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Medicinal uses of Acorus calamus

Image of Sweet flag

Sweet flag (Acorus calamus L. ) also known as Calamus, Sweet Sedge and Myrtle Flag. It is originally from Southern Asia but has been successfully introduced to most parts of the world where you’ll see it growing, reed like, in ponds, pools and deeper streams.

Sweet flag has a very long history of medicinal use in many herbal traditions. It is widely employed in modern herbal medicine as an aromatic stimulant and mild tonic. In Ayurveda it is highly valued as a rejuvenator for the brain and nervous system and as a remedy for digestive disorders.

The root is anodyne, aphrodisiac, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, hallucinogenic, hypotensive, sedative, stimulant, stomachic, mildly tonic and vermifuge. It is used internally in the treatment of digestive complaints, bronchitis, sinusitis etc. It is said to have wonderfully tonic powers of stimulating and normalizing the appetite. In small doses it reduces stomach acidity whilst larger doses increase stomach secretions and it is, therefore, recommended in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. However if the dose is too large it will cause nausea and vomiting.

Sweet flag is used externally to treat skin eruptions, rheumatic pains and neuralgia. An infusion of the root can bring about an abortion whilst chewing the root alleviates toothache. It is a folk remedy for arthritis, cancer, convulsions, diarrhoea, dyspepsia, epilepsy etc. Chewing the root is said to kill the taste for tobacco.

Active compounds produced by this plant: Acorus calamus produces beta-asarone which is a genotoxic (capable of causing genetic mutation and contributing to tumors) phenylpropanoid (produced by plants for defense against herbivores and protection against ultra-violet rays).  In an experiment beta-asarone was shown to be active in inducing liver tumours.