Spikenard Essential Oil

Spikenard Essential Oil
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Spikenard Essential Oil - General Info

Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi) is a flowering plant species common in the Himalayas, China, and India. This plant (sometimes referred to as nard, nardin, and muskroot) is highly valued globally for the extremely aromatic essential oil that can be extracted from its crushed rhizomes. [1] Spikenard essential oil appears amber-colored to greenish with a slightly viscous consistency and an earthy, woodlike aroma that is somewhat musty. [2] Aromatherapists describe spikenard essential oil as balancing and grounding - something that helps one to do "inward reflection." [3]

Medically speaking, the rhizomes (underground stems) are the spikenard's most important asset, having been used since antiquity in indigenous medicine systems for their therapeutic potential. In fact, spikenard has been used for its medicinal benefits and fragrance since the ancient days of Indians, Greeks, Arabs, Romans, and Egyptians. [4] In India, spikenard rhizomes and roots have been used as an anticonvulsant Ayurvedic drug and as an antistress agent. [5] They are used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat epilepsy, hysteria, syncope, and mental weakness. [6] Animal studies and, to some extent, clinical trials have justified these Ayurvedic claims and provided evidence for such too.

Spikenard rhizomes and roots have a very prominent medicinal reputation, not to mention a rich medicinal history. Multiple formulations can be derived from them, and their use has been recorded and mentioned in the Holy Bible and Quran themselves. [4] Spikenard has been pointed out in the Song of Solomon twice, for example - and even in Homer's Iliad (Book 18) - and is, in fact, celebrated as the symbol of St. Joseph by the Catholic Church. [1] However, because of the extensive exploitation on the herb for its medicinal value and habitat degradation, spikenard is now considered "critically endangered." [4]

Uses and Reported Benefits

Spikenard is reported to provide protection against conditions associated with the heart and liver and is a common name in the treatment of neural diseases. [4] Spikenard is not only cardioprotective and hepatoprotective but also hypolipidemic; it has an effect on the central nervous system too, ranging from being sedative to being nootropic (i.e., cognition and memory enhancer). [7]

Spikenard essential oil possesses a wide range of pharmacological properties such as antimicrobial, antifungal, hypotensive, antiarrhythmic, and anticonvulsant activities. [4] Ayurvedic medicine in fact recommends the use of spikenard essential oil for headaches, menopausal symptoms, flatulence, epilepsy, and intestinal colic. Moreover, spikenard essential oil can be therapeutically utilized in a variety of ways, such as in combination with cold water to remedy or relieve nausea, stomachache, insomnia, and liver and kidney problems; or in steam bath to traditionally treat uterine inflammation; or as a constituent of eye compounds or poison antidote. [7] One can just simply apply spikenard essential oil directly over the skin, or put it in an aromatherapy diffuser, or use it for steam inhalation. As employed in aromatherapy, spikenard essential oil can also be used for rashes, wrinkles, cuts, and wounds. [2]

Contraindications and Safety

No contraindications for spikenard essential oil use have been determined, and no adverse reactions related to spikenard essential oil treatment have been documented too. However, because of the paucity of data from clinical studies, pregnant and breast-feeding women are advised not to use spikenard essential oil for safety's sake. [8]

Scientific Studies And Research

Spikenard As Antibacterial: Spikenard essential oil has been reported to be active against various pathogenic Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis ATCC6633, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Enterobacter aerogenes. In the study of Parveen et al. (2011), its antibacterial activity was shown to be at its maximum against B. subtilis ATCC6633, followed by S. aureus (20 μL concentration). [9] Supporting these findings are the results from the study of Sohail (2007) wherein the ethanolic extract obtained from spikenard roots, at a concentration of 5, 10, and 20 mg/mL, showed promising antimicrobial activity against six Gram-positive bacteria (viz., Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus intermedius, Enterococcus faecalis, Bacillus pumilus, B. cereus, B. subtilis); six Gram-negative bacteria (viz., Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, S. paratyphi B, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis, Shigella flexneri); and five fungi (viz., Trichophyton rubrum, T. schoenleinii, Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans, C. glabrata). [10]

Spikenard As Antioxidant: Some studies have also demonstrated the antioxidant property of spikenard essential oil. The study results of Parveen et al. (2011) have revealed the ability of spikenard essential oil to reduce the stable radical 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) to yellow-colored DPPH-H. A DPPH scavenging effect of 99.04% was noted moreover. [9] Such antioxidant activity known to be exerted by spikenard essential oil seems to be responsible for the oil's antistress property, as claimed by Lyle et al. (2009). In their study, spikenard hydroethanolic extract (70%) manifested significant antioxidant activity, as measured by free radical scavenging activity. Most importantly, the spikenard extract reversed the observed increase in lipid peroxidation and nitric oxide levels and the decrease in catalase activity in the brains of Wistar rats. It also has a negative effect on gastric ulcerations, reversing biochemical marker alterations occurring in gastric ulceration induced by stress. [11]

Spikenard vs. Bad Cholesterol / Heart Disease: The ability of spikenard to lower cholesterol levels has been documented in studies as well. Spikenard, along with turmeric (Curcuma longa), can improve one's high-density lipoprotein/total cholesterol ratio while decreasing total cholesterol/phospholipid ratio. [12] Since high-density lipoprotein is considered "good" cholesterol and is cardioprotective, [13] spikenard offers benefits to anyone against heart diseases and atherogenecity.

