Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi, Valerianaceae), also known as nard or jatamansi (Nepalese meaning spirit incarnate), is a small, tender herb with an aromatic rhizome, native to the mountain areas of north India.1,2 It has been used in anointing oils for millennia in the Ancient Near East and was mentioned in Egyptian perfume texts and biblical texts, such as the Song of Songs. Roman perfumers used it in a preparation called nardinum.1 Nur Jehan, a Mughal empress (1577-1645), employed spikenard in her rejuvenative skin regimes. Dioscorides identified the herb as “warming and drying” and considered it beneficial for nausea, indigestion, conjunctivitis, menstrual issues, and inflammation. In its native land of India, spikenard was often used as incense, and in the Himalayas to drive away evil spirits.3
According to Holmes, spikenard has “strong, systemic relaxant, cooling” abilities to treat intense and hot conditions.2 The herb affects the three major nerve plexuses – cardiac, solar, and sacral. Spikenard can relax the brain and cardiovascular system, acting as a “strong hypnotic cerebral sedative” and a cardiovascular relaxant. It can be used for inflammatory conditions, pulling excess heat out of the head and upper body. Spikenard has also been used as a hair restorative, both to prevent graying and for alopecia. In Ayurveda medicine, the sun-dried roots were soaked in ghee (clarified butter) and then smoked to relieve asthma.
To access spikenard’s psychological benefits, olfaction rather than internal (herb) or topical (oil) use may be the best way to experience the oil.2 The sweet, woody, root aroma can help facilitate a grounding and centering effect on the body and mind. Spikenard can aid in “cognitive flexibility”, so could help repattern constant thoughts of worry, anxiety, and repetitive thinking – allowing for release of old wounds. The oil’s fragrance can draw a person’s attention inward, providing contemplative reflection and connection to spirit as its Indian name suggests. During times of both inward and outward transformation, spikenard can be a stabilizing agent. Because of spikenard’s dual abilities for grounding and releasing, the oil can provide a sense of support through life’s various transitions.
HerbClip™ Managing Editor
1Lawless J. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press; 2013.
2Holmes P. Aromatica A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics Vol 2: Applications and Profiles. London, UK: Singing Dragon; 2019.
3Rhind JP. Fragrance and Wellbeing – Plant Aromatics and Their Influence on the Psyche. London, UK: Singing Dragon; 2014.