Facts and benefits of American spikenard

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American spikenard Quick Facts
Name: American spikenard
Scientific Name: Aralia racemosa
Origin Native to North America
Colors Dark purple
Shapes Round
Other names for American Spikenard are: Anis Sauvage, American Sarsaparilla, Aralia à Grappes, Aralia racemosa, Aralie à Grappes, Aralie Épineuse, Grande Salsepareille, Espinardo Americano, Indian Spikenard, Indian Root, Life-of-Man, Life of Man, American Spikenard, Old Man’s Root, Spignet, Pettymorell, Spignet, Salsepareille d’Amérique and Small Spikenard. Botanically known as Aralia racemosa, is a perennial bush generally grows to 10 feet high. American spikenard has tuberous, thick and whitish yellow branching rhizome and spongy has yellow colored latex. Generally, leaves are large which bears petite greenish white flowers. Fruits or berries are red or purple in color.

This perennial herbaceous forb grows on shrubby stems usually 7 feet high. Stems are much branched on older plants without thorns, hair and turns dark maroon color as the season progress. Leaves are large, oval with 3 and 5 pinnates. Flowers are small, green that forms laterally from axils or in spikes at end of the plant in long, paniculated and spherical umbels. Berries are round and dark red or purple. The flower blooms from July to August.


Leaves are few, large compound and divided into three main sections. Each section is pinnately divided into 9 to 21 leaflets which are stalked, ovate, sharply toothed, and quite variable in size and often double toothed. They taper to the pointed tip with heart shaped base. Leaflets are 2 to 6 inches long. Veins on the leaflet are underside and leaflets stalk have fine hair.


Inflorescence is a compound spreading panicle that measures 12 inches long which composes rounded umbels. Each umbel forms on a separate stalk and entire inflorescence branches up from the top of the stem and sometimes from leaf axils. The umbels comprises of individually stalked flowers. Flowers are five parted having small, white to greenish, triangular petals that reflex when in flower. Sepals are insignificant and green. Flowers are bisexual having five stamens, white filaments, strongly exserted and rise opposite to the petals. An ovary is ovoid with 5 styles united for half their length. Stalks are covered densely in a very short white pairs that provides a frosty look.

Leaves and stems

Leaves are twice compound, large over 2 feet long and nearly as wide. Leaflets are oval, 5 ½ inches long and heart shaped at the base tapering sharply pointed tip, sharply toothed and has fine hairs along underside veins on slender stalks. Stems are dark maroon, stout and generally smooth and covered in short and fine hairs.


Flowers are followed by dark purple or reddish-brown, round, fleshy drupe that measures 6 mm size containing several small and light brown seeds. Seed require 60 days of cold stratification for germination. It is seeded in the fall for spring germination. The plant could be propagated through division and root cuttings


The plant is understory shade tolerant that grows in wet to mesic woodlands, prairies and thickets. The plant tolerates full sun but partial sun is the best. Soils are well drained and moderately rich. The plant originates in the wooded mountains of North America in an area that extends from Central Canada down to Virginia. The plant grows on rocky and highly fertile river banks.

Medicinal uses

  • It promotes sweating, is detoxifying and stimulating and also used internally for treating pulmonary disease, rheumatism and asthma.
  • It is externally used as a poultice for treating rheumatism and skin problems such as eczema.
  • Use the pulverized roots drink as a treatment for coughs.
  • Apply the root or fruit poultice to sores, itchy skin, burns, swellings, ulcers etc.
  • Traditionally it is used for treating rheumatism, skin diseases, whooping cough, diaphoretic, pleurisy, asthma, diarrhea, rheumatism, expectorant, stimulant, inflammation, syphilis and hay fever.
  • The plant decoction is used for treating skin diseases and bath to give fragrance to the body.
  • It is helpful for pulmonary diseases, gynecological problems, digestive weakness, hay fever, blood purification, bronchitis, colds, diarrhea, fever, sore throat, rheumatic aches, veneral disease, coughs and asthma.
  • Use it externally for hemorrhoids and skin diseases.
  • Tea intake before labor helps to make childbirth easier and shortens labor.
  • Roots are used by Native Americans for boils, wounds, pimples, acne, rashes, blackheads, swellings, rashes, inflammations, bruises and chest pains.
  • Use the pounded root externally as a poultice or dressing.
  • The herbal tea made with American spikenard is used for treating headaches, chest pain, coughs, asthma and pain from stomach gas.
  • American spikenard tea during labor facilitate and less painful childbirth.
  • Apply the balm with American spikenard topically to heal cuts and wounds.
  • Use the poultice of American spikenard to heal fractured bones.
  • The decoction made of herb’s roots and bark helps to treat menstrual disorders and prolapsed uteruses.
  • Also it is used for respiratory and pulmonary infections, tuberculosis and coughs.
  • Drink of macerated spikenard root is used as a remedy for cough.
  • Apply the fruits topically to prickly skin, ulcers and sores.
  • Seeds oil is used to cure deafness and earache when poured into ears.
  • In traditional folk medication, it is used for treating backaches and in the form of purifying spring tonic.

Culinary uses

  • Fruits are consumed raw or cooked.
  • Cook the young shoots as potherb or use it as a flavoring for soups.
  • Cook the roots or use it in soups.
  • Fruits are used to make jelly.


  • Avoid by pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers because of insufficient information.
  • It may cause irritation when applied to the skin.

















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