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Potential Health Benefits of Nardostachys Jatamansi

Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:
Evguenia Alechine
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi

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Note that each number in parentheses [1, 2, 3, etc.] is a clickable link to peer-reviewed scientific studies. A plus sign next to the number “[1+, 2+, etc...]” means that the information is found within the full scientific study rather than the abstract.

Nardostachys jatamansi is an herb known for its potential ability to reduce stress and improve cognitive function and sleep. While clinical trials are lacking, the herb improved memory, reduced inflammation, and treated insomnia in pre-clinical studies. Read on to see the potential benefits of this herb.

What Is Nardostachys jatamansi?

Nardostachys jatamansi, a flowering herb of the Valerian family, is commonly called jatamansi spikenard, nard, muskroot, or nardin. The herb grows in the high altitudes (3,000-5000 m) of the eastern Himalayas. It has pink, bell-shaped flowers.

The herb was traditionally crushed and refined into an oil. This oil was used for medicine, religious uses, and even perfumes.

Today, Nardostachys jatamansi is typically used in the form of an oil called spikenard oil and as an oral supplement.

Active Compounds

The active components in Nardostachys jatamansi include [1]:

  • Jatamansone (valeranone)
  • Calarene
  • Aristolene
  • Valerena-4/7(11)-diene
  • Desoxo-narchinol-A (DN)

Mechanisms of Action

Nardostachys jatamansi increases the levels of the following key neurotransmitters in the brain [2]:

Nardostachys jatamansi also inhibits inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and deactivates p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), a class of enzymes involved in the inflammatory response to stress [3].

Snapshot

Proponents

  • Potential benefits for insomnia, anxiety, brain function, and organ damage
  • Few mild adverse effects reported

Skeptics

  • Only one clinical trial carried out
  • Insufficient evidence for all benefits
  • Relatively unknown safety profile

Health Benefits

Insufficient Evidence for:

Insomnia

Four grams of Nardostachys jatamansi 3x/day decreased the time to fall asleep by 61% and increased the amount of sleep by 48% in 34 patients with insomnia [4].

A small clinical trial is clearly insufficient to claim that Nardostachys jatamansi improves insomnia. Larger, more robust clinical trials are needed to confirm this preliminary result.

Animal and Cell Research (Lack of Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of Nardostachys jatamansi for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

Brain Function

In mice, Nardostachys jatamansi improved learning and memory and protected from the cognitive impairment caused by diazepam and scopolamine [5].

Its combination with crocetin and selenium (sodium selenite) protected rats from drug-induced cognitive impairment [6].

Nardostachys jatamansi decreased acetylcholinesterase activity by 50% in the brains of mice. Decreasing acetylcholinesterase activity led to an improvement in learning and memory in rats [7, 8].

Through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, Nardostachys jatamansi extract protected brain cells from the damage caused by a protein that triggers Alzheimer’s disease (beta-amyloid). Similarly, it prevented Parkinson’s disease in rats [9, 10].

It also reduced oxidative damage to brain cells caused by stroke in rats [11].

Stress and Anxiety

Nardostachys jatamansi prevented an increase in cortisol and prevented ulcers from forming in mice exposed to cold [12].

Similarly, it suppressed stress behaviors and reduced the levels of corticosterone, serotonin, and dopamine in mice and rats stressed by forced immobilization [13, 12].

Its extract reduced anxiety behaviors in mice, possibly by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain [14].

Depression

Nardostachys jatamansi was traditionally included in a mixture of herbs called Mamsyadi Kwatha (80% Jatamansi) that was used to treat depression and anxiety [15].

In mice exposed to stress tests, Nardostachys jatamansi decreased depressive symptoms. The effect was similar to popular antidepressant drugs Tofranil (Imipramine) and Zoloft (Sertraline) [16].

Diabetes

Nardostachys jatamansi extract improved insulin sensitivity and reduced sugar production in the liver in diabetic mice [14].

Protecting Against Radiation

Nardostachys jatamansi taken 15 days before exposure to radiation reduced radiation sickness in mice. It also reduced stress and protected against DNA damage caused by radiation [17, 18].

