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Nardostachys jatamansi - Nardostachys grandiflora - Jatamamsi - Gan Song - Indian Spikenard

Jatamamsi is an erect perennial herb attaining a height of 10-60 cm, with a long woody rootstalk covered in reddish brown fibers that are derived from the petioles of the withered leaves. The leaves are mostly basal and elongated, up to 20 cm in length by 2.5 cm wide, with longitudinal veins, glabrous to slightly pubescent. The flowers are pale pink or blue, borne in dense crowded cymes. Jatamamsi is found in the fragile ecosystems of the sub-alpine and alpine meadows of the Himalayan mountain range, between 3500 and 4500 meters in elevation. When dried the fleshy aromatic rhizome is fringed with reddish brown fibers that appear like a braid, a feature which appears to be the origin of the name Jatamamsi. Due to unregulated harvesting in Nepal Jatamamsi is now a threatened species (Nepal 2002; Mulliken 2000; Kirtikar and Basu 1935, 1307-8; Warrier et al 1995, 104).

Part used: Rhizome.


     Rasa: tikta, kashaya, madhura
     Vipaka: katu
     Virya: shita
     Karma: dipana, kasahara, svasahara, dahaprashamana, raktaprasadana, kushtaghna, romasanjana, vedanasthapana, nidrajanana, medhya, balya, vajikarana, Pittavatahara (Srikanthamurthy 2001, 220; Warrier et al 1995, 104)

Constituents: Jatamamsi contains the commercially important Spikenard oil used in perfumery, described as a sweet, woody and spicy-animal odour. Spikenard oil is comprised of a variety of constituents including hydrocarbons (a-pinene, b-pinene, limonene, aristolene, dihydroazulenes, a-gurjunene, b-gurjunene, a-patchoulene, b-patchoulene, seychellene, seychelane, a-maaliene), alcohols (calarenol, nardol, valerianol, patchouli alcohol, maaliol), aldehydes (valerianal), ketones (valeranone [jatamansone], b-ionone 3,4-dihydro-b-ionone, 1-hydroxyaristolenone, aristolenone), and oxides (1,8-cineole). The rhizome also contains the terpenoid ester nardostachysin, the coumarins angelicin and jatamansin, b-sitosterol, a resin, gum, starch and sugar (Chatterjee et al 2000; Lawless 1995, 184; Kapoor 1990, 239; Rucker et al 1978)

Medical research:

Central nervous system: The effect of acute and subchronic administration of an ethanol extract of the roots of Nardostachys jatamansi on neurotransmitters norepinephrine (NE), dopamine (DA), serotonin (5-HT), 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and taurine was studied in rats. The acute oral administration of the extract did not change the level of NE and DA but resulted in a significant increase in the level of 5-HT and 5-HIAA. A significant increase in the level of GABA and taurine was observed in the drug-treated groups compared to the controls. A 15-day treatment resulted in a significant increase in the levels of NE, DA, 5-HT, 5-HIAA, and GABA (Prabhu et al 1994). The sesquiterpene valeranone (jatamansone) isolated from the rhizome of Nardostachys jatamansi prolonged barbiturate hypnosis, demonstrated an anticonvulsant activity, impaired physical performance, and potentiated the body-temperature lowering activity of reserpine (Rucker et al 1978).

Neuroprotective: The protective effect of Nardostachys jatamansi was studied for its effect on neurobehavioral activities in experimental cerebral ischemia. The occlusion of the cerebral artery in rats for two hours, followed by reperfusion over a 22 hour period promoted the depletion of glutathione and a significant elevation in the level of thiobarbituric acid reactive substance (TBARS), and manifested a reduction in spontaneous motor activity and motor coordination. Pretreatment of rats with an extract of N. jatamansi for a 15 day period prior ischemia significantly attenuated alternations induced by ischemia, decreasing neuronal cell death following occlusion and reperfusion (Salim et al 2003).

Hepatoprotective: Pretreatment of rats with an ethanol extract of the rhizomes of N. jatamansi (800 mg/kg body wt, orally) for three consecutive days significantly ameliorated the liver damage in rats exposed to the hepatotoxic compound thioacetamide. Elevated levels of serum transaminases (aminotransferases) and alkaline phosphatase, observed in animals treated with thioacetamide alone, were significantly lower in the N. jatamansi pretreated rats. Pretreatment with the extract also resulted in an increase in survival in rats intoxicated with LD90 dose of thioacetamide (Ali et al 2000).

