Mahanarayan oil is a blend of oil, usually sesame, and many herbs. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional Indian healing practice, as a topical massage oil to soothe pain related to aching joints, sore muscles and headaches. The oil is also thought to enhance sexual function, calm tension and relieve congestion from the lungs. Its name comes from Narayana, the Sanskrit word for deity.
Some Ayurvedic practitioners use mahanarayan oil in a massage treatment to balance a person's vata, which, when unbalanced, is thought to respond to healing touch. Vata is one of the three doshas, or body types, according to Ayurvedic medicine. Vata is thought to control movement, breathing and blood flow, among other bodily functions. It is also considered the ruler of emotions like nervousness, fear and anxiety. The traditional remedy for a person with a vata imbalance is to apply this oil before bedtime and to leave the oil on overnight.
The process of making mahanarayan oil has been traditionally the same for over 1,000 years. The sesame oil is purified, and the extract of 13 herbs are added in a process called murchan draya. The second stage in preparing the oil is called kalka draya, which is when the rest of the pulverized herbs are added and a paste is made. The third step is to heat it again and extract all the water out of the mixture so only the essential oils of the plant, plus the sesame oil, remain. That third and final step is called kwath draya.
A few of the traditional herbal ingredients in mahanarayan oil, such as camphor oil, ginger and black pepper, have warming properties that bring blood flow to the skin and numb the nerve endings that transmit pain. Others, such as clove and turmeric, are known for their antiseptic and antibacterial properties. The oil is usually warmed to provide extra comfort before it is rubbed lightly into the skin. To avoid irritation, it is thought best to massage mahanarayan oil on the skin for no more than 15 minutes at a time.
The herbal oil is considered safe for general use, but there are a few reported cautions by some holistic health practitioners. Children under age 5 may have skin too sensitive to tolerate mahanarayan oil, and women who are pregnant, cancer patients and epileptics are advised to seek the advice of a physician before using any essential oil.