Ayurveda has become a huge selling point for Kerala's tourism industry.
With the monsoons making a grand entry into Kerala, tourist resorts and ayurvedic spas are all ready with rejuvenating health packages. The rainy season, experts say, is the best time for Ayurvedic treatment.
Although Ayurveda evolved centuries ago in India, it has only in recent years that it has become a huge selling point for Kerala's tourism industry, especially in the months June-August.
According to ayurveda specialists, the monsoon season is the best time for treatments as the atmosphere remains dust-free and cool, which helps open the pores of the body to the maximum.
This makes the body more receptive to herbal oils and other ayurveda medicines. Ayurveda believes in the treatment of not just the affected part, but also the individual as a whole. It is considered a natural way to refresh oneself by eliminating all toxic imbalances from the body and thus regain good health.
C J Naveen, a physician at the Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort near Kovalam, said his resort was all geared up for the monsoon rush.
"We cater to tourists who come for specially for treatment and not just for sightseeing. For those who have a time constraint, we get their medical files early and study their problems in detail even before they arrive. So the treatment protocols are ready when they come here," says Naveen
Ayurveda offers excellent treatments for skin problems, ailments related to stress and joint pains.
The numerous resorts in the state have drawn out specific plans ranging from a few days to even three weeks.
"For skin problems, we generally ask patients to stay back for 28 days. And for people who don't have so much time at their disposal, we give them medicines that they can carry with them and we have constant interaction with them." Naveen explained.
And for those who are on a short holiday, a general oil massage is sure to put the spring back in your step.
Five years back, the ayurveda tourism industry in Kerala saw a mere five percent occupancy during the monsoons but in most resorts, it is expected to cross 70 per cent occupancy this season.
Almost all resorts, whether big or small, now boast of an ayurveda spa. And they all have separate vegetarian kitchens, as vegetarian food is considered a must during the treatment period.
The tariffs for a treatment plan ranges from over Rs. 2,500 ($60) for a day to over Rs. 65,000 for a three-week comprehensive package. This includes food, accommodation and the treatment charges.
But the popular ones are slimming, stress management and beauty packages - all using oils, herbal powders and leaves.
Praveen George of Poovar Island Resorts, also situated near Kovalam, said their ayurvedic spa that opened in February has already got substantial bookings for the month of June.
"In this spa, spread over 14,000 sqaure feet, we have 10 fully equipped treatment rooms that have water bodies all around. This is believed to be essential for good results. We have also four floating cottages, specially designed using medicinal woods," George said.
Similarly, Tomy Pullikattil, who launched an ayurveda houseboat in Alappuzha, has bookings for the next two months.
Tourism Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, recognising the tourism potential of ayurveda, said his department has drawn out the basic standards to be followed by the industry while offering ayurveda as a product.
"These standards are necessary because ayurveda is a sensitive tourism product. If there are any violations, we might lose tourists forever. The department will try its level best to ensure that the best is offered," he said.
The state health department has also got strict measures in place to check fraudulent ayurveda services and products.
"Ayurveda is like a gold mine for the tourism industry, so we have to be extra cautious that tourists are not taken for a ride," Health Minister P.K. Sreemathi said.