Spikenard (also nard and muskroot) is a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas of India and Nepal. The plant grows to about 1 m in height and has pink, bell-shaped flowers. Spikenard rhizomes (underground stems) can be crushed and distilled into an intensely aromatic, amber-colored essential oil. Nard oil is used as a perfume, an incense, a sedative, and an herbal medicine said to fight insomnia, flatulence, birth difficulties, and other minor ailments.
The oil was known in ancient times and was part of the Ayurvedic herbal tradition of India. It was obtained as a luxury in ancient Egypt, the Near East, and Rome, where it was the main ingredient of the perfume nardinium. It is mentioned twice in the biblical love poem, the Song of Solomon (1:12 and 14:13). In Mark 14 and John 12, Mary, sister of Lazarus uses nard oil to anoint the head or feet of Jesus (depending on which account). Today spikenard is not used as widely as the oil of many of its valerian relatives.
See also American spikenard .