Antioxidant: The antiperoxidative property of N. jatamanasi was investigated using an iron-induced lipid peroxidation model in rat liver, quantified by thiobarbituric acid reactive substance (TBARS) content. The results indicated that the extract provides protection against lipid peroxidation (Tripathi et al 1996).

Toxicity: The oral LD50 of the isolated sesquiterpene valeranone is reported to be greater than 3160 mg/kg in rats and mice (Rucker et al 1978). Jatamamsi is generally regarded as safe.

Indications: Dyspepsia, colic, flatulence, pharyngitis, cough, bronchitis, asthma, insomnia, neurosis, depression, anxiety, confusion, memory loss, convulsions, epilepsy, stranguary, nephropathies, muscle pain, lumbago, dysmenorrhea, burning sensations, skin diseases, ulcers, angina, palpitations, hypertension.

Contraindications: Use with extreme care or otherwise avoid with the use of barbiturates, benzodiazepines, antiepileptics, antipsychotics, antidepressants and antihypertensives.

Medicinal uses: Jatamamsi is often used interchangeably with Tagara or Nata (Valeriana wallachi), and in many respects is similar to the European Valerian (V. officinalis) in activity, although the taste and odour of Jatamamsi is far more agreeable. Unlike Valerian Jatamamsi has a cooling property, making it appropriate for vitiations of Pitta, but combines this activity with an antispasmodic and sedative activity, making it suitable to treat afflictions of Vata. Jatamamsi acts primarily upon the nervous system, inducing a natural sleep, without any adverse effect upon awakening, and appears to lack the stimulating effects that a certain number of people experience with Valerian. The most common usage of Jatamamsi is as a nervine sedative in the treatment of insomnia, or to treat chronic irritability and nervousness, with exhaustion and debility. To this end Jatamamsi can be prepared as a medicated taila and applied topically in abhyanga, and taken internally combined with herbs such as Ashvagandha and Brahmi to nourish and relax the nervous system. This relaxant property extends into is usage as a mildly acting anodyne, indicated in muscle pain, headaches and dysmenorrhea, in combination with Guggulu and Shunthi (Zingiber officinalis). As a treatment for epilepsy seizure disorders Jatamamsi may be useful in petit mal, but taken alone is probably insufficient for more severe conditions, but can be combined with Ashvagandha, Vacha, Brahmi, and the potentially toxic Parasikayavani (Hyocyamus niger), as well as with Western herbs such as Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa) and Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) for added effect. For Parkinsonism (kampavata), Jatamamsi can be used with herbs such as Kapikachu, Ashvagandha, Parasikayavani (Hyocyamus niger) and Bala. In the treatment of benzodiazepine addiction Jatamamsi can be an effect weaning agent, but with other addictions such as heroin or tobacco it is probably insufficient without combining it with botanicals such as Ashvagandha, Milky Oats (Avena sativa), California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), and Lobelia (Lobelia inflata). In the treatment of flatulent colic and abdominal cramping and pain, Jatamamsi can be combined with Ajamoda and Shunthi (Zingiber officinalis). Similarly, Jatamamsi can be used in bronchial afflictions, to ease spasmodic coughing, used in combination with Vasaka and Pushkaramula (Inula helenium). Jatamamsi is also utilized in hypertension, with Arjuna in the treatment of arrhythmia and palpitation, and with Arjuna and Jatiphala in angina pectoris.


• Churna: recently dried rhizome, 1-5 g b.i.d.-t.i.d. • Hima: 60-120 mL, b.i.d.-t.i.d. • Tincture: fresh plant, 1:2, 95%; recently dried rhizome, 1:4, 50%; 1-5 ml b.i.d.-t.i.d. • Taila: in abhyanga, ad lib. • Essential oil: 2-3 gtt b.i.d.-t.i.d.

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**Spikenard** (//Nardostachys grandiflora// or //Nardostachys jatamansi//; also called **nard**, **nardin**, and **muskroot** ) is a plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas of China, also found growing in the northern region of India and Nepal. The plant grows to about 1 m in height and has pink, bell-shaped flowers. Spikenard rhizomes (underground stems) can be crushed and distilled into an intensely aromatic amber-colored oil, which is very thick in consistency. Nard oil is used as a perfume, an incense, a sedative, and an medicine said to fight insomnia, birth difficulties, and other minor ailments.<ref>

(US ISBN 0-520-22789-1) pp. 83–88</ref>

Lavender (genus //Lavandula//) was also known by the Greeks as //naardus//, nard, after the Syrian city Naarda.

