Calamus

Calamus

Acorus calamus

Calamus root is used to make medicine due to its remarkable pharmacological actions. It is famous for tending to gastrointestinal disorders, like flatulence, gastritis, ulcers, and loss of appetite.

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names: Sweet flag, Muskrat root, Myrtle flag, Myrtle grass, Myrtle root
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: No
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Roots and Rhizome
  • Side Effects: Do not use if pregnant
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About Calamus

Calamus is a semi-evergreen herbaceous flowering plant that can be witnessed in swampy areas. It can grow up to a height of 9-15 feet. It contains tufts of basal leaves that are erect, radical, yellowish-brown, with pink sheathing on their bases. They are flat and narrow, somewhat sword-shaped that terminate into acute points. It is also found that the plants that grow in water bear flowers. It fruits barely, but when it does, it becomes the reason for the propagation of the calamus plant.

Calamus root is used to make medicine due to its remarkable pharmacological actions. It is famous for tending to gastrointestinal disorders, like flatulence, gastritis, ulcers, and loss of appetite. Calamus also serves as a muscle relaxant and sedative. It induces sweating to reduce flaring fevers, ameliorates rheumatoid arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory action, and cures certain skin diseases when applied topically. 

The volatile oils found in the calamus are the reason for the distinctive taste and odor of the calamus. It majorly contains beta-asarone, alpha-asarone, saponins, lignans, sesquiterpenoids, and lectins. 

Growing

Plant the seeds of calamus in March/April or September till the end of November. Stratified seeds can be started indoors but for better flowering yield, it is recommended to start calamus outdoors in swampy fields, preferably watery ones. 

The seeds are sown lightly on the surface, not too deep so they can receive the required amount of air, temperature, sunlight. It can also be propagated by burying roots a few centimeters so that the leaves are flush and the plant is packed well without any pocket of air around it.

Calamus flourishes in a lot of water so either plant it in ditches/shallow parts of the stream or provide it copious water to fulfill its need.

If planted in late fall, the calamus seeds will complete their process of germination till spring. The plant then further expands its rhizomes and aerial parts for photosynthesis. 

In late fall or early summer, the plant enters its blooming phase. Only water field calamus can further achieve fruits that bear seeds which disperse by floating in the water.

 

 

Harvesting

The rhizomes of the calamus are harvested in either late fall before the first frost, or spring before the new growth of the plant initiates.

Loosen the soil around the plant using small spades then pull out the plant to collect its roots.

Separate the leaves from the plant then wash the roots properly with water. Dry them in the sun, oven, or air until they feel hard and rough to touch. Then store them in an airtight container and place it in a cool, dry, and dark place. This way, you can use them for 12 months.

Usage

Dried calamus rhizomes are employed for making medicinal preparations that act magnificently against a myriad of both internal and external maladies.

  • Tincture - Dried calamus root is macerated in alcohol for 4 to 6 weeks to prepare a highly concentrated tincture.
  • Tea - Dried chopped calamus root is steeped in hot boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Decoction - The whole plant can be dried and decocted in water for not more than 2 hours to yield a calamus decoction.
  • Salve - Calamus root infused oil is combined with beeswax and sometimes peppermint leaves to formulate an anti-inflammatory calamus salve.
  • Infused oil - Dried calamus root is immersed in a carrier oil (olive oil, coconut oil, or sesame oil) for  2 to 3 weeks in a bottle. Place the bottle in a sunny spot then strain away the plant material and store the oil in a bottle for later use.