The ancients, under the name of nard (Heb. nerd; Gr. ναρδος-, Lat. nardus), made use of several roots having properties similar to valerian; one having its flowers (or leaves) in spikes was called spikenard (nardus spicatus), and, according to Boyle, was the plant now known to botanists as nardostachys Jatamansi, which belongs to the valerian family and is found in Bengal; it is now quite out of use except in the East. There were also a leafy nard, a rooting nard, and others designated by the names of the countries producing them. - The plant called spikenard in this country is aralia racemosa. Other species of aralia are mentioned under Ginseng and Saesapaeilla. This has a herbaceous, widely branched stem, 3 to 5 ft. high, from a perennial root; the large decompound leaves ternately or quinately divided with heart-ovate leaflets; the flowers, in umbels, which are united to form large panicles, are polygamous or perfect, greenish white, and succeeded by small dark purple berries. The plant is found from Canada southward, and is sometimes seen in gardens of medicinal plants; both root and berries have a warm, aromatic taste, and a tincture of them made with spirits is in some parts of the country a popular domestic stimulant.
The root appears to be a stimulant diaphoretic, and was held in high esteem by the Indians.