Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi), also known as jatamansi, is an herb originating from the Himalayas. It’s commonly used as an essential oil or as an aromatic ingredient in perfumes due to its sweet and earthy scent. Aside from its aroma, spikenard contains more healthful components that you can easily benefit from. To learn more about the health benefits and uses of the Nardostachys jatamansi herb, continue reading.
What Is Spikenard?
For hundreds of years, spikenard has been used in Indian and Greco-Arab medicine to treat numerous conditions, both physical and aesthetic. This herb has also been highly regarded as a valuable commodity in ancient times, having been mentioned in both the Quran and the Bible, where it was said to have been used as an anointing oil or incense.1,2
The spikenard plant typically grows in mountainous regions, at altitudes between 3,000 to 5,000 meters.3 It is easily recognizable by its pink bell-shaped flowers and the rhizomes that look like clumps of matted and knotted hair. These rhizomes, which are commonly crushed and distilled to make an essential oil, are the main part of the spikenard plant that is used in Ayurvedic medicine.4 But because of the cultivation difficulty, rarity and its environment, spikenard has been deemed as an endangered plant.5
While the name “spikenard” is often associated to the Nardostachys jatamansi, it actually shares the same name with the Aralia racemosa, the American counterpart of this Indian herb. But although they do share the same name, the American spikenard is primarily used as an ornamental plant instead of an herb used in holistic medicine.6
Help Boost Your Brain Function and Get Other Benefits From Spikenard
Spikenard is famous for its cognitive, psychological and neurological benefits in Ayurvedic medicine. Numerous studies have focused on the neuroprotective characteristics of this herb, with it being used as an alternative treatment for minimizing the symptoms and slowing down the development of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Its ability to alleviate the symptoms of both these diseases is due to its high concentration of sesquiterpenes. These are natural chemicals that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and provide brain cells with oxygen, improving cognitive function and memory.7
But aside from this, spikenard can actually have an effect on a wide range of bodily functions. Some of these health benefits include:
- Neuroprotective and hepatoprotective. Spikenard contains two iridoids and compounds that protect the brain from neuronal cell death.8 Animal studies have also shown that pretreatment with spikenard oil helped in the prevention of liver damage and hepatotoxicity when exposed to hepatotoxic compounds.9
- Helps in stress management. Due to its adaptogenic effects on the body, spikenard can help alleviate anxiety and stress. It also functions as a natural sedative by promoting overall relaxation. It’s usually used to promote a healthy sleep pattern for people with insomnia.10
- Assists with depression. The anti-depressive capabilities of spikenard have been observed to be comparable to both imipramine and sertraline, over-the-counter antidepressants. Instead of exposing yourself to the potentially harmful side effects of these pharmaceuticals, spikenard offers a more natural alternative to dealing with depression.11
- Aids in diabetes prevention. Animal studies show that spikenard helps in regulating the glucose levels in the blood, aiding in normalizing elevated blood sugar and preventing insulin resistance.12
Try These Uses of Spikenard for Different Conditions
Spikenard is available in the market as powdered root, essential oil or infusions. While its aroma is extremely pleasurable to people, its uses are not limited to deodorizing. Because of the impressive components of spikenard, these products can be applied in numerous ways. Spikenard can be used to help combat the following conditions:13
- Heart palpitations, convulsions and hysteria. Spikenard oil has both anti-convulsive and anti-arrhythmic activities, which help in reducing heart palpitations and hysteria symptoms. Dilute two drops of spikenard oil in water for a warm foot bath to ease these conditions.
- Premature greying of hair. Due to its blood purifying properties, spikenard aids in reducing premature greying of the hair. Combine a carrier oil and spikenard oil and massage the mixture on your scalp down to the tips. Let the oil sit in your hair for about half an hour, and rinse thoroughly.14
- Painful menstruation. Jatamansi has antispasmodic and mild emmenagogue characteristics, which helps in easing menstrual cramps and promoting menstrual flow. Take 500 milligrams of Jatamansi powder daily to ease menstrual pain. However, it is best that you consult a health practitioner to know the correct dosage for your condition to avoid possible adverse reactions.15
Here’s How You Can Grow Your Own Spikenard
Spikenard is a plant that is commonly cultivated in high altitudes in Asia, but is now being produced commercially. If you want to grow your own spikenard, note that this plant may be extremely picky due to the climate and altitude it’s commonly found in.
To help you grow your own spikenard, make sure that you have soil rich in carbon and organic nitrogen. At lower altitudes, spikenard prefers steep land with a slope of about 5 or 10 degrees and a temperature that plays between 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Here is a guide you can follow for a successful cultivation of this plant:16,17
- At lower altitudes, arrange sandy loam in seed trays to the appropriate degree to mimic their natural soil environment. Plant the seeds close to the surface. Sow the seeds between March and April in a damp and shaded area.
- Water the seeds liberally, once every two days. Growing seeds require moist soil, so make sure you provide it with an adequate water supply. Take note that spikenard seeds are extremely sensitive and can lose their viability if not handled carefully.
- After six to eight weeks, when the seedlings are at their two-leaf stage, transplant the seedlings in a field. These plants usually start developing rhizomes in their third year of growth.
- Spikenard harvesting usually takes place in its third or fourth year. For low land cultivation, the best time for harvesting is September.
Preserve the Health Benefits of Spikenard Through Correct Storage
After harvesting spikenard, the next question is how it can be stored correctly to avoid spoiling and letting these hard-to-grow plants go to waste. The preservation of the roots requires you to clean and remove leftover soil, chopping them in uniform sizes and drying them on trays and mats. To keep the enzymes and other nutritional components from breaking down, rapid drying with a mechanical seed dryer is advised. Just be careful not to overheat and cause more damage to the roots.
After drying, spikenard roots should be stored in aluminum containers in low temperatures. These roots can then be distilled to extract the essential oil or ground up for spikenard powder.18
What Is Spikenard Essential Oil and How Can You Use It?
Spikenard essential oil, which has been used for a variety of applications for hundreds of years, has been used in Judaic ceremonies and other religious rites. But aside from its religious significance, spikenard oil is also famous for its holistic value. Some of spikenard essential oil’s uses include:
- Hair care. Aside from its aroma that’ll leave your hair smelling fresh, spikenard oil contains antiseptic properties that can help in treating dandruff and scalp dryness. It can be used alone or as a base for hair oil mixtures.19
- Beauty oil. Spikenard oil can be topically applied to the face to get rid of dirt that can clog your pores, as well as acne-causing bacteria. This will help you avoid getting pimples and other skin problems. Take note that you should thoroughly clean your face before applying the oil.20
- Laxative. This essential oil is a natural laxative, which can help you pass stools when you’re constipated. Spikenard essential oil offers you a more natural and milder alternative to over-the-counter chemical laxatives.21
- Wound care. The antibacterial and antiseptic properties of spikenard essential oil can aid in preventing infections. Apply a small amount of this oil to small wounds and abrasions to promote wound healing.22
Contraindications for Spikenard Oil Use
While there are no proven side effects caused by spikenard, it is suggested that you seek the opinion of a health practitioner to see if this herb is recommended for you and whether it will interfere with any medications that you may be taking. For topical application, test the oil on a small patch of skin and check if it causes an allergic reaction to avoid irritation and scarring.
Breastfeeding mothers should steer clear of this herb because of the possible repercussions it can cause. Spikenard oil use is also highly discouraged for pregnant women because of its emmenagogue property. The ingestion of this herb can lead to bleeding or even miscarriages.23