Used since ancient times, spikenard is a versatile essential oil best-known for its distinct relaxing aroma and mood-boosting properties.
Additionally, as an oil with antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, spikenard makes a great addition to your medicine cabinet or skincare routine. The oil provides efficient relief from pain, clears and brightens the skin, and relieves stress when using in aromatherapy.
Spikenard may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of essential oils, but it’s time this historically-loved oil takes center stage in the modern day.
The history and uses of this versatile oil are highlighted below, in addition to our tips on incorporating spikenard essential oil into your collection.
The History of Spikenard
Spikenard essential oil (also occasionally called nard, nardin, or muskroot) is derived from a flowering plant named Nardostachys jatamansi, which is native to the mountainous regions of Nepal, China, and India. The plant can be crushed and distilled into a highly aromatic, amber-colored oil, which has been used for thousands of years.
Spikenard essential oil was used historically as perfume or incense and was common in Ayurvedic medicine. Ancient Egyptians and Romans treated the oil like a luxury item when using it in perfume. The ancient Egyptians also used the oil in the embalming process for mummies.
In religion, the oil was used as incense at the altar in Jewish temples. There are also several references to spikenard in the bible. In Catholicism, spikenard is used to represent Saint Joseph. In the Hispanic iconographic tradition, the saint is depicted holding a spikenard plant. The plant is included in Pope Francis’ coat of arms in reference to the saint.1
Spikenard is also featured in ancient literature such as Homer’s Iliad, where it was used by Achilles to perfume the body of Patroclus. Pliny the Elder further documents species of the plant in his Natural History, one of the greatest works to survive from the Roman Empire. Recipes from this time suggest spikenard was used to season food, although its use was not common because of the price of the oil.
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The oil was also traded between Europe and Asia along the Silk Road for use in balms and ointments. It was predominately used to treat infections of the skin or provide pain relief.
Today, spikenard essential oil is primarily used in aromatherapy because of its ability to ground and relax users, in addition to its use in somebody and skincare products.
The primary chemical compounds in spikenard essential oil provide it with a range of health benefits. The high concentration of a substance called valeranone, for example, provides the oil with sedative properties.2
Guaiadiene and Seychelles, on the other hand, offer antibiotic and anti-inflammatory components that help spikenard fight off infection and provide pain relief.
Spikenard essential oil contains a number of other sesquiterpenes with anti-inflammatory benefits including:
- 9,10-dehydro isolongifolene
Uses for Spikenard Essential Oil
The spikenard plant and its essential oil offer countless benefits from seasoning food to healing the body and uplifting the mind. Some of its primary benefits are highlighted below.
Alleviates Stress and Boosts Mood
Spikenard essential oil is well-loved by yogis, massage therapists, and aromatherapists for its ability to relax and calm the mind while improving mood. Spikenard can be so relaxing, in fact, that it is often used to improve sleep quality or reduce restlessness.
The oil is effective for these uses because it acts as a mild sedative.3 Spikenard is probably not an ideal choice for morning use but effectively relieves stress and anxiety in the afternoon or promotes deep sleep at night.
Try spikenard and lavender essential oils in a diffuser before bed to create a warm, relaxing environment. This essential oil can also be diluted and applied topically, but keep in mind a little goes a long way. Rub a few drops on the back of the neck and the temples to melt away tension and stress, or brush on the bottoms of the feet before going to sleep.
Alternatively, pair spikenard essential oil with MONQ’s Sleepy diffuser before bed for added benefits and to promote deep, restful sleep.
Promotes Skin Health
The rejuvenating properties in spikenard essential oil make it a powerful treatment for the skin. The oil works to improve the overall health of skin at the cellular level, causing the complexion to appear brighter and more youthful.
Take advantage of the antimicrobial properties of spikenard by using it as a cleanser or blend with your favorite moisturizer or anti-aging product.
Spikenard essential oil can also be used on other parts of the skin to treat irritation. For example, the cooling effect of the oil can aid in sunburn relief. Additionally, the antibacterial and antifungal components of the oil can treat certain irritations and rashes, such as athlete’s foot.
Dilute spikenard oil in olive or coconut oil for soothing benefits on irritated skin.
Acts as a Perfume
Using spikenard essential oil as a perfume or incense was its most common use in ancient times. The oil has a distinct scent that has been described as woody, musky, earthy, spicy, sweet, mossy, leathery, and even as similar to root beer.
While the oil’s odor is pungent, most find the aroma to be pleasant and calming. Despite the various notes that make up the smell of spikenard, its essential oil mixes surprisingly well with others.
Try creating your own, unique scent by using spikenard as a base. Mix with a blend of either woodsy, spicy, or floral scents. Create your own cologne or perfume by blending the oils with alcohol and placing the mixture into a small spray bottle.
Alternatively, create a solid perfume by mixing with the essential oil blend with jojoba oil and beeswax and allowing the mixture to cool and harden.
Spikenard essential oil can also be blended into lotions, added into soaps and candles, or sprinkled onto incense. The oil can also be mixed with water and sprayed around the house for an easy means to take advantage of its mood-boosting aromatic properties.
Prevents Infection and Relieves Pain
Due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, spikenard essential oil makes a perfect addition to any medicine cabinet.
Spikenard oil is known to prevent and treat bacterial infections in open wounds or sores. Simply dilute the oil with a carrier oil and apply it to the affected area. The oil offers regenerative properties that can actually shorten healing time to make the skin look healthier, faster.
Spikenard can also be used topically to reduce inflammation and offer pain relief from stiff muscles or sore joints. The oil can also be used in this way to reduce the pain of headaches caused by tension or stress.
Dilute the oil and apply as needed to the affected area for efficient, long-lasting pain relief.
Supports Feminine Health
The anti-inflammatory properties in spikenard essential oil make it a great natural remedy for the symptoms of PMS like bloating and cramps.
To take advantage of the benefits of the oil for feminine health, dilute with a carrier oil and rub onto the abdominal area, just above the ovaries and bladder. The oil can also be applied to the lower back to treat soreness or pain. Apply spikenard before bed, as well as first thing in the morning for optimal results.
Safety and Precautions
The quality of spikenard essential oil can vary across essential oil brands. Always look for pure-grade, organic products to ensure the highest quality. It is also worth noting that spikenard has recently been classified as an endangered species due to over-collection and occasionally illegal harvesting. The plant is hard to cultivate, as it only grows in the Himalayas, which makes it difficult to replace harvested plants. Try to find spikenard oil through sustainable sources to ensure this oil and the plant from which it is sourced are around for many years to come.
All things considered, spikenard essential oil is considered safe for most healthy adults. As with any essential oil, skin sensitivity may occur. Always dilute oils before topical application and perform a spot test to check for possible allergy or irritation.
Spikenard should not be used by children or women who are pregnant or nursing.
Overall, spikenard is non-toxic and generally non-irritating. Use as directed to enjoy all the benefits of this essential oil with no adverse side effects.
There are plenty of reasons ancient cultures and adored spikenard essential oil. So much more than just a perfume, spikenard is great for the skin and a powerful pain reliever.
Spikenard essential oil is certainly potent enough to stand on its own. However, it also makes a great complement to other essential oils or blends. Try spikenard alongside Forest diffuser for a grounding experience. You can also find spikenard in MONQ’s Relieve blend. A few drops of spikenard oil can also be seamlessly blended with Zen in a Bottle for a deeply soothing aromatherapy session.