A common feature of herbal medications is the multiple health benefits linked to them. Most Ayurvedic formulations are capable of curing multiple conditions, ranging from skin problems to memory disorders. The same holds for the Ayurvedic herb, Jatamansi. The herb has different names attached to it in different languages. In English it is commonly referred to as Spikenard or Muskroot, Balchhari or Jatamansi in Hindi, Manchi in Malayalam and Bhootajata in Kannad. Nardostachys jatamansi, the botanical name of the herb, is generally found in the Himalayan mountain range. It is also found in the wildernesses of Europe and some parts of Japan.
The distinguishing feature of the plant is its aromatic fragrance. The rhizomes (underground stems) of the herb are responsible for the fragrance and are harvested, crushed and processed to produce the essential oil Spikenard. The oil itself acts as a potent medicinal formulation, in addition to being commonly used as an additive to perfumes and other products owing to its sweet fragrance. The name of the herb is said to be derived from the word jata, which is Sanskrit for hair, referring to the hairy roots of Spikenard. Since ancient times Jatamansi has been used not only to treat medical conditions but also as a source for a commonly used essential oil.
Spikenard plants reach an average height of 1 meter and are found to grow in the alpine regions of the Himalayas at an altitude of 3000 to 5000 meters. In addition to the sweet fragrance of the herb, the other noticeable feature is its delicate, pink-colored flowers. There are a few ancient texts which identify Jatamansi as the “forbidden apple” of Eden that God forbade Adam and Eve from consuming. Despite the ominous background, the herb has been widely used and consumed. The herb boasts an impressive repertoire of properties. It is a Medhya Rasayana(memory enhancer), Nidhrajnana (sleep promoter), Kushtaghna (prevents skin diseases), Roma Sanjana (facilitates hair growth), etc.
Modern scientific studies have added even more to the already extensive list of properties attributed to Jatamansi. Additionally, the fragrance of the herb meant that it was widely used as a cosmetic additive in a variety of beauty products. Spikenard has also found use in regional cuisines over time, especially in Medieval Europe. Certain sources report that the Greek physician Hippocrates used to season his wine with Jatamansi to lend it a more refined and fragrant aroma.
Properties of Jatamansi
A list of the most prominent properties attributed to the herb Jatamansi is described below.
Skin Healing Properties
Despite the widespread use of Jatamansi, very few texts discuss its property to remedy skin conditions. Ayurvedic texts describe it is a Kushtaghna, an herb capable of preventing skin infections. This can be attributed to the anti-fungal nature of Jatamansi. Adding a few drops of the Spikenard essential oil to coconut or jojoba oil is a simple DIY recipe that can be used to reduce skin infections while providing nourishment to the skin. Several scientific studies have concluded that not only does Spikenard efficiently suppress skin infections; it is also capable of relieving skin inflammation and enhancing the rate of wound healing. A detailed study attempted to create a Jatamansi based antioxidant face cream with much success. The study concluded that the anti-oxidant nature of the herb made it an excellent herbal candidate for skin-related topical applications. Antioxidants have the property to slow or reduce the process of oxidation that damages the skin and live cells. Hence, the antioxidant nature of the herb is another property that allows it to efficiently combat skin aging.
Promotes Hair Growth
Nardin and Jatamansic acids are two major components of the essential oil obtained from Jatamansi. These chemical components were observed to reduce hair growth time in a controlled study conducted to identify the effects of Jatamansi on hair growth. The study concluded that it contains several chemical compounds, including the above mentioned, that promote hair growth through different actions. Regular application on hair can bring back lost volume and luster.
Another important property attributed to this herb is its ability to relieve stress and depression. Jatamansi has been defined as a Medhya Rasayana in several Ayurvedic texts. The ability to alleviate stress is proposed to be derived from its anti-oxidant nature. The herb helps in actively reducing the levels of biomolecules liberated during conditions of stress in living beings. This indirectly reduces stress and allows the individual to relax. The anti-depressant nature of the herb is also comparable to conventional drugs used to treat the condition. Additionally, Jatamansi exhibits sedative and tranquilizing effects on the consumer. This helps people suffering from sleeping disorders like insomnia and allows them to get some much-needed sleep.
Improves Memory and Learning
This Medhya Rasayana is not just limited to treating symptoms of stress and depression. Jatamansi has also been used since ancient times as a potent memory booster and nervine tonic. In its powdered or essential oil form, the herb can be given to children to ensure proper development of the brain and learning processes. Additionally, the herb was observed to impart the same properties on an older population sample as well. Research is also being conducted to identify potential uses in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that deteriorates the memory of an individual progressively. A study was able to determine that Jatamansi showed impressive potential in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s and even reducing the intensity of the symptoms.
How to use Jatamansi….
The elegance of Jatamansi lies in its simplicity. The versatile herb serves to cure or reduce the symptoms associated with a wide range of conditions while being super easy to use. All you have to do is decide which nature you need to be expressed and create a simple concoction to use it.
Need to regain hair volume or luster? Mix 3-5 grams of Jatamansi powder in Coconut or Jojoba oil (you can even use both the oils together!). Apply the mix on the hair and scalp, let it sit for a few hours and wash with warm water. Repeat once every few days till the desired effects become noticeable. A more efficient recipe would be to boil the Jatamansi in the oil and strain out the remaining solids. This ensures that the oil contains traces of this wonder herb and can be stored for long term use.
Looking to reduce or cure a skin infection? The above recipe works well here too. For more aggressive skin conditions, you can make a skin pack using 3-4 grams of Jatamansi along with equal parts of turmeric powder and saffron (these can be substituted with honey, Aloe Vera, etc.)It is also possible to use the powder by simply dissolving it in cold water and applying it over the affected area.
Feel troubled, unable to sleep, experience loss of memory, or other such problems? Make sure to consume 3-5 grams of powdered Jatamansi mixed in plain or lukewarm water after meals. Avoid driving or other intensive activities after ingesting Jatamansi as it may induce drowsiness.
Two of our best-selling products that contain this wonder herb are The Kayakey Body Oil and the Amrutam Herbal Jam. Both the products are aimed at relieving stress and tension from the body, albeit in different ways. However, to ensure that our consumers are able to utilize all the benefits of Jatamansi, we at Amrutam are hard-at-work creating a Jatamansi powder. This would allow our consumers to use the herb in a way that befits their needs.
Plants, animals and everything else on this planet exists to support and benefit each other and the environment together. Ayurveda explains the concepts of connections and inter-dependence. The world and all its elements are linked to each other. Although Ayurvedic herbs provide a plethora of benefits to us, our overexploitation of resources puts the planet at risk. Nardostachys jatamansi is a critically endangered plant species. If we want to derive its benefits in the future, we need to start taking care of our planet starting today.
Reference 1: A review article on phytochemistry and pharmacological profiles of Nardostachys jatamansi DC-medicinal herb
Reference 2: Medicinal Properties of Nardostachys jatamansi (A Review)
Reference 3: Formulation and evaluation of herbal antioxidant face cream of Nardostachys jatamansi collected from Indian Himalayan region
Reference 4: Phytochemical investigation and hair growth studies on the rhizomes of Nardostachys jatamansi DC
Reference 5: Nardostachys jatamansi Improves Learning and Memory in Mice