Radiation is often used to treat certain cancers. However, radiation therapy is known to increase the risk of other diseases in the circulatory system. Nardostachys jatamansi protected against damage to the blood and lymph tissues caused by radiation in mice [19].

Antioxidant

Nardostachys jatamansi reduced oxidative damage to DNA and fats in cell-based studies [20].

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Nardostachys jatamansi reversed symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), such as despair, increased anxiety, and decreased movement, in mice [21].

Seizures

Treatment with Nardostachys jatamansi in mice caused significant elevation of antioxidants that protect neurons (superoxide dismutase and glutathione reductase) in the brain. This prevented seizures and impaired voluntary movement (dyskinesia) [22].

Mice that given electroshocks showed an increased resistance to seizures after treatment with Nardostachys jatamansi [23].

Heart Protection

Doxorubicin is a drug that causes heart damage. Nardostachys jatamansi restored antioxidant enzymes and reduced oxidative damage in rats exposed to doxorubicin [24, 25].

A review of animal and cell studies found that Nardostachys jatamansi prevented inflammation, oxidative damage, and cell death in heart muscle tissues and restored a normal heart rate [26].

Anti-Inflammatory

Nardostachys jatamansi prevented inflammation caused by injecting bacteria and their polysaccharides into the bloodstream of mice [27, 3].

Protecting the Pancreas

Nardostachys jatamansi reduced inflammation in mice with pancreatic inflammation (pancreatitis) [28].

Nardostachys jatamansi reduced cell death in pancreatitis caused by alcohol [29].

Nardostachys jatamansi completely prevented the increase in blood sugar and insulin that is usually seen in rats given the drug streptozotocin. The herb prevented damage to the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin (beta cells) by preventing NF-kappaB release [30].

Protecting the Stomach

A multi-herbal formula with Nardostachys jatamansi, licorice, and Damask rose prevented stomach ulcers caused by alcohol in rats [31].

Protecting the Liver

Nardostachys jatamansi healed liver damage and increased survival rates in rats treated with drugs toxic to the liver [32].

Hair Growth

Nardostachys jatamansi oil used topically increased hair growth by 30% in mice [33].

Antimicrobial

Nardostachys jatamansi has been traditionally used in India to treat infections.

Essential oil from Nardostachys jatamansi slowed the growth of the fungi Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus niger, and Fusarium oxysporum [34].

Nardostachys jatamansi extract had significant antibacterial properties in cell studies [35].

Note, however, that these are very preliminary results that haven’t been replicated in humans or even in animals. Further studies are needed to investigate if Nardostachys jatamansi has any therapeutic value in treating the infections caused by these microorganisms.

Limitations

The majority of studies on Nardostachys jatamansi have been in rodents. While these studies are promising, controlled clinical trials are necessary to replicate the effects observed.

Side Effects and Precautions

Keep in mind that the safety profile of Nardostachys jatamansi is relatively unknown, given the lack of well-designed clinical studies. The list of side effects below is not a definite one and you should consult your doctor about other potential side effects based on your health condition and possible drug or supplement interactions.

There are no well-documented side effects or adverse reactions when taking the herb as a whole. Patients who have hypersensitivity reactions, are pregnant or lactating, and/or are taking prescription drugs should avoid use due to a lack of clinical studies.

Spikenard essential oil may cause eye irritation.

Dosage

Because Nardostachys jatamansi is not approved by the FDA for any conditions, there is no official dose. Users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial doses based on trial and error. Discuss with your doctor if it may be useful as a complementary approach in your case and which dose you should take.

The only clinical trial used a dosage of 12 g/day of powdered root [4].

User Reviews

The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of Nardostachys jatamansi users, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.

Users reported that Jatamansi oil effectively treated inflammation from cold sores and acne within a few hours. When applied to the skin, users reported a reduction in wrinkles and a more youthful appearance.

The oil reportedly helped users naturally treat headaches, anxiety, and pain. Many users applied Jatamansi oil to the legs after exercise to treat leg cramps and sore feet. Users reported it also worked as a sleep aid and natural treatment for insomnia.

Other users complained that the oil was very pungent when sniffed from the bottle, but becomes a more subtle scent with a few drops. Other than that, there were no reported side effects or overdoses.

About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello

PhD (Molecular Biology)
Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.
Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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