Acorus Calamus (Root And Oil)
Acorus calamus is a tall perennial plant belonging to the Acorus genus. They are also known as Sweet Flag and Calamus. The leaves and rhizomes of these wetland monocot plants have a strong fragrance. The rhizomes contain oil which has many medicinal uses. These plants are sometimes mistakenly referred to as “sedges” or “rushes”; however they originally belong to Acoraceae family. The Acorus calamus is sometimes confused with Acorus americanus in northern United States.
Table Of Content
Sweet Flag Scientific Name
The scientific name for this plant is Acorus calamus.
History of Acorus calamus
The history of these plants goes back as far as 4000 years. They were first cultivated in the mountain regions of Central Asia where they were used in traditional Chinese as well as Ayurvedic medicines. Ancient Sumerian and Egyptian people used Acorus calamus as sacred incense. It was used as a freshener for churches in Europe.
Acorus calamus Description
These tall grass-like plants have long scented leaves and spadix.
Size: The average height of these plants is around 2 meters.
Leaves: The sword like leaves of Calamus grow somewhere between 0.7 and 1.7 cm in width. The edges of the short sympodial leaves are curly. The plants of the Acorus species are distinguished from each other by the number of prominent veins on their leaves. The green leaves of the Acorus calamus plants have one prominent mid-vein. There are also two secondary veins and numerous fine tertiary veins. This is the principle difference between the appearances of Acorus calamus and Acorus americanus.
Spadix: The spadix can grow anywhere between 4.9cm and 8.9 cm.
Flowers: The average size of the greenish yellow flowers of these plants is 3 to 4mm.
Acorus calamus Distribution
These plants are mainly found in Europe, southern regions of Russia, southern Siberia and northern Asia Minor. The distribution range includes other places like Indonesia China, Burma, Japan, Sri Lanka and Australia. They are also found in southern Canada and northern regions of United States.
Acorus calamus Cultivation
These hardy perennial plants are cultivated in order to use the leaves and roots for different purposes. They usually grow well at the banks of ponds and lakes. The land preparations are similar to paddy.
Soil: They grow well in clayey and sandy loam soils as well as in alluvial soils.
Sunlight: These plants need plenty of sunlight in order to grow properly.
Climate: Tropical and sub-tropical climates are ideal for their growth.
Water: The Acorus calamus plants need ample amounts of water.
Temperature: The ideal temperature for their proper growth ranges between 10 °C and 38 °C.
Fertilizers: Suitable fertilizers are necessary.
These plants are ready for cultivation once their lower leaves dry and turn yellow. The rhizomes of the uprooted plants are cut into small pieces, washed properly and dried under shade.
Acorus calamus Oil
Oil is extracted from fresh or dried roots of the Sweet Flag plants using the steam distillation process. This yellowish brown volatile oil has a strong, spicy aroma. It has numerous health benefits to offer as it has anti spasmodic, anti rheumatic and anti biotic properties. However, this oil is never used for aroma therapy.
Health Benefits of Acorus calamus
There are numerous health benefits of the roots as well as the essential oil of these medicinal plants.
- The Acorus calamus roots can fight various stomach problems like colic and flatulence.
- These roots can relieve health disorders like nausea, bloating, heartburn, constipation and upset stomach.
- It increases appetite and is beneficial for chronic diarrhea.
- The roots help to get rid of the habit of smoking tobacco.
- The expectorant properties of the roots make it beneficial for asthma and whooping cough.
Essential Oil Benefits
- The essential oil extraction of these plants gives relief from arthritis and gout by increasing the blood circulation of the affected area.
- This essential oil acts as an antibiotic preventing various internal and external infections.
- It stimulates metabolism as well as helps oxygen and various nutrients to reach every part of human body by increasing blood circulation.
- The Sweet Flag oil is beneficial for brain and nervous system fighting many neurotic disorders. It also has memory boosting properties.
- Low doses of this oil can work as a tranquilizer helping in insomnia.
Acorus calamus Nutritional Information
Acorus calamus roots contain many fatty acids including palmitic, myristic, stearic, palmitoleic, arachicic, oleic and linoleic. They also contain glucose, fructose and maltose. Both the roots and leaves of these plants are rich in antioxidants. The oil extraction contains eugenol, calamine, terpenoids, calamenol, camphene and calamenone.
Uses of Acorus calamus
Different parts of the Sweet Flag plants have many medicinal uses. They are sometimes used for some culinary purposes as well. However, their essential oil should be used along with other vegetable oils such as jojoba and olive oil for medicinal purposes.
- The extracted oil of these plants is used in liquors and alcoholic drinks to add flavor.
- Powdered roots and rhizomes are sometimes used as a substitute for ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- The Sweet Flag leaves are used in puddings and custards as a substitute for vanilla.
- Their rhizomes are sometimes used as a candy flavoring agent.
- Herbal tea is made from the roots of Calamus.
- Calamus oil is used in various expectorants and cough syrups.
- Few drops of this oil are mixed with boiling water and used for inhaling to cure throat and chest congestion.
- It is largely used to treat various disorders of brain and nervous system.
- This essential oil is also used in treating stomach ulcers and gastritis.
- The leaves of Sweet Flag are used in Ayurvedic medicines to treat heart, liver, lung, and kidney problems.
- Powdered roots of Acorus calamus plants are used to relieve motion sickness.
- Decoction made from these roots is used to fight digestive problems and cramps.
- The Sweet flag oil is used for making luxurious soaps, perfumes and other cosmetic products.
- It is also used in toothpastes.
- The leaves of these plants are sometimes used to make baskets and mats.
Using Acorus calamus During Pregnancy
Calamus oil should not be used during pregnancy as it causes various harmful effects. One should also avoid using the roots or any other part of these plants during this time.
How to Cook Acorus calamus
Fresh or powdered rhizomes of these plants are used in cooking. One needs to wash and peel the roots in order to consume them uncooked.
How to Store Acorus calamus
One can dry the Calamus roots in order to store them. Dried roots are powdered and stored in tightly sealed containers. The volatile oil extraction of these plants is stored in airtight containers.
Acorus calamus Interesting Facts
Here are some interesting facts about these medicinal plants.
- The roots of these plants are also known as “Muskrat Root” as muskrats are very fond of them.
- Renowned poet Walt Whitman dedicated as many as 39 poems to Sweet Flag plants in his poetry collection “Leaves of Grass”. These poems are also known as “Calamus Poems”.
- These plants were also a great favorite of American author Henry David Thoreau.
Acorus calamus Side Effects
The roots of Sweet Flag induce vomiting when consumed in large amounts. The Acorus calamus oil may cause some health problems if used in its undiluted form.
Acorus calamus Availability
The roots, seeds and essential oil of Sweet Flag are available in stores or online. 4 oz of Calamus root will cost somewhere between $ 20 and 24 $.
Acorus calamus Pictures
Here are some pictures of the Sweet Flag plants.
Acorus calamus has been used by humans for over 40 centuries. It has been mentioned in mythologies as well as in ancient medicines. Even today, it is counted as one of the most efficient herbal remedy for many health disorders.
- by Deepamala Bhattacharya
- October 20th 2011