Both spikenard and lavender have been in use for centuries – or have they? If you read various historical texts, you will see that references to spikenard could be interpreted as lavender – and vice versa. Here’s a quick look at the possible confusion between spikenard and lavender.
Use of Spikenard in History
Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi) is a small, aromatic herb that belongs to the Valeriananceae plant family; it is actually a relative of valerian (Valeriana officinalis) – and is not a member of the same plant family as lavender. Historical names for spikenard include Nard.
According to some ancient texts, spikenard was used by the ancient Egyptians. It also earns a mention in the Bible as the herb which Mary anointed Jesus with before the last supper. The Romans reportedly used spikenard in nardinum, a scented perfume oil.
Use of Lavender in History
There are various species of lavender and the one which may be confused with spikenard is that of spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia). Spike lavender is a small, aromatic herb or shrub; it belongs to the Lamiaceae plant family and is closely related to true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) and other lavender varieties.
The ancient Greeks and Romans were thought to have used spike lavender for various ailments. The Greeks referred to spike lavender by the name Nardus, after the city of Naarda, whereas the Romans referred to spike lavender as Asurum.
Use of Spikenard and Spike Lavender as an Essential Oil
Spikenard is used as an essential oil in therapeutic aromatherapy practice for inflammation, insomnia, migraine, stress, and allergies. Spike lavender is used as an essential oil in therapeutic aromatherapy practice for the same uses as true lavender essential oil; these uses include allergies, burns, eczema, insect bites, muscle aches and pains, asthma, depression, headache, insomnia, migraine, and stress.
Spikenard essential oil is similar to valerian essential oil in aroma.
Both spikenard and spike lavender essential oils have some of the same uses for aromatherapy practice.
Spikenard or Spike Lavender?
With names such as Nard, Nardus, spikenard and spike lavender, it is easy to see where possible confusion may arise between these two similar plants and essential oils. However, the chemical components of each essential oil are different – and this is why it is important to understand the differences between essential oils (and plants) with similar sounding names and uses.
Study Aromatherapy with Sedona Aromatherapie
Both spikenard and lavender essential oils are studied in the Sedona Aromatherapie Certification in Professional Aromatherapy course program. If you would like to learn more about essential oils and their use in aromatherapy, consider one of the Sedona Aromatherapie home study courses, To learn more, visit the courses home page.
Grieve, Margaret, Griev, Maud, 1971, A Modern Herbal, Courier Dove Publications
Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, UK: Thorsons
Author is a certified aromatherapist