Acorus calamus

Calamus (scientific name Acorus calamus) is also known by several other common names, including sweet flag. This is a perennially growing tall wetland monocot belonging to the Acoraceae family. This plant is a member of the genus Acorus. Although some of the common names of this plant include the words "sedge" and "rush", calamus is neither a sedge nor a rush. Indigenous to Europe as well as Asia, calamus grows best in marshy and watery locations.

Ancient Romans and Indians were familiar with calamus, which held a prominent place in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicine system. The leaves of this plant are highly aromatic, while its rhizomes are even more scented. The potently aromatic leaves and rhizomes of this plant have been used traditionally for therapeutic purposes as well as to make fragrances. Calamus rhizomes are dried and grinded into a powdered form for use as a substitute for cinnamon, ginger and even nutmeg.

Calamus or sweet flag has been traditionally used in Chinese and Indian herbal medicines for several centuries now. In fact, the leaves, roots and stems of this plant are used in a wide variety of Siddha as well as Ayurvedic medicines. This herb is also extensively used in contemporary herbal medicine for its diuretic, laxative, sedative and carminative attributes. In Ayurveda, calamus is used to neutralize the side effects of all types of hallucinogens (substances that cause hallucination). Often referred to as "rat root", calamus is among the most extensively as well as often used herbal medicines by the Chipewyan people of central Canada.

According to available documents, the potently aromatic rhizome of sweet flag has been used for therapeutic purposes since the biblical times. In fact, many popular books on medicine in Europe have dubbed calamus as a "wonder drug". In folk medicine, people commonly used this herb in the form of a nervine, perhaps owing to the sedative effect of cis-isoasarone, one of the main elements of the calamus essential oil. In traditional medicine, this herb has been used for treating digestive problems as well as childhood colic. An infusion prepared from calamus rhizome was recommended for treating fever, while it is said that chewing the plant's rhizome helped to alleviate throat irritations and also to get rid of the odour of tobacco.

Calamus essential oil is obtained from the fresh roots of the plant. Alternatively, it can also be extracted by steam distilling the unpeeled dry roots of the herb.

It has been established that the use of calamus essential oil especially stimulates the nerves and encourages blood circulation throughout the body. Precisely speaking, this oil improves the blood circulation rate in the affected areas and offers respite from pain and swelling that accompany arthritis, gout and rheumatism.

Calamus essential oil possesses anti-spasmodic properties and its use helps to calm down all types of spasms. However, this oil is especially effective in the case of nervous spasms. Hence, you can administer this essential oil whenever you suffer from nervous afflictions and nervous disturbances. However, it is important to use this oil only in extremely mild doses.

This oil is of toxic nature and this is the reason why it does not allow any type of biotic growth, thereby working in the form of an antibiotic. The antibiotic attribute of calamus essential oil can be effectively used to combat all types of infections - internally as well as externally.

The essential oil of calamus has an energizing or stimulation action on the brain. Here is a word of caution - this benefit of using calamus oil can be obtained only when you use it in mild doses. Using an excessive or high dose of this oil may have devastating effect on the brain. Use of calamus essential oil makes the neural pathways active. In addition, it is very effective for treating various neurotic disorders. On several occasions, calamus essential oil has been used to bring on as well as encourage positive thoughts.

Since calamus essential oil is an effective stimulant, it helps to augment blood circulation, thereby helping in the transportation of nutrients and oxygen to the different areas of the body. At the same time, increased blood circulation also increases the metabolic rate.

Calamus essential oil also possