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Green Medicine > Medicinal Plants > Spikenard


Photo of Spikenard
Photo copyright 2000
(Aralia racemosa)

Aralia racemosa shares the common name "spikenard" with several other medicinal plants, some of which are related and some of which are not. This plant is a member of the Aralia family, which includes the ginsengs as well as ivy. Among the tribes of eastern North America, the spicy root of spikenard has known many uses, most commonly as a blood purifier.

Today, it is sold primarily for these same properties, usually as an ingredient in herbal formulas. Spikenard populations in the wild face not only the pressure of harvesting (and sometimes over-harvesting), but also habitat loss due to development, logging, strip mining, and the clearing of land for farming. Like many other woodland plants, spikenard thrives only in a limited set of circumstances, so such pressures are all the more urgent. Furthermore, spikenard does not have the widespread recognition that ginseng has, although it faces many of the same problems.

Cultivation: Spikenard prefers rich, acidic soils with moist soil and good drainage, and partial to full shade. It thrives on woodland slopes and near the edges of woods. The rootstock is harvested in fall, after the berries have ripened and the leaves have begun to fade. The plant is not mature enough to harvest until after it has produced berries, which is often in the third or fourth year but may take longer.

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Last Updated: 4/4/02