Historical use

The oil was known in ancient times and was part of the Ayurvedic herbal tradition of India. It was obtained as a luxury in ancient Egypt, the Near East. In Rome, it was the main ingredient of the perfume //nardinum// (O.L. //náladam//) derived from the Hebrew שבלת נרד (//shebolet nard//, head of nard bunch)<ref>Klein, Ernest, //A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Language for Readers of English//, The of Haifa, Carta, Jerusalem, p.427</ref> which was part of the Ketoret used when referring to the consecrated incense described in the Bible and Talmud. It is also referred to as the HaKetoret (the incense). It was offered on the specialized incense altar in the time when the Tabernacle was located in the First and Second Jerusalem Temples. The ketoret was an important component of the Temple service in Jerusalem. Nard is mentioned a number of times in the Tanakh, and as part of incense in reference to //hilchot shabbat// in Tractate Shabbat 78b as well as Maimonides Hilchot Shabbat 18:16. It is mentioned twice in the of Solomon (1:12 and 4:13).

Nard was used to perfume the body of Patroklos by Achilles in Book 18 of Homer's Iliad. Natural History lists twelve species of “nard”, identifiable with varying assurance, in a range from lavender stoechas and tuberous valerian to true nard (in modern terms //Nardostachys jatamansi//).

In the Testament John 12:1–10, six days before the passover Jesus arrives in Bethany. In Bethany, sister of Lazarus uses a pound of pure nard <!–µ???? ?a?d?? in the Greek –> to anoint Jesus's feet. Iscariot, the keeper of the money-bag, asked why the ointment was not sold for three hundred denarii instead (about a year's wages, as the average agricultural worker received one denarius for 12 hours work: Matthew 20:2) and the money given to the poor. Two passages in parallel (Matthew 26:6–13, and Mark 14:3–9) speak of an occasion two days before the passover, in which an unnamed woman anoints Jesus's head. The costly perfume she used came from an alabaster jar, and contained nard according to the passage in Mark. On this occasion, the disciples also protest, saying that the perfume should have been sold to benefit the poor.

The powdered root of spikenard is also mentioned in some Islamic traditions as the fruit which Adam ate in Paradise, which God had forbidden him to eat.

Spikenard was used to season foods in Medieval European cuisine, especially as a part of the spice blend used to flavor Hypocras, a sweetened and spiced wine drink. From the 17th century it was one of the ingredients for a strong beer called Stingo.

Modern use

Today, oil of spikenard is not used as widely as that of its many valerian relatives. Spikenard is still used in many Tibetan healing incenses. Is used in the herbal medicine of India, Tibet and the rest of China as a nerve tonic and sedative for sleep disorders a property it shares with the closely related valerian //Valeriana officinalis//. Spikenard is known as a healing oil and is grown in India and China. The essential oil is obtained through steam distillation and it is a base note with an earthy/musty scent. Physically Spikenard essential oil is used as a diuretic, useful for rashes and skin allergies, it is anti-fungal and has a balancing effect on the menstrual cycle. Emotionally this oil is reserved for deep seated grief or old pain. It is used in palliative care to help ease the transition from life to death.

Further reading

 * Dalby, Andrew, "Spikenard" in [[Alan|Davidson]], //The Oxford Companion to Food//, 2nd ed. by Tom Jaine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-19-280681-5).

 * [[|Etymology of "nard"]]
 * {{Wikisource1911Enc Citation|spikenard}}
 * {{cite book |last=Caldecott |first=Todd |year=2006 |title=Ayurveda: The Divine Science of Life |publisher=Elsevier/Mosby |isbn=0723434107 }} Contains a detailed monograph on //Nardostachys grandiflora, N. jatamansi// (Jatamamsi) as well as a discussion of health benefits and usage in clinical practice. Available online at

Valerianaceae of Tibet ingredients Spices Incense Nardus هندي nardostaxisi Narde grandiflora هندی (parfum) Nardo grandiflora ജഡാമഞ്ചി Spikenard जटामसी Нард Nardu pravý జటామాంసి sümbülü 匙叶甘松

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nardostachys_jatamansi.txt · Last modified: 2018/02/26 18:12 (external edit)