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Spikenard - the Ancient, Sacred Aromatic

Spikenard - the Ancient, Sacred Aromatic


Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi) is a flowering wild plant in the honeysuckle family that originates in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal, China and India. Several members of the genus Aralia are also known as spikenard such as the American spikenard (A. racemosa), a North American member of the ginseng family (Araliaceae). Spikenard common names are nard, nardin and muskroot.

The plant
Spikenard has large lanceolate leaves, produces small, fragile pink bell-shaped flowers, and a fragrant rhizome root which yields the essential oil. The plant reaches a height of nearly a metre and flourishes in high altitudes. Spikenard is harvested by removing a portion of the plant’s rhizome (bundle of roots) in early spring or autumn, though it may take years for the plants to produce sizable rhizomes. 

The scent
One of the oldest-known, most precious of oils, spikenard is woody, spicy and peaty. It is a very deep, rich and earthy base note with bitter-sweet, resinous notes and green overtones. It lends a profound and eloquent quality to natural perfumes, while its grounding aroma invokes an ambiance of calm, particularly in meditation and night-time blends. The heavy sesquiterpene molecules present in spikenard facilitate excellent fixative properties. Use it sparingly in blends so as not to overpower the aroma of other essential oils. Spikenard contains approximately 50% Sesquiterpenes, 10-15% Sesquiterpenols and 5% Aldehydes.

One of the most ancient and sacred aromatics, spikenard was highly regarded as a spiritual oil and was used throughout the world for thousands of years as a perfume and in religious ceremonies. Spikenard was precious to early Egyptian, Hebrew and Hindu civilisations and was used by wealthy Roman women as prized perfume. The Ancient Egyptians used spikenard as a luxurious aromatic; Cleopatra was anointed with it and it was found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb. The Hebrews used it in the Jerusalem Temple as an incense offering. In India, spikenard was used in Ayurvedic practices to calm the mind and in hair preparations while also preventing hair loss; it is still used to help with sleep troubles, reducing chronic fatigue syndrome and nervous problems. 

Historically, pungent perfumed oils were used to prepare a body for burial, and in the Bible, spikenard oil was used by Mary Magdalene to anoint Jesus’s feet prior to his crucifixion in a highly symbolic act as though to prepare him for death and burial. The value of the spikenard was more than 300 denarii. A denarius was the wage for a day's labour, so Mary's perfume was worth a year's wages. To anoint with spikenard was for her a truly humbling act of worship and devotion for Jesus. Spikenard’s association with Jesus surely highlights its mystical significance. 

“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment." John 12:3 

In the 1st century, revered herbalist Diorscorides described spikenard as a medicinal with a warming, drying and diuretic faculty. In 1652 Nicholas Culpepper said that it ”comforts the brain and helps passions and swooning of the heart.” 

Therapeutic uses
Indications: Antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, depurative (detoxifying), soporific, nervine, sedative, anti depressant, cardiac tonic, immuno stimulant, antispasmodic, decongestant, hydrating, cicatrisant, deodorant, laxative. 

Spikenard Applications for the Body
Spikenard oil is a fine herbal medicine to naturally treat a wide range of conditions including muscular spasm and contractions, tachycardia and arrhythmia (rapid and irregular heartbeat) neuralgia, sciatica, bodily congestion, digestive problems, a weak immune system and infections. Use spikenard as a replenishing nerve tonic for calming stress-related conditions, anxiety and nervous tension.

This oil is used for menstrual problems by regulating the hormonal system when it is imbalanced and as a depurative for the uterus and the ovaries. It stimulates the secretion of hormones like estrogen and progesterone, which help maintain healthy function and reproductive potential of these organs. 

Use this antispasmodic oil in abdominal rubs with chamomile, ginger and orange oils to relieve gastrointestinal issues, such as constipation, nausea and intestinal colic; it is of particular assistance with nervous indigestion.
Spikenard has considered helpful for pancreatitis.

Spikenard can be applied on wounds to protect them from bacterial infections and also helps staunch bacterial growth inside the body. It has been found effective in treating bacterial infections in the urethra, urinary bladder, and kidneys, as well as in the treatment of cholera, food poisoning, infections and tetanus.

The anti-inflammatory property of spikenard is of great value to relieve inflammation whether it is of the nervous, digestive or respiratory systems. Use in muscle and joint rubs to assuage pains related to muscle aches and joint pain and massage into the forehead and neck for migraine. This helps to heal, relax, and stimulate the overall immune system and accordingly supports the entire physical well-being. In Oriental medicine it is used to regulate the flow of Liver-Qi. By tonifying liver blood and clearing inflammation, spikenard oil is able to nourish and soothe the skin in such cases of psoriasis or dermatitis.

