Sweet flag, or calamus has been used since ancient times, however modern misuse of the root oil has given rise to concerns over its use. Traditionally calamus was used for its effects on the digestive system and the lungs. This herb eliminates phlegm, clears congestion, and tranquilizes the mind. Traditional uses include :amnesia, heart palpitations, insomnia, tinnitus, chronic bronchitis, and bronchial asthma.
The root oil is strong and fragrant, its taste warm, bitterish, pungent and aromatic. Its active principles are taken up by boiling water. It is a thick, pale yellow liquid, and has a high toxicity(see cautions.)
In Europe calamus is used as a digestive aid, helping to counter acidity and ease heartburn and dyspepsia. The root is also chewed to help toothache and to help stop smoking. Acorus can blunt gastric upset during the acute phase of drug withdrawal.
Preparation Methods & Dosage :Traditionally taken as a tea, however internal use is not recommended for the casual user. Seek guidance from a herbal practitioner. Calamus may be used externally as a bath additive, or as an alcohol rub for sore muscles and circulation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
In TCM sweet flag is used to treat deafness, dizziness and epilepsy. It is used by the Akha people of Thailand for stomachache. The Chinese use it for vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and dysentery.
Calamus Side Effects:
The essential oil of calamus contains aserone, which has a high toxicity. In high doses, it is hallucinogenic. European varieties have a low concentration of aserone compared to those from India. The FDA has issued warnings about the marketing of Aserone contained in Calamus extract as a "Legal Ecstasy", and does not permit the use of calamus in food products. Do not use this herb internally without the supervision of a qualified expert. Use the whole herb only in external applications; never use the essential oil of calamus in extract form. 2,3,4
Leaves: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 leaves are fragrant and were used as a strewing herb. Botanists distinguish between the Acorus species 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.
Root: Aromatic, spicy, part used medicinally
Distribution:Probably indigenous to India, Acorus calamus is now found across Europe, in southern Russia, northern Asia Minor, southern Siberia, China, Japan, Burma, Sri Lanka, Australia, southern Canada and northern USA.
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History and Traditions & Folklore
Sweet Flag was brought to Europe by the Tartars in the thirteenth century, and is one of the herbs mentioned in the book of Exodus.
The name 'acorus' is derived from the Greek word 'acoron', a name used by Dioscorides, which in turn was derived from 'coreon', meaning 'pupil', because it was used in herbal medicine as a treatment for inflammation of the eye.
The Hebrews used the oil pressed from Acorus, along with oils of olive, cinnamon and myrrh ,in a sacred anointing oil used at the Tabernacle, and used the leaves as a sweet, strewing herb for all places of worship. Acorus leaves are still scattered today on festival days. 1
** Information on the traditional uses and properties of herbs are provided on this site is for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. Every attempt has been made for accuracy, but none is guaranteed. Many traditional uses and properties of herbs have not been validated by the FDA. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering herbs. **