Protecting Critically Endangered Spikenard
Essential oils have been a source of natural healing and health for thousands of years; however, over the last few decades, more and more people have learned about the benefits of essential oils and have started to implement them into their daily routines. As the demand for essential oils continues to increase, so does the demand for the plants from which they come, and for several plants, this demand has led to extreme overharvesting and potential extinction.
The Effects of Overharvesting
The ever-growing demand for essential oils requires that farmers and suppliers harvest more and more essential oil-producing plants. Such practices quickly lead to overharvesting and can jeopardize a plant's overall population. Many farmers and suppliers still practice sustainable farming, which includes harvesting only limited amounts of a plant to ensure that its worldwide supply is not depleted. Unfortunately, however, there are enough people who continue to excessively harvest plants in an attempt to supply the insatiable demand for essential oils. As a result, many plants are now critically endangered and risking extinction.
The plants that are most affected by overharvesting include plants that grow in the wild (as opposed to cultivated plants) and trees. These plants are particularly affected by overharvesting because there is a limited supply and, in some cases, the plant takes longer to grow to a mature state in which it can provide pure and effective essential oils.
As plants become endangered, the price for their essential oil increases and there are often more laws to protect the plants; however, people continue to harvest the plants and illegally trade or smuggle them to buyers. If overharvesting continues, there will come a point where the supply for specific plants or oils is completely dried up, or regulatory agencies will intervene to more strictly limit the amount of plants harvested and the oil produced.
Overharvesting's Affect on Spikenard
Spikenard is considered a precious and rare oil, and has been for thousands of years. This herbaceous plant grows in the harsh conditions on the Himalayan mountains. Throughout history, people have used Spikenard to help with anxiety, stress, or insomnia. It is also known to help with digestive issues, migraines, inflammation, depression, and more. Today, Spikenard continues to be seemingly irresistible to both essential oil companies and users — and to farmers who supply essential oils.
While it may not seem harmful to have such a high demand for an essential oil, such a demand on Spikenard quickly takes its toll for several reasons:
- Spikenard grows in the wild. Some farmers may be able to cultivate a limited amount, but it seems that the best and only way to grow and harvest Spikenard is in the wild. This means that we cannot control the amount of Spikenard grown, nor can we grow more than Mother Nature supplies. As a result, the majority of Spikenard is harvested in an attempt to produce and sell as much of its essential oil as possible. This overharvesting quickly depletes Spikenard's worldwide population.
- Spikenard essential oil comes from the plant's root. It would be one thing if harvesters could simply trim off the leaves or flowers of the Spikenard plant in order to produce its essential oil; however, because the oil comes from the plant's roots, farmers have to harvest the entire plant, which completely eliminates the harvested plants from the population trend. Plus, it takes vast quantities of the plant to produce only a minute amount of oil.
- Spikenard mainly grows in the Himalayas. Nepal is one of the only countries where you can find Spikenard, and since it only grows in the wild, the supply of Spikenard plants is significantly limited.
- Regulations to protect Spikenard are difficult to enforce. The Nepal government has created an agency in an attempt to regulate the sustainable production and harvest of Spikenard; however, the agency has found that they have little power to enforce the laws or punish offenders. As a result, people continue to overharvest Spikenard without fear of retribution. Plus, there is no record of other countries even attempting to regulate Spikenard harvesting in their own lands.
As a result of these factors and others, overharvesting Spikenard has resulted in it being listed as critically endangered with a decreasing population trend. In fact, Spikenard is facing complete extinction in the next few years unless dramatic drastic measures are taken to protect it, as well as to improve and enforce sustainable harvesting practices worldwide.
We Support The Protection of Spikenard
At Rocky Mountain Oils, our number-one priority is caring for Mother Nature and the plants from which our oils are sourced. We recognize the benefits of essential oils and love being able to provide those benefits to you and your family. However, we also recognize our responsibility to care for the earth that provides these incredible plants.
Because we care about Mother Nature and the plants used for essential oils, we have chosen to no longer carry Spikenard essential oil due to its critically endangered status. We will also be reformulating any blend that contains Spikenard.
We understand that there are likely many who will continue to harvest and sell Spikenard; however, we believe that every little bit can help, and we encourage you to join us in our efforts to contribute to the protection and demand for ethical, sustainable harvesting of this precious plant.
Birkmayer, Florian, MD. "Farewell Palo Sant, Farewell Spikenard: Eulogy For Lost Essential Oils." The International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy 7, no. 4 (2019): 41-43.
Red List. "Nardostachys jatamansi." IUCNRedList.org. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/50126627/50131395
Tisserand, Robert. "Spikenard and Sustainability." Tisserand Institute. https://tisserandinstitute.org/spikenard-sustainability/