Spikenard is kind to skin
Spikenard oil is often used for special skincare preparations due to its cleansing and antibacterial properties. Spikenard nourishes and regenerates the skin by stimulating blood circulation as well as the lymph and nerve supply. The regeneration of cells, fresh blood supply and the secretion of enzymes holistically promote a healthy and glowing skin. The oil is excellent for dry and mature skin and will relieve irritation, inflammation and psoriasis as it integrates the functions of the superficial skin layers to the deeper.

Combine anti-fungal spikenard with manuka and tea tree oil to treat fungal infections on the skin, including athlete's foot with the added benefit of being very deodorising.

Spikenard promotes hair growth and slows down the process of greying. A 2011 study revealed how it is a natural remedy for hair loss as it promoted hair growth. Include spikenard in hair care routines, make a hair and scalp rub or add to shampoos and conditioners for the benefit of your hair. 

Spikenard and the mind
Mental indications: Insomnia, migraine, stress, tension, memory loss, balances sympathetic with parasympathetic functions, calms restlessness, evokes loyalty, inspires devotion and deep inner peace, integrates emotional, spiritual and physical energies. 

Spikenard is ideal to wear in psychotherapeutic perfumes to settle the nerves, lift the spirits and inspire the heart. Spikenard calms the deepest forms of anxiety by sedating the mind and instilling a profound sense of peace and spiritual connection. The oil is indicated for those having trouble finding stable ground or their unique life’s purpose; spikenard restores emotional ease and faith in the self. 

To help get a good night’s sleep, mix spikenard oil with lavender oil and vetivert and add to a warm bath or use as a massage blend or dab on the body.

A study conducted at the School of Pharmaceutical Science in Japan validated the calming property of spikenard by using vapour inhalation. It demonstrated how the compound calarene exerted sedative effects. The study also showed that when spikenard is blended with other essential oils like frankincense, patchouli and sandalwood, it has even more calming and grounding effect. 

Another study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, showed that spikenard improved learning and memory and also reversed induced amnesia. A more recent 2018 study, published in the Metabolic Brain Disease, revealed that the extract also had an anxiolytic effect on the brain (reduced anxiety).

Spikenard and the soul
It is no wonder that spikenard attained such holy status since ancient times; with its deeply comforting and grounding qualities, is wonderful to use for meditation, prayer and other spiritual uses. It helps balance and heal the root chakra and offers solid protection and purification for ritual work; it is believed to be a useful tool for spirit journeys to the otherworld.

Spikenard opens the heart chakra releasing deeply buried grief and resentment, making space for feelings of love and compassion. The oil will help clear energy blockages, anxiety and worry. Spikenard helps to restore faith and devotion in our spiritual practice when it has wavered due to life’s vicissitudes and it allows us to surrender to the process with humility and acceptance.

Spikenard sensitises us to a higher vibration, shifting focus from the worldly to the spiritual and allowing attention to flow into transcendence. Spikenard is exquisitely serene and sacred as anointing oil and is highly appropriate to use for the dying and to anoint bodies in funerary last rites after death. This will assist the soul to transcend the flux of illusion and suffering on its passage to the next realm. It beautifully prepares our soul for its departure, helping to release fears of the unknown, imbuing courage to reconcile all that has happened to us in this embodiment on earth. Spikenard helps us sever the emotional ties that bind us to earthly existence because it is the essence of forgiveness and love.  

Spikenard is ideal for sacred incense blends for rituals and ceremonies, mix with powdered frankincense, myrrh and sandalwood or labdanum and burn to open the spiritual faculties.

Spikenard essential oil blends well with:

Clove, frankincense, vetivert, floral essential oils and citrus oils.

"Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:" Song of Songs 5:13-14

Rare sought-after plant is protected
When purchasing spikenard essential oil, ensure that you are purchasing it only from a reputable supplier that focuses upon the legal sourcing and sustainability of spikenard. Spikenard is declared a critically endangered plant; unfortunately, high demand combined with the difficulty in propagating slow-to-regenerate Spikenard rhizomes has led to overharvesting issues. Since 2017, restrictions on international trade have been enforced by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), including a ban on sales without proper permits.

Tinderbox chooses to use spikenard oil that has been sustainably wild harvested in the mountains of Nepal by a conservation-oriented team specializing in endemic plants of the region.

Tinderbox products containing Spikenard
Sacred Scent Anointing Oil
Visionary Solid Perfume
Chakra Perfume 6 Insight

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