Well, I’ve tried it and… But first,
What is Netra Tarpana?
Simply, netra tarpana (lit. eye nourish) is the retaining of medicated ghee in the eyes for sometime. So,
What is Ghee?
Ghee is clarified butter. Meaning, first you prepare butter by skimming off the top of curdled buttermilk, then you continue by simmering the butter until it has a golden color and distinct smell. Ghee is recognized by this color and fragrant smell. This also carries over to its taste.
Importantly, we need medicated ghee. To get medicated ghee, the ghee is heated again along with an herbal decoction, which is chosen according to the patient’s dosha. In the case of ‘rejuvenation’ or healthy person’s treatment, triphala (3 fruit) ghee is used.
The ghee is retained in the patient’s eyes with the help of (traditionally) black gram dough or (more quickly) open-fronted goggles. Black gram (a type of grain) is ground into fine powder and mixed with warm water until it becomes thick and dough-like. Then it is formed and shaped onto the patient’s face in the outline of goggles high enough to hold enough ghee to completely cover the eyes.
With the patient reclining and black gram goggles around his eyes, the ghee is slightly warmed. Once ready, the patient is asked to close his eyes and–get ready for it–the ghee is poured over the bridge of their nose so it slides down over his eyes. But wait! Once enough ghee has been added to completely cover his eyes, he is instructed to OPEN his eyes! Yes, open them face up into ghee.
You might be thinking, ahh that’s not so bad. Let me put it this way… Imagine you’re making bread, you have a nice thick dough. Now imagine putting that on your face and trying to seal it to your skin so liquid won’t leak through. Imagine the smell, the feel, the texture. Pressing bread dough onto your face–not so bad, right?
Now think of butter. Imagine its smell as it gets heated on the stove. Not too hot, just a little warm to soften it up. Then pour that warm, fragrant, melted butter into your eyes. Smell it. Feel its greasy texture. Keep it there until your eyes are completely covered. Now, open your eyes, staring straight into butter.
Yes, that is Netra Tarpana. And in treatment, warmed ghee is to remain over the eyes for 10-15 minutes! 15 minutes! Can you imagine spending 15 minutes of your life with warm butter completely covering your eyes? And the whole time you need to slowly open and close your lids. Just pause here and try to imagine this… Um, ewwww! Needless to say, I didn’t last even a minute.
Netra tarpana is used to strengthen the eyes and improve visual acuity. The goal is to get the medicinal properties of the herbs into the vital point inside the eye. As a course of treatment, netra tarpana is done daily for 7-8 days, increasing to 25 minutes of retained ghee per session. That’s 25 minutes of ghee (think of the butter) in your open eyes. During the week of treatment, the patient is not allowed to wash his hair. Furthermore, the patient must avoid dust, light, and wind. If he must go outside, he needs to wait at least wait 1-2hours and then wear sunglasses. No watching TV, no computer, no reading; avoid anything that strains the eye.
- Eye fatigue, strain
- Misalignment of one eye (eyes not looking same direction) – squint-strabismus
- Loss of eye lashes – madarosis
- Difficulty opening eyes
- Swelling of vessels in eyes – pannus formation
- Bleeding in the eyes – sub-conjunctiva echimosis
- Continuous tearing due to nose blockage – epiphora
- Drooping eyelid due to cranial nerve problem – trigeminal ophthalmalgia
- Perforation of cornea
- Common cold and fever
Now, who wants to be the next to try?
That’s what I thought. I suspect this is among the reasons Ayurveda isn’t very widely known or used in the West.
That’s not to say all ayurvedic treatments are so uncomfortable, though some are more so. I’m looking into a nasal oil for migraines and an herbal paste for melasma, both of which I think could be very popular and well-received overseas.