Spikenard Oil

Nardostachys grandiflora in wild

  • Botanical Name:Nardostachys grandiflora DC.

  • Synonym:Nardostachys gracilis Kitam.

  • Family:Valerianaceae

  • Local Names: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. Yield percentage of Valerian oil ranged from 0.5% to 1.8% on dry weight basis. The amount of Spikenard oil varies depending upon the age of the plant, habitat and drying and storage method. Generally, the higher levels of essential oil content have been reported in populations growing in rocky and drier habitats as compared to meadows and scrublands.

Other Varieties as Source of Adulteration

Nardostachys chinensis Batalin is also traded with the name of Spikenard.


Nardostachys grandiflora has medicinal, social and commercial uses. Rhizomes are used as incense in the Himalaya. Rhizomes are used in wounds, cold and cough, chronic fever, fever due to poisoning, high blood pressure, stomach diseases. They are also used to treat conjunctivitis, gastritis, dyspepsia, piles, mental disorders and diabetes.

The oil have anti inflammatory, antipyretic, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, laxative, sedative uses. It is used in to cure various skin ailments such as allergies, inflammation, rejuvenating matured skin and 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 asin 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.

Physico-Chemical Properties

  • Specific gravity:0.9300 to 0.9587 at 25° C

  • Refractive index:1.5055 to 1.5458 at 25° C

  • Acid number:1.5 to 8

  • Ester number:6 to 45

  • Ester number after acetylation:40 to 65

  • Solubility :Soluble in 0.4 to 1.5 vol. of 90% alcohol

Active Constituents

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


Nardostachys grandiflora has vulnerable status in Nepal. It is highly threatened due to 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, the essential oil can be exported after proper certification and permission.

Clients Testimonials

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    – R. Pariyar

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