Names: Spignet. Life of Man. Pettymorell. Old Man’s Root. Indian Spikenard. Indian Root, Petty Morrel, Life-of-Man, wild licorice, American sarsaparilla, pigeon weed
Properties: alterative, diaphoretic, expectorant, chi tonic, diuretic, carminative
History: This herb is usually referred to as American Spikenard to differentiate it from the fragrant spikenard of the Bible and Sarsaparilla. All spikenards have been popular in American medicine. The root is similar to Sarsaparilla and has similar properties. They are in the same family as ginseng and do look like giant ginsengs. They are all called “manroot,” although spikenard’s root is much larger and less inclined to have ginseng’s distinct, humanlike form. The Cherokee and New World settlers made a tea for backache. The Shawnee used it for flatulence, coughs, asthma and breast pain. The Menominee used it as a cure for blood poisoning. Was included in the US National Formulary from 1916-1965.
Spikenard; also called nard, nardin, and muskroot, is a class of aromatic amber-colored essential oil derived from flowering plants, the identification of which is variable. The oil has, since ancient times, been used as a perfume, as a medicine and in religious contexts, across a wide territory from India to Europe. The identity of the plants used in manufacturing of historic spikenard is not certain; Nardostachys jatamansi from Asia (the modern definition of “spikenard”), lavender from the Middle East, Alpine spikenard from Europe and possibly lemongrass have been suggested as candidates, and it is likely that different plants were used in different times and places.
The Bible contains several references to the spikenard, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and it is used in Catholic iconography to represent Saint Joseph. With this meaning, Pope Francis has included the spikenard in his coat of arms.