Botanical Name Nardostachys grandiflora Nardostachys jatamansi (D.Don) DC.
Synonyms Nardostachys gracilis Kitam.
Family Yalerianaceae
Local Name Jatamansi,Bhulte
English Name Spikenard

Plant Description

Spikenard is a 10 to 60cm tall (perennial rhizomatous) herb found in the sub alpine and alpine regions of Nepal. It is found within the altitudinal range of 3600m to 4500m in open rocky places. The rhizomes are aromatic, brown in colour and covered with hairs. Leaves arise from the base of the main flowering stem and are slender and elongated, elliptic-lanceolate. Flowers arise in the top of flowering stalk and are minute, pinkish white in colour. Flowering occurs in June-August and fruiting in August-September. The rhizomes are mostly collected by uprooting the whole plant during September-November.


Spikenard oil is extracted from the steam distillation of fresh or dried rhizomes of Nardostachys grandiflora. The yield percentage of Valerian oil ranged from 0.5% to 1.8% on a dry-weight basis. The amount of Spikenard oil varies depending upon the age of the plant, habitat, and drying and storage method. Generally, higher levels of essential oil content have been reported in populations growing in rocky and drier habitats as compared to meadows and shrublands.


Nardostachys grandiflora has medicinal, social, and commercial uses. Rhizomes are used as incense in the Himalayas. Rhizomes are used in wounds, cold and cough, chronic fever, fever due to poisoning, high blood pressure, and stomach diseases. They are also used to treat conjunctivitis, gastritis, dyspepsia, piles, mental disorders, and diabetes. The oil has anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, laxative, and sedative uses. It is used to cure various skin ailments such as allergies, inflammation, rejuvenating matured skin, rashes, etc from aromatherapy. Similarly, its aromatherapeutic properties are used to treat various nervous complaints such as insomnia, migraine, stress, and tension.

The oil is used in various industrial preparations such as perfumery and hair care products.

Organoleptic Properties

Appearance: Fluid to slightly viscous liquid
Colour: Varies from Amber to deep blue or greenish blue
Aroma: Heavy,sweet-woody and spicy-animal odour, resembling to that of Valerian oil.

Active Constituents

Spikenard oil mainly contains mono- and sesquiterpenoids. Other compounds isolated are an alkaloid actinidine, several aliphatic compounds, 13-sitosterol, valepotriates, and phenolic compounds such as jatamansin, jatamansone, jatamansinol, lignans, and neolignans. Other compounds such as nardostachnol, 6-aristolene, γ-maaliene, seychellene, seychelane, norseychelanone, nardostachnolm, jatamansic acid, bitter extractive matter, and gums are present in Spikenard oil. The aroma is a result of a low amount of a and α -pinene.

Physico-Chemical Properties

Specific gravity 0.9300 to 0.9587 at 25° C?>
Optical rotation 1.5055 to 1.5458 at 25° C?>
Refractive index 1.5 to 8?>
Acid number 1.5 to 8
Ester number 6 to 45
Ester number 40 to 65 (after acetylation)
Solubility Soluble in 0.4 to 1.5 vol. of 90% alcohol

Conservation Status

Nardostachys grandiflora has vulnerable status in Nepal. It is highly threatened due to the unsustainable and over-harvesting of its rhizome for international trade. It falls under CITES Appendix II. The export of crude rhizomes is banned by the government of Nepal. However, essential oils can be exported after proper certification and permission.