It has roots that resemble the matted hair of a Himalayan sage- and an intoxicating aroma. Its botanical name is Nardostachys jatamansi- but it is commonly known as Jatamansi. The name comes from its appearance- ‘jata’ means dreadlocks and ‘mansi’ means human. This plant, which is also called the spikenard, nard, nardin, and muskroot, has pink bell shaped flowers. It is an endangered medical herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine. Ayurveda describes Jatamansi as a combination of three tastes- bitter, astringent and sweet. Its chemical composition consists of a volatile oil and two alkaloids, besides an acid which is known as jatamansic acid.
Jatamansi is the most effective herb for putting an end to Vata imbalance. Vata is one of the three life forces or doshas- the other two are Pitta and Kapha. Ayurveda teaches us that it is these doshas that determine the constitution and health of an individual. They are balanced in a unique proportion in each of us, and any imbalance causes ill health. Vata dosha is responsible for all mental functioning and emotions
The seeds and fruits of the Jatamansi are the parts used for herbal remedies. In Kerala, a state in South India considered by many to be the home of Ayurveda, Jatamansi in root, oil and powder form has been used for hundreds of years by its traditional families of Ayurvedic physicians, as a nervine tonic and memory enhancer. It is also used to treat neurological disorders like epilepsy, hysteria, syncope, convulsions, and mental weakness. Due to its sedative action Jatamansi is very effective in chronic anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraine and tension headaches. Today, it is used in the Ayurvedic treatment of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Oil of Jatamansi is used to treat palpitations of the heart as the herb possesses anti-arrhythmic properties. It helps in maintaining the circulatory system and in purifying the blood too. Jatamansi is very effective in treating respiratory problems. It relieves the phlegm in cough and is also used in cases of asthma. This herb is a strong antioxidant, a coolant, an anti-inflammatory agent and a diuretic. It is especially helpful in treating urine related problems, including kidney stones and renal colic as well as in treating fever, especially in combination with other herbs.
Ayurvedic physicians prescribe Jatamansi as an aphrodisiac. In the menopausal syndrome it is used in combination with other nervine tonics and also as an emmenagogue, for it promotes menstruation and has a cleansing effect on the uterus. At the same time, decoctions made from this herb are useful in hepatitis and in treating enlargement of the liver, as well as for problems with the digestive tract, including lack of appetite, poor digestion, flatulence and constipation.
Jatamansi is an antiseptic. The decoction of the root is applied on the affected areas in skin problems, burns, wounds, rashes, eczema, and allergies, and in skin infections caused by streptococcus bacteria known as erysipelas. In cases of severe headaches due to hypertension or migraine, you can take the herb twice a day for 2 weeks. The oil of the herb can be used to massage the head. The oil is obtained from the root of the herb, and is called Nard oil. It is used in the making of perfumes, incense, cosmetics and deodorants. So whether it is to combat stress or to relieve insomnia, to treat coughs or fever, or to get relief from respiratory, urinary, digestive, or skin problems, let the root that resembles the matted locks of a sage restore the balance of your life forces and restore you to good health.