Acorus Calamus is aromatic with sweet-scented leaves and spicy-flavoured underground rhizomes. It is often used as a substitute for spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger but the list of medicinal claims makes this plant stand apart.
The Many Facets of Acorus Calamus
It is emetic – induces vomiting when your stomach needs cleansing.
It is expectorant – when your cough needs to clear.
It is emmenagogue – when menstrual flow is a problem.
It relieves pains, eases bowels, releases gas, and expels worms. It cures paralysis, cuts away tumours, is aphrodisiac and banishes epilepsy.
It is anti-convulsant, antispasmodic, antidepressant, sedative and antiseptic. It fights inflammation and disallows oxidation. It helps the heart, brain and tummy, and enhances the mood. They use it to make incense too. It does this and much more.
The medicinal properties of this amazing plant are so varied you’ll wonder how come you didn’t know about it before!
Many Names, One Acorus
Acorus Calamus is Vacha in Ayurveda. One interesting feature of Vacha is that its history dated back 4000 years. Called Bacch in Unani it is also well-known in Chinese traditional medicine. Other traditional systems of healing, including indigenous systems, also use it widely.
In Meghalaya, Northeast India it is among the 40 important medicinal and aromatic plants found in the State. Known locally as Bet, U bet, Bat Waitlam, Rynniaw or Bat Bhut, it is used for a variety of ailments.
Some other vernacular names of Acorus calamus are:
English- Sweet Flag
Hindi- Bajai, Gora-bach, Vasa Bach
Assamese – Boch
Sanskrit- Bhutanashini, Jatila
Acorus calamus has many other names such as cinnamon sedge, myrtle grass, sweet sedge and others. It may have originated in India and then spread to other parts of the world such as Europe, Southern Russia, China and the northern part of the USA.
Acorus, The Plant
Acorus calamus of the Acoraceae family is a perennial rhizomatous creeping herb growing in marshy and moist regions. Its rhizomes are dark brown and spongy, leaves are narrow and linear, up to 80 cm long. The inflorescence is spadix with pale green spikes of minute flowers. They compact around a fleshy axis, enclosed in a spathe, like in Anthuriums. Seeds are oblong and are contained in green, angular berries.
The plant is aromatic with sweet-scented leaves and spicy-flavoured rhizomes (underground stem). It is often used as a substitute for spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
The parts used for medicine are the leaves and rhizome. Calamus oil, extracted from its rhizome seems to be valued for its antispasmodic and carminative properties. It also is a brain tonic and strengthens memory and cures neural diseases like epilepsy. One of its components, asarone oil is an effective sedative.
Acorus Calamus Many Uses, Enough to Fill a Treatise
Some uses are:
- To clear sinuses
- To treat the side effects of psychedelic substances
- As a sedative and tranquillizer to calm nerves and reduce anxiety
- As bronchial dilator to decongest the chest in asthmatics.
- As blood-vessel dilator to increase blood flow to the brain.
- As skin moisturizer and hair tonic. It helps to prevent hair loss.
- To improve memory
- To improve voice clarity
- To build an appetite and improve digestion
Traditional healers among the Khasis of Meghalaya healers use the leaves to treat paralysis. They grind the leaves to a paste and boil it in water and apply the concoction as a fomentation.
The juice made by boiling rhizomes and leaves in water is also useful in treating rheumatism, epilepsy and swelling of the body. The juice is taken orally or through topical application. This is also used for coughs and snake bites.
The sundried and powdered rhizome is an effective carminative and febrifuge. It also helps to eliminate flatulence and fevers. Boiling the powder with water makes a concoction that:
- Relieves abdominal spasms, sore throats and headaches
- Cures malaria
- Helps menstrual flow
- Calms the mind
- Remove mucus from bronchi, clearing air passages and relieving and curing asthma
- Cures diarrhoea and dysentery
- Fights fungal infections, such as scabies, on skin
The leaf paste is a mighty antiseptic, useful in cuts and wounds.
In many places in Northeast India, especially in Manipur, parents tie pieces of dried root around their children’s necks. That is to cure them of whooping coughs they say. One odd use is to mix the powdered root with powdered animal bones to relieve patients fallen sick due to witchcraft. In Ayurveda, it has great value and a body rejuvenator and stimulant for body and brain.
Acorus calamus is often combined with other herbs for more effect.
- In cancers and ulcers, it is used with Ageratum conyzoides (chickweed) and Piper peepuloides (wild pepper)
- In malaria, it used as a decoction with Achyranthes aspera (Devil’s horsewhip)and Allium sativum (garlic)
- In leprosy, it is applied together with the rhizome of Costus speciosus (crepe ginger)
- For joint pains, the ground rhizome powder is mixed with mustard oil and applied
Why Acorus Calamus Works
The major and active constituents are Asarone in the leaves and acorenone in the rhizomes. Asarone is helpful in epileptic fits, hysteric attacks, blood circulation and metabolic functions. Acorenone is useful for a variety of gastrointestinal disorders. The plant’s lignans and omega-3 acids help the digestive system and are responsible for its many healing properties.
Investigations found that Acorus calamus has wide antimicrobial properties. It acts against many bacteria, yeasts and fungi, inhibiting their growth. Its antioxidant properties are found to lower the incidence of paralysis in rats. It also has insecticidal properties which inhibit the growth of parasitic worms.
How to Use Acorus Calamus
Calamus as tea is great. Dried and cut rhizomes or powder can be steeped for a few minutes in boiling water and drank. You can add it to other teas as well, or to other health drinks.
Among the greatest benefits of Acorus calamus is its efficacy in treating forms of neuralgia. This also relieves headaches and vertigo.
It also acts as a sedative, which is tranquillizing and banishes pain.
Essential oil form is a convenient way to use calamus.
However, as with most other plant remedies, taking precautions are necessary. Lactating mothers or pregnant women are not advised to take it. Neither should those who have bleeding disorders.
Follow the advice on the label before taking calamus in any form. Always consult a trained practitioner when you have a medical condition or when in doubt.