Spikenard vs. Liver / Cardiovascular damage: True enough spikenard essential oil has long been part of the Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine for centuries to treat or manage a diversity of ailments, but its favorable effects on the cardiovascular system and the liver are the icing on the cake. Ali, Ansari, Jafry, Kabeer, and Diwakar (2000) furnished concrete evidence supporting the hepatoprotective action of spikenard. In their study, oral pretreatment of 50% ethanolic spikenard extract to experimental rats (three days at a dose of 800 mg/kg body weight) resulted in an amelioration of the liver damage among rats. Here, liver damage was induced by thioacetamide, an organosulfur hepatotoxic compound. In addition, a significant decrease in elevated levels of serum transaminases (aminotransferases) and alkaline phosphatase and an increase in overall survival were produced from spikenard treatment to rats. [14]

Spikenard as Anticonvulsant: A 2005 US investigation had evaluated the anticonvulsant activity of spikenard extract both alone and in combination with phenytoin, an antiepileptic drug, in rats. The findings from the study had demonstrated that spikenard extract treatment appeared to have raised the seizure threshold against maximal electroshock seizure model. It is worthy of mention that spikenard extract increased the seizure threshold at doses with minimal neurotoxicity against rotarod test. [15]

Molecular Components and Chemistry

Spikenard essential oil contains sesquiterpene as well as coumarins, lignans, neolignans, and alkaloids. [4] Sesquiterpenes that can be isolated from spikenard include jatamansone (or valeranone), nardostachone, nardin, nardal, nardol, valerenal, and patchouli alcohol. [7]


[1] Spikenard. Wikipedia. Retrieved 29 April 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spikenard

[2] Spikenard 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil- 10 ml. Edens Garden. Retrieved 29 April 2013 from http://www.amazon.com/Spikenard-100-Therapeutic-GradeEssential/dp/B0045H5YP0

[3] Spikenard Essential Oil (100% Pure and Natural, Therapeutic Grade) 10 ml. Plantlife. Retrieved 29 April 2013 from http://www.amazon.com/Spikenard-Essential-Natural-TherapeuticGrade/dp/B0057XYARE

[4] Disket J., Mann S., & Gupta R. K. (). A review on spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi DC.) - An "endangered" essential herb of India. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, 2(2). doi: 10.7439/ijpc.v2i3.716. Retrieved 29 April 2013 from http://ijpc.ssjournals.com/index.php/journal/article/view/19/19

[5] Chatterjee A., Basak B., Datta U., Banerji J., Neuman A., & Prange T. (2005). Studies on the chemical constituents of Nardostachys jatamansi DC (Valerianaceae). Indian Journal of Chemistry, 44B: 430-433. Retrieved 29 April 2013 from http://nopr.niscair.res.in/bitstream/123456789/8953/1/IJCB%2044B%282%29%20430-433.pdf

[6] Bagchi A., Oshima Y., & Hikino H. (1991). Validity of oriental medicines 142. Neolignans and lignans of Nardostachys jatamansi roots. Planta Medica, 57: 96-97.

[7] Singh A., Kumar A., & Duggal S. (2009). Nardostachys jatamansi DC. potential herb with CNS effects. Journal of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research, 1: 276-290. Retrieved 29 April 2013 from http://www.jprhc.in/files/276-290.pdf

[8] Jatamansi. Drugs.com. Retrieved 29 April 2013 from http://www.drugs.com/npp/jatamansi.html

[9] Parveen Z., Siddique S., Shafique M., Khan S. J., & Khanum R. (2011). Volatile constituents, antibacterial and antioxidant activities of essential oil from Nardostachys jatamansi DC. roots. Pharmacologyonline, 3: 329-337. Retrieved 29 April 2013 from http://www.unisa.it/uploads/5711/34.parveen.pdf

[10] Sohail T., Yaqeen Z., Imran H., Shaukat S., & Atiq-ur-Rahman. (2007). Antibacterial and antifungal screening of the root extracts of Nardostachys jatamansi. Pakistan Journal of Scientific and Industrial Research, 50(4): 261-265. Retrieved 29 April 2013 from http://www.aseanbiodiversity.info/Abstract/51011479.pdf

[11] Lyle N. et al. (2009). Stress modulating antioxidant effect of Nardostachys jatamansi. Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics, 46(1): 93-98. Retrieved 29 April 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19374260

[12] Dixit V. P., Jain P., & Joshi S. C. (1988). Hypolipidaemic effects of Curcuma longa L and Nardostachys jatamansi, DC in triton-induced hyperlipidaemic rats. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 32(4): 299-304. Retrieved 29 April 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3215683

[13] von Eckardstein A. & Assmann G. (2000). Prevention of coronary heart disease by raising highdensity lipoprotein cholesterol? Current Opinion in Lipidology, 11(6): 627-637. Retrieved 30 April 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11086337?dopt=Abstract

[14] Ali S., Ansari K. A., Jafry M. A., Kabeer H., & Diwakar G. (2000). Nardostachys jatamansi protects against liver damage induced by thioacetamide in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 71(3): 359-363. Retrieved 30 April 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10940571

[15] Rao V. S., Rao A., & Karanth K. S. (2005). Anticonvulsant and neurotoxicity profile of Nardostachys jatamansi in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 102(3): 351-356. Retrieved 30 April 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16095854

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