Spikenard Essential Oil Benefits Explained: The Spike You’re Missing!

A spikenard plant

I had never really encountered spikenard oil (only heard about it in passing) until I received a small vial of the stuff as a gift. I fell in love with the smell of it and was blown away when I realized how many uses it had. Since then, I’ve always kept at least one vial in my house at any given time. The healing properties and rich, earthy aroma of the spikenard plant and its oil has been known since before the old testament.

For centuries, spikenard oil has been deemed a highly valuable commodity and was treasured by nobility throughout the ages. It has been used for religious purposes in both the old and new testament –  Judaic priests would burn spikenard as a form of incense and use it as an offering and in the Catholic church, spikenard is used to represent Saint Joseph – Mary’s husband.

However, in everyday, contemporary life spikenard still has a valuable role as an essential oil that is readily and easily available, affordable and very effective.

What Is Spikenard Essential Oil? Where Does It Come From?

Spikenard plant


Spikenard originates in the Indian-Subcontinent and is also known as the Jatamansi plant to natives – it also occurs naturally in high altitudes of the Himalayan mountains. Traditionally, spikenard essential oil is steam distilled which is the most effective means of producing essential oils.

Apart from playing an important role in western religious practices, the spikenard plant and it’s essential oil has formed a large part of the Ayurvedic healing practices in India which is one of the oldest healing systems known to man, stretching back more than 3000 years.

The oil was highly valued during the Egyptian and Roman empires due to its rarity. Its was often used by nobility in the creation of perfumes, to flavor food dishes, as a form of aromatherapy and as a natural medicine to help fight infections and to assist with childbirth. Any natural remedy that has been able to last this long is clearly one that’s going to be around for a lot longer – a true tried and trusted source of healing.


What Does Spikenard Essential Oil Smell Like?

Spikenard has been described as having a strong musky odor that is similar to the Valerian root. It is a rich fragrance, that is both sweet and earthy. However, having smelt raw, natural spikenard root once before I can say that it’s really more earthy than anything else.

Traditionally it was used as the base ingredient when creating fragrances or when used in aromatherapy because of the fixative properties of the scent, meaning that it helps to strengthen and increase the long-lasting effects of an odor and was generally mixed with other ingredients like cinnamon and cardamon to make it more pleasant.

In Chinese, the spikenard is referred to as Gan Song which literally translates to ‘Sweet Pine’ – also a good indicator of it’s scent.

Benefits Of Spikenard Essential Oil For Hair

Laughing girl with curly hair

Spikenard for hair

As an essential oil, spikenard is easily blendable which means you can use it as a base ingredient and mix it with other oils in order to create an aromatic fusion that will leave your hair smelling fresh and feeling amazing. The natural anti-septic contained in spikenard mean that it works well as an active ingredient in any homemade shampoo (or by itself) in relieving an itchy scalp of dandruff.

It also works to combat inflammation so it can be used to relieve your scalp of any dryness or redness that might lead to or cause dandruff – thus eliminating the cause of the problem, not only treating the symptoms.

Recently, tests were run on Wistar rats (creatures that have very similar hair growth patterns to us – we are cousins after-all) and proved that spikenard oil promotes hair growth up to 30% faster than those who had not been treated with the oil. What this means is that although it might promote hair growth in us humans, it’s most suitably used to prevent hair-loss by slowing the process down.

Results have also shown that the oil is quite effective in maintaining hair color and adding volume to your hair, helping you slow the aging process.

Benefits Of Spikenard Essential Oil For Skin

Girl with blue eyes and brown hair hiding behind a scarf

Spikenard for skin

Quite often we will try to treat skin related issues, such as acne, solely from the outside when many times the origin of the issue is actually internal.

Many times, issues like acne show up at a time when our body is most vulnerable to change, for example our teens years – a time when our hormones are thrust into a stormy sea of perpetual ups and downs, constantly altering the chemical balance of our young, growing bodies. Coupled with the added stress that comes with just being a teenager in general often takes its toll on our skin.

Fluctuations in hormone levels can often lead to an over-stimulation of our sebum glands, resulting in an excess of sebaceous oil in our faces which clogs up our pores and leads to acne. Treating your acne actually starts with calming and soothing your emotions – making your body rest and ensuring that you get enough sleep.

This helps your body to prepare for the coming changes and fluctuations  that you’ll be experiencing as well as giving your body and mind the time it needs to rest, and build-up reserves that help to restore damage done stress.

Spikenard oil is a natural antiseptic, which means it can be applied to your face (or the affected area) as a means of clearing up any germs or debris (such as pollution particles or other impurities from your external environment) that may lead to dirty pores, as well removing any excess oil and dead skin cells that clog up your pores.

Be sure to wash your face gently with warm water before applying the oil and after rinsing the oil off with cool water, make sure that the towel you dry your face with is clean. With regards to the previous paragraph, spikenard is also a natural sedative and helps to relieve the body and mind of stress and anxiety.

The best way to utilize spikenard oils relaxing properties is by placing roughly 6-8 drops in some hot water and inhaling the steam. The soothing smell will calm you down and release small amounts of dopamine, which will help you relax, unwind and get a good night’s rest – allowing your body to heal and recuperate.

Spikenard Essential Oil For Spiritual Use

Man meditating at sunset

Spikenard for spirituality

Spikenard has played such an important role in ancient cultures and healing systems for many years and for many reasons, but mainly because of its multifaceted ability to treat a wide variety of physical ailments. Beyond its natural healing qualities, spikenard (and its essential oil) is very versatile. During the Roman empire, it was used in its raw, natural form to flavor dishes and ironically as a laxative as well!

In the ancient Ayurvedic healing systems, which focused primarily on treating the body in terms of mental and lasting psychological issues (or problems of a higher conscience),  spikenard was used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation and uplift your mood.

The ancient Egyptians also made frequent use of spikenard essential oil as a main ingredient in creating fragrances for beautification purposes, but also as a form of aromatherapy. Some have suggested that they also included spikenard oil in a mixture that was used to embalm their dead for it’s antibacterial and anti-fungal purposes, helping to slow the decay of the dead bodies.

It is said that Jesus used spikenard oil mixed with cardamon oil as a similar form of meditation and healing practice as means of preparing for his crucifixion before being resurrected.

Spikenard has been described as creating a sense of ‘surrender’ in users and is primarily focused on opening your pelvic and heart chakra. For those who do yoga regularly, burning spikenard as an incense whilst practicing is very calming and can really help you ease into your routine. When you are relaxed, your muscles are more pliable and stretching them has less chance of leading to long term damage.

Being calm and at peace is an essential part of feeling centered and is also the first step towards leading a balanced life in terms of mind, body and soul.

Nature’s path is the only true path in attaining a sense of higher peace and balance, unfortunately there is no ‘over-the-counter’ solution for that, and even if there was – I would never recommend that you use it.


In conclusion, the healing benefits of spikenard have been carried down for centuries and the essential oil of spikenard has influenced and played a vital role in many different cultures. From traditional and spiritual healing, to garnish on the plate of nobility and an addition to an ancient exotic perfume, spikenard is incredibly versatile and very powerful stuff.

Keep on learning with our features covering Ylang Ylang, Witch Hazel, Lemongrass, Almond, and Lavender Essential Oil here at Maple Holistics!

I have personally been using it in my oil diffuser (or burner) to liven up the smell of my house. It really does the trick after a long day of work, or for those times when you just want to relax over a weekend. Sometimes, I actually have to keep myself from dozing off if I’m reading a book with it on because it’s so calming. Ah, the wonder of spikenard!