Simply identifying this one is a bit of a trick. While this root is often called California ginseng, it is not even related to ginseng. Among the plants called spikenard is Aralia racemosa, which is in the same family (if not genus) as the various ginseng species… but that is not the plant referred to in aphrodisiac literature or cultivated from ancient times for its healing abilities. No, that would be the spikenard botanically called Nardostachys jatamansi, of the same family as valerian.
Spikenard shares an important ability with its cousin valerian: relaxation. It seems to have that effect whether the stress is in the form of anxiety, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, etc. Because tense people also tend to have lackluster libido, it’s useful for that as well.
Spikenard is also classed with the aromatic plants and has been used in India for millenia to that end. Solomon, great importer of exotics that he was, knew of spikenard and listed it in a passage of The Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) along with other perfumed spices such as cypress, calamus and saffron. Some of the biblical references are downright eyebrow-raising.
It’s a plant with very definite medicinal uses, and a staggeringly long and rich history, and one which does indeed have some use for the student and practitioner of the aphrodisiac arts.