Nardostachys jatamansi is an herb known for its ability to reduce stress and improve cognitive function and sleep. While clinical trials are lacking, pre-clinical studies show the herb can improve memory, reduce inflammation, and treat insomnia. Read on to see the many 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.

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

Health Benefits of Nardostachys jatamansi

1) May Enhance Learning And Memory

Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that breaks down a neurotransmitter needed for learning and memory called acetylcholine. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors improve cognitive function in animals [4].

Nardostachys jatamansi decreased acetylcholinesterase activity by 50% in the brains of mice. Decreasing acetylcholinesterase activity leads to improvement in learning and memory in rats [5, 6].

2) Reduces Stress

Nardostachys jatamansi prevented an increase in cortisol and prevented ulcers from forming in mice exposed to cold [7].

3) May Treat Depression

Nardostachys jatamansi was traditionally included in a mixture of herbs called Mamsyadi Kwatha (80% Jatamansi) that was used to treat depression and anxiety [8].

In mice exposed to stress tests, Nardostachys jatamansi decreased depressive symptoms. The effect was similar to popular antidepressant drugs Tofranil (Imipramine) and Zoloft (Sertraline) [9].

4) Protects 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 [10].

Radiation is often used to treat certain cancers. However, radiation therapy is known to increase the risk for other diseases in the circulatory system [11].

Nardostachys jatamansi protected against damage to the blood and lymph tissues caused by radiation in mice [12].

5) Has Antioxidant Effects

Nardostachys jatamansi reduces oxidative damage to DNA and fats in cell studies [13].

6) May Help Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Nardostachys jatamansi is able to reverse the symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Symptoms of despair, increased anxiety, and decreased movement were reversed with Nardostachys jatamansi in a mouse model of CFS [14].

7) May Protect Against Seizures

Nardostachys jatamansi protects against seizures and impaired voluntary movement (dyskinesia).

Treatment in mice showed significant elevation of antioxidants that protect neurons (superoxide dismutase and glutathione reductase) in the brain [15].

Mice that were shocked after treatment with Nardostachys jatamansi had an increased resistance to seizures [16].

8) Treats 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 [17].

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9) May Protect The Heart

Doxorubicin is a drug that causes heart damage. Nardostachys jatamansi restored antioxidant enzymes and reduced oxidative damage in rats exposed to doxorubicin [18, 19].

Nardostachys jatamansi restored heart cell membrane function in rats given doxorubicin [19].

10) May Reduce Inflammation

Nardostachys jatamansi prevented inflammation caused by injecting bacteria into the bloodstream of mice [20].

11) Protects the Pancreas

Nardostachys jatamansi reduced inflammation in a mouse model of pancreatic inflammation (pancreatitis) [21].

Nardostachys jatamansi reduced cell death in pancreatitis caused by alcohol [22].

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 [23].

12) May Protect The Liver

Nardostachys jatamansi healed liver damage and increased survival rates in rats treated with drugs toxic to the liver [24].

13) May Increase Hair Growth

Nardostachys jatamansi oil used topically increased hair growth by 30% in mice [25].

14) Has Antimicrobial Activity

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 [26].

Nardostachys jatamansi extract has significant antibacterial properties in cell studies [27].

15) Has Anticancer Effects

Nardostachys jatamansi caused triggered cell death of breast cancer cells (apoptosis) and prevented their growth [28].

Nardostachys jatamansi stops nerve tissue cancer growth and increases the activity of p53, a protein that helps prevent cancers from forming [29].


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 seen in rodents.

Side Effects and Precautions

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.


While the optimal dosage has not been established, clinical trials have used a dosage of 12 g/day of the powdered root [17].

User Reviews

Users report Jatamansi oil effectively treats inflammation from colds sores and acne within a few hours. When applied to the skin, users report a reduction in wrinkles and more youthful appearance.

The oil helps users naturally treat headaches, anxiety, and pain. Many users apply Jatamansi oil to the legs after exercise to treat leg cramps and sore feet. Users report it also works great as a sleep aid and natural treatment for insomnia.

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


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About the Author

Will Hunter

BA (Psychology)
Will received his BA in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. 
Will's main passion is learning how to optimize physical and mental performance through diet, supplement, and lifestyle interventions. He focuses on systems thinking to leverage technology and information and help you get the most out of your body and brain.

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