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For centuries, spikenard has been used for religious, beauty, and health purposes.

While perhaps not as well-known as other oils like lavender and frankincense, spikenard essential oil is a historical medicinal tool that’s touted as having both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

With both an earthy and musky scent, spikenard essential oil is also a highly prized perfume.

While you might appreciate spikenard’s fragrance or its use in religious ceremonies, more information is needed to determine whether this herb has the purported medicinal benefits that alternative practitioners suggest. Here, we cover what’s known about spikenard so far.

A quick search online will reveal lists of purported health benefits from using spikenard essential oil.

As a relative of the valerian plant, spikenard may promote mood and emotional health. Research has also shown that spikenard essential oil can reduce neuroinflammation, which may help the following conditions:

Spikenard essential oil is also said to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities, which may help with:

However, the problem with such claims is that many of them aren’t tied to spikenard essential oil specifically.

Some are based on animal studies, while others are based on studies related to other flowers, such as valerian and lavender. Part of the reason for limited research could be that spikenard is considered endangered from overcultivation.

One study on the antibacterial effects of spikenard shows some promise, though.

Another study found that spikenard essential oil was most effective against a specific bacteria called Legionella. However, the lab studies need to be replicated in humans for spikenard essential oil to be considered a viable antimicrobial.

There’s actually more than one type of spikenard, though it’s not clear whether any flower is medicinally preferable over another.

Below are the most common types of spikenard:

  • American spikenard, which is indigenous to eastern portions of the United States and Canada
  • Indian spikenard
  • Japanese spikenard
  • Himalayan spikenard

You may also find the essential oil labeled under its scientific names: Nardostachys jatamansi or Valerianaceae.

Spikenard is native to Asia. It’s also considered an endangered flower due to its overcultivation.

While spikenard isn’t as widely known as other popular essential oils, this plant was prized in ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Roman empires for its scent. It was also used for medicinal purposes in these ancient civilizations.

Spikenard also holds religious significance, particularly in Islam and Christianity, where spikenard flowers are still used in ceremonies.

Since spikenard oil hasn’t been widely studied for its benefits in humans, there’s limited information about its potential side effects.

Essential oils, while plant-derived, are considered powerful chemicals that can be just as strong as conventional treatments.

Therefore, these oils can pose a risk for the following side effects when applied topically:

  • itchiness and irritation
  • hives and rashes
  • skin reddening
  • boils
  • peeling skin
  • inflammation

Many of the benefits of aromatherapy come from inhaling the scent molecules of an essential oil. When using aromatherapy, consider pregnant women, children, and pets who may also be inhaling the oil and have a sensitivity to it. Some essential oils can be toxic.

Spikenard essential oil is perhaps best known for its scent, making it ideal for aromatherapy and inhalation. Below is a breakdown of its medicinal uses and more.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the process of using an essential oil’s scent to help improve your mental and physical well-being.

Using a diffuser is one of the easiest ways to experience the benefits of aromatherapy. This device uses cool steam to help disperse essential oils, such as spikenard oil, into the air. Essential oils can also be:

  • inhaled directly from the bottle
  • combined with water and sprayed on fabrics
  • used in a compress
  • used during a massage

Spikenard oil massage

Spikenard oil may also be used to enhance a deep tissue massage. You can ask your massage therapist to use the diluted oil on specific parts of the body or throughout your entire session for an aromatic experience.

Bath oil

Spikenard oil may also be used for a luxurious scented bath.

To use, add several drops of spikenard to a tablespoon of carrier oil, then add to warm, running bathwater. You can add more as needed.

You may want to put a bathmat on the bottom of the tub to prevent slipping on the oil.

Be sure to not apply undiluted spikenard oil directly to your skin.

Topical spikenard oil

While more evidence is needed, spikenard oil is sometimes used for topical ailments, such as inflammation and infection.

You should never apply the oil directly to your skin without diluting it first — you can do this by combining a few drops of essential oil per one tablespoon of carrier oil.

Perform a patch test one to two days before applying spikenard to a larger area of skin. To do this, apply the diluted oil in a less visible part of the skin, then wait a day to see if any irritation develops.

Spikenard essential oil is widely available, meaning you don’t need a prescription for it. However, there are still some precautions you should take.

Only use spikenard topically, as a fragrance, or in aromatherapy. You should never take spikenard oil by mouth or apply it near your eyes.

Allergic reactions are possible. If you develop allergies from using spikenard essential oil, stop using it. See a doctor if your symptoms get worse.

You can reduce the risk of skin irritation more generally by properly diluting the oil first.

If you’re pregnant or nursing, ask a doctor before using spikenard oil. Don’t give it or any other essential oil to children.

It’s important to choose a brand of spikenard essential oil that’s fairly sourced and 100 percent pure.

You can ask an alternative health practitioner whether they carry the oil, or shop for it at a natural health store. You can also choose from a variety of spikenard oil products online.

As a prized flower in ancient history and religious settings, spikenard is perhaps best suited for aromatherapy. When using it, you may experience an uplifted mood.

While spikenard oil is touted by some for treating inflammation and infections, you should check with a doctor before applying it to your skin.