The Jatamasi Story|A humbling journey

Nepal, a country in the lap of the great Himalayas, is known for its beauty and diversity. This diversity transcends to the flora and fauna of the country as well. Even after spending around 25+ years working in the medicinal herbs sector, I am still in awe of the potential that the country has and the amount of goodness it has to offer to the world. Out of the 5856 flowering plants recorded in Nepal, 690 species are considered to have medicinal properties*. This is just the outline of the potential this small Himalayan nation possesses. Among these very significant species, Jatamasi or Spikenard holds a very distinct position. 

Jatamansi is a very valuable plant resource of Nepal. The name Jatamansi is a combination of two words: “Jata” meaning hair and “Manasi” meaning humans. This plant holds medicinal values since times immemorial. We can find the mention of this herb in ayurvedic literature as well as in the Bible. It is used in different forms ranging from raw to its oil. Jatamasi is used as a tonic and to treat several illnesses such as headache, high altitude sickness, fever, epilepsy, insomnia, indigestion, dysentery, diuretics, measles, skin diseases, ulcers, and many more. So, from your hair oil to your medicines there is a trace of Jatamansi all around. 

While the application of this plant is important, its journey from the Himalayas to the market is a pretty interesting one too. From humans to yaks to airplanes, this one herb requires all to make it to the consumers. How? Well, let me explain. 

The ecosystem for the growth

The home of Jatamansi

Jatamansi grows in extremely cold regions of subalpine mountains. The foothills and surrounding areas of snow-laden peaks of the Himalayas are its home. It is usually found at an altitude of 3,000–5,000 m (9,800–16,400 ft). Its rhizomes rest under the soil during the winter season and start sprouting after melting of the snow around April- May. The plant grows along with the grasses once the summer season arrives. It’s a beautiful sight to behold. 

Jatamasi starts flowering in the months of July-September. The blooming of the plant marks its maturity. The flowers are hermaphrodite, rosy, pale pink, or purple. The collection of Jatamansi starts once the fruits are ripened. The seeds of this plant mature in the month of October. 

Parts harvested

Jatamansi roots

Usually, the Jatamansi rhizomes are collected for commercial purposes. The collection is done by the local communities in the Himalayan regions. These communities specialize in picking the right quality of the plant. The immature plants are discarded by local collectors. These plants have to be carefully collected as they are mixed with other grasses. This is where the indigenous knowledge of the locals plays a major role. The collected jatamansi is dried and stocked in the field.

The collection process

Freshly harvested Jatamansi

In Nepal, all the collections from the forests are monitored by the government. This is done in order to avoid excess damage to the ecosystem. Hence, the people have to take collection permits from the respective government authorities. The collection season lasts until November. Post this, it becomes difficult to collect Jatamasi as with the lowering of the temperature, the soil becomes stiff making it difficult to pull the roots out.

Making it accessible

The transportation of this herb is a pretty interesting one. Once collected and stocked in fields, it has to be brought down in the lower areas so that it can be further sent to the respective trade centers.

Storing the oil

Exporting the oil

Jatamansi is one of the endangered species of Nepal and also in the world. Hence, the trade of oil is not an easy one. It requires a CITES certification. This certification ensures that the product is prepared by sustainably collected raw material. In order to trade Jatamasi in any part of the world, this is a must, and rightly so. 

I am always fascinated by two things: 1) The kindness of nature and 2) The commitment of human beings. The Jatamasi story is a testimony to both. To think of the amount of effort that goes behind ensuring that we get the best of what nature has to offer always fills me with a lot of gratitude. So the next time, when you are applying your anti-hair fall oil, do think about how the jatamansi made its way to you. Hence, it is important to ensure that we are consuming and collecting this precious gift of nature in the best way possible so that our coming generations can also benefit from it. 

*Medicinal and Aromatic Plants: A growing commercial sector of Nepal by Uday R. Sharma

Written by Mr. Rabindra Nath Shukla, founder, and CEO of Satya Herbal and Spice Products.

+ There are no comments

Add yours