Are you ready to hear about a medicinal named after a supreme god? Because of its rejuvenative healing properties Mahanarayana tailam (oil) is honored with the name of the revered Hindu deity Narayana, another name for Vishnu, the god of preservation. The Sanskrit prefix “maha” (meaning “great”) denotes the highest respect for the Ayurvedic oil named after him.
Mahanarayana oil, an ancient preparation, consists of sesame oil and over 20 precious herbs widely used in Ayurvedic medicine over the centuries. Applied externally on the skin, it is used as an anti-inflammatory, rejuvenative treatment to relieve and treat muscular, osseous (bone), and neurological injuries, aches and pains, as well as most skin diseases. It has balanced warming, circulating and purifying properties. Used alone or adjunctively with an anti-inflammatory diet (no refined sugar, alcohol) and herbs taken internally including guggul (a species of myrrh), frankincense and turmeric, or the Ayurvedic formula “yogaraj” guggul (available online from Banyan Botanicals), this would constitute a comprehensive treatment for painful back and other joints and both rheumatic and osteoarthritis. Healing degenerative conditions such as bone-on-bone injuries usually requiring orthopedic surgery naturally takes time.
Western herbalists often enjoy making their own medicinal oils and salves. However this is usually done using leaves from herbs like comfrey, plantain or calendula. However, when making oils with denser barks and roots, as needed to make Mahanarayan oil, a special method is used, first decocting the herbs in water and then adding sesame oil and continuing on a low simmer in an uncovered pot until the water is completely evaporated away.
Following is a list of Ayurvedic herbs listed in one manufacturer’s Mahanarayan oil: ashwagandha, shatavari, bala, castor oil, jatamansi, cloves, mahasudarshan, saindhava salt, manjishta, fennel, dashamula, vidari, paprika, turmeric, kutki, guggulu, myrrh, eucalyptus oil, camphor oil, sesame oil and in one product, organic milk. The ingredients in Mahanarayan oil may have slight variations from manufacturer to manufacturer, but all formulations will contain the most essential herbs.
One thing to be aware of before you use mahanarayan oil is that it can leave stains on clothing and sheets. This is especially true because of manjishta (Rubia cordyfolia), commonly known as “madder” which produces a natural red dye. This is an especial problem, because for optimal absorption into the body, the oil should remain on the skin for at least an hour after which one can take a warm shower to remove it. One solution is to reserve certain dedicated clothing and sheets when applying the oil. However, one can still simply rub the oil on more modestly as needed for healing and pain.
Mahanayaran oil is only good for three years from the date of manufacture after which it should be discarded. It is readily available online from manufacturers. I generally recommend Banyan botanicals for most ayurvedic herbs and products.