Herbs & Plants

Calamus (Acorus Calamus)

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Botanical Name :Acorus calamus /Acorus americanus
Family: Acoraceae
Genus:     Acorus
Species: A. calamus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Acorales

Common Names  : Calamus root , Sweet Sledge. Sweet Myrtle, Sweet Flag
Other Names:   Beewort, bitter pepper root, calamus root, flag root, gladdon, myrtle flag, myrtle grass, myrtle root, myrtle sedge, pine root, rat root, sea sedge, sweet cane, sweet cinnamon, sweet grass, sweet myrtle, sweet root, sweet rush, and sweet sedge. Common names in Asia include: “vacha”; “bacch” (Unani); “bajai,” “gora-bach,” “vasa bach” (Hindi); “vekhand” (Marathi); “vashambu” (Tamil); “vadaja,” “vasa” (Telugu); “baje” (Kannada); “vayambu” (Malayalam); Haimavati, “bhutanashini,” “jatila” (Sanskrit).

Parts Used: Roots and rhizome

Habitat: Wet soil and shallow water. Probably indigenous to India, Acorus calamus is now found across Europe, in southern Russia, northern Asia Minor, southern Siberia, China, Japan, Burma, Sri Lanka, and northern USA.

Description: Calamus or Common Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus) is a plant from the Acoraceae family, Acorus genues. It is a tall perennial wetland monocot with scented leaves and rhizomes which have been used medicinally, for its odor, and as a psychotropic drug.It is a perennial plant that grows more or less abundantly throughout the northern hemisphere, inhabiting pond edges, marshes, swamps, and the banks of rivers and streams. It’s horizontal, creeping rootstock, which may grow to be 5 feet long, produces sword-shaped leaves from 2 to 6-feet high and also a keeled or ridged bloom : May – August
stalk which bears a cylindrical spadix covered by minute greenish-yellow flowers.

Botanical information: The morphological distinction between the Acorus species is made by the number of prominent leaf veins. Acorus calamus has a single prominent midvein and then on both sides slightly raised secondary veins (with a diameter less than half the midvein) and many, fine tertiary veins. This makes it clearly distinct from Acorus americanus.

The leaves are between 0.7 and 1.7 cm wide, with average of 1 cm. The sympodial leaf of Acorus calamus is somewhat shorter than the vegetative leaves. The margin is curly-edged or undulate. The spadix, at the time of expansion, can reach a length between 4.9 and 8.9 cm (longer than A. americanus). The flowers are longer too, between 3 and 4 mm. Acorus calamus is infertile and shows an abortive ovary with a shriveled appearance.
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Constituents: Aserone, Cis-methyl isoeugenol Calamene, Linalool, Eugenol, Azulene, Pinene, Cineole, Camphor, Sesquiterpenes, Acoric acid, Tannin, Resin, Mucilage.

Chemistry: Both triploid and tetraploid calamus contain asarone, but diploid does not contain any.

Usage: Calamus has been an item of trade in many cultures for thousands of years. Calamus has been used medicinally for a wide variety of ailments.

In antiquity in the Orient and Egypt, the rhizome was thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac. In Europe Acorus calamus was often added to wine, and the root is also one of the possible ingredients of absinthe. Among the northern Native Americans, it is used both medicinally and as a stimulant; in addition, the root is thought to have been used as an entheogen among the northern Native Americans. In high doses, it is hallucinogenic.

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Medicinal Properties:Sdedative, analgesic, tpilepsy, hypertensive. Carminative, Diaphoretic, Emmenagogue, Febrifuge,  and stomachic.
Main Uses:

Calamus rhizome is a bitter tonic that stimulates the digestive juices and is combined with gentian in the tonic Stockton bitters. It counters overacidity, heartburn, and intestinal gas. Herbalists report it useful to help reduce severe loss of appetite due to cancer or other illness or the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. Traditional Islamic medicine employs calamus for stomach and liver inflammation and rheumatism, as well as a calamus-rose oil-vinegar mix to treat burns. Egyptians used sweet flag for scrofula, but it should be combined with supporting, more effective herbs for this chronic condition.

Chinese studies show that calamus extracts kill bacteria, lower blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels, stop coughing, and eliminate lung congestion. Traditional Chinese medicine uses it to open the orifices, vaporize phlegm and quiet the spirit; for phlegm veiling and clocking the sensory orifices with such symptoms as deafness, dizziness, forgetfulness, and dulled sensorium, as well as seizures or stupor. It harmonizes the middle burner and transforms turbid dampness: for such symptoms as chest and epigastric fullness and abdominal pain due to dampness distressing the Spleen and Stomach. Also used both internally and topically for wind-cold-damp painful obstruction, trauma and sores. Use with caution in cases of yin deficiency with heat signs or where there is irritability and excessive sweating or vomiting blood. According to some traditional sources, this herb antagonizes ma huang.

The Regional Research Institute in India found that calamus reduces epileptic fits and even eases some emotional problems. It is also used in India to treat asthma. The Native Americans for the Great Plains chewed it when they had a fever, cough, cold, or toothache. The American species is especially sedative to the central nervous system and stops muscle spasms. In India the burnt root mixed with some bland oil is used as a poultice for flatulence and colic as well as for paralyzed limbs and indolent ulcers and wounds. Its solvents are alcohol and partially in hot water.

Calamus is particularly known for its beneficial effects on the stomach. It stimulates appetite and helps to relieve acute and chronic dyspepsia, gastritis, and hyperacidity.
In Europe, calamus is used for the stomach and bowel because it stimulates the salivary glands and production of stomach juices, helping to counter acidity and ease heartburn and dyspepsia. It also eased flatulence and relaxed the bowel, reducing catarrhal states of the mucous membranes.

Calamus is good for gastritis resulting from heavy drinking. Take an infusion twice a day.

Preparation And Dosages:
Infusion: Steep 1 teaspoon rootstock in 1/2 cup water for 5 minutes. Twice a day.
Decoction: Add 1 tablespoon dried rootstock to 1 cup simmering water and boil briefly. Take 1 cup a day.
Tincture: Fresh (1:2), dry (1:5), in 60% alcohol. Take 15 to 45 drops, two to four times a day. To improve appetite and digestion, take 15 minutes before meals.
Oil: Take 2 to 3 drops, three times a day.

Regulations: Calamus and products derived from calamus (such as its oil) were banned in 1968 as food additives and medicines by the United States Food and Drug Administration(FDA).

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.