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American Spikenard

Kristine Paulus, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

American Spikenard (Aralia racemosa)

American Spikenard, also known as small spikenard or spiceberry, is a large herbaceous plant which grows from 3-6 feet in height. Its leaves are large and heart-shaped and it produces tapered clusters of small greenish white flowers. After flowering, this plant produces clusters of small purple berries. It is native to much of eastern North America from southeastern Canada to northern Mexico (Minnesota Native Plant Society, 2022).

Historical Use

Image showing a description of historical use, summarized in paragraph below
(Rafinesque, C. S. (1828). Medical flora. Atkinson & Alexander.)

As noted in Medical Flora (1828), American Spikenard was historically used for a great many purposes. Preparations applied topically to the chest were used for respiratory complaints. A poultice of the roots was used to treat wounds, and a compress soaked in an extract of American Spikenard was used to treat other dermatological conditions. The essential oil was used for earaches (Rafinesque, 1828).  

Modern Use

While there is a historical record for the use of American Spikenard as a medicinal plant, there are unfortunately few modern studies on medicinal use of the plant. However, a 2016 chemical analysis of the leaves found that they contain a variety of flavonoids, phenols, saponins, terpenoids and glycosides (Prasanth, Rao, & Yejella, 2016).  One study found significant analgesic effect in extracts of American Spikenard roots (Kaur & Kaur, 2011). In addition, another study examined one of the terpenoids extracted from American Spikenard and concluded it had potential as a treatment for cancer (Clement, Willis, Kelly, McCoy, & Schmitt, 2009).   

Latest Research

  • PgDDS Changes the Plant Growth of Transgenic Aralia elata and Improves the Production of Re and Rg(3) in Its Leaves
    by Wenhua Guo on February 10, 2024 at 11:00 am

    Aralia elata (Miq.) Seem is a medicinal plant that shares a common pathway for the biosynthesis of triterpenoid saponins with Panax ginseng. Here, we transferred the dammarenediol-II synthase gene from P. ginseng (PgDDS; GenBank: AB122080.1) to A. elata. The growth of 2-year-old transgenic plants (L27; 9.63 cm) was significantly decreased compared with wild-type plants (WT; 74.97 cm), and the leaflet shapes and sizes of the transgenic plants differed from those of the WT plants. Based on a…

  • Traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology, toxicity and quality control of medicinal genus Aralia: A review
    by Yi Xu on October 10, 2021 at 10:00 am

    CONCLUSIONS: The genus Aralia is not only an excellent traditional herbal medicine, but also a source of bioactive molecules with good application prospects. However, the structure-activity relationship, in vivo activity and action mechanism of its bioactive components need to be further studied. In addition, more toxicological and quality control studies are essential to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Aralia as medicine.

  • A Review on a Medicinal and Edible Plant: Aralia elata (Miq.) Seem
    by Wenxin Xia on January 13, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Aralia elata (Miq.) Seem. (Araliaceae), which is the key point of this review, is a precious wild vegetable that has served in the treatment of diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis in traditional folk medicine in East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Russia). This review aims to overview the results of the current research related to Aralia elata (Miq.) Seem., with particular emphasis on chemical composition and biological activity. The existing research has been searched and summarized through the…

  • American Civil War plant medicines inhibit growth, biofilm formation, and quorum sensing by multidrug-resistant bacteria
    by Micah Dettweiler on May 24, 2019 at 10:00 am

    A shortage of conventional medicine during the American Civil War (1861-1865) spurred Confederate physicians to use preparations of native plants as medicines. In 1863, botanist Francis Porcher compiled a book of medicinal plants native to the southern United States, including plants used in Native American traditional medicine. In this study, we consulted Porcher’s book and collected samples from three species that were indicated for the formulation of antiseptics: Liriodendron tulipifera,…

  • Gastroprotective effect of araloside A on ethanol- and aspirin-induced gastric ulcer in mice: involvement of H+/K+-ATPase and mitochondrial-mediated signaling pathway
    by Haibo He on December 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

    The aim of this study was to elucidate the gastroprotective activity and possible mechanism of involvement of araloside A (ARA) against ethanol- and aspirin-induced gastric ulcer in mice. The experimental mice were randomly divided into control, model, omeprazole (20 mg/kg, orally) and ARA (10, 20 and 40 mg/kg, orally). Gastric ulcer in mice was induced by intragastric administration of 80% ethanol (10 mL/kg) containing 15 mg/mL aspirin 4 h after drug administration on day 7. The results…


Clement, J. A., Willis, T. J., Kelly, R. M., McCoy, J. A., & Schmitt, J. D. (2009). Antitumor activity of Aralia racemosa. Planta Medica, 75(4), 451.

Prasanth, D. S. N. B. K., Rao, A. S., & Yejella, R. P. (2016). Pharmacognostic and preliminary phytochemical investigation of leaves of Aralia racemosa. Pharmacognosy Journal, 8(3), 250-254. doi:10.5530/pj.2016.3.13

Rafinesque, C. S. (1828). Medical flora: Atkinson & Alexander.

Minnesota Native Plant Society. (2022). Aralia racemosa (Spikenard). Minnesota Wildflowers: a field guide to the flora of Minnesota.