Spikenard

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

spikenard the aromatic root of Nardostachys jatamansi, native to the western Himalayas (the mountain range described in a Buddhist text as ‘producer of many perfumes, rich with hundreds of magical drugs’). Traditionally spikenard has been floated down the Indus in bales and exported by way of the Indian Ocean and Red Sea to the Mediterranean. There, in classical and medieval times, it was prized in compound medicines, in perfumes, and even in food—so much prized that a certain King Seleucus, presumably Seleucus I of Syria in the early 3rd century bc, tried without success to transplant it to Arabia where he might have controlled the trade.