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What is Mahanarayan Oil?

By Alyssa Simon
Updated May 17, 2024
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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.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By discographer — On May 11, 2012

@feruze-- Mahanarayan oil is mainly used for muscoskeletal ailments and to improve blood flow. However, it does this by reducing vata which is responsible for emotions of fear and anxiety.

I'm not an expert and you should seek advice from an Ayurvedic practitioner in your area for more accurate information and directions. But I do think that you will benefit from using this oil.

You can apply it on aching body parts morning and night and let it absorb into your skin. Or if you want to do a whole body massage, you can do it before a bath and wash off after 10-15 minutes.

By bear78 — On May 10, 2012

I'm not familiar with Ayurvedic medicine and I don't know what my body type is. However, the article mentioned that "vata" is the ruler of fear and anxiety. I have an anxiety disorder and many physical side effects of anxiety like body aches and pains and stomach ailments.

Do you think that mahanarayan oil will be beneficial for me as well? How should it be used when trying to treat anxiety?

And where can I get this oil? Thanks.

By SteamLouis — On May 10, 2012

Mahanarayan ayurvedic oil is used a lot in our home. My mom brings several bottles of this from India when she goes to visit. She uses it regularly for her knees. She has inflammation in her knee joints and has a lot of pain, especially when she moves around too much. She will massage mahanarayan oil on her knees at night and she says the pain is mostly gone by the time she falls asleep.

I also used it several times during my pregnancy when I had back pains. I would have my husband rub it on whenever I had pain. It doesn't work like a pain reliever but it relaxes the muscles and warms the tissue and releases the tension. And usually tension is the cause of many aches and pains. Plus, when you're pregnant you can't take medicines. So this oil was definitely a boon for me during that time.

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