daily rituals using ayurvedic philosophy, harnessing its powers to complement a healthy lifestyle and integrate with conventional medicine. “Ayu means life, veda means knowledge. It’s the knowledge of life,” Farida says. “It’s like yoga — everyone is doing yoga but people are now searching for the roots of it, the meditation, the breathing. People are asking, why are we doing the asanas? We still have many decades away of the same thing happening to ayurveda, but it’s still early days.”
“The best way to bring your body into balance is through meditation, through yoga, and through the use of these natural tools given by mother nature,” she says. “When your soul is happy, when you’ve got a physical and emotional balance, everything else falls into place.”
Shop Subtle Energies products at Joyce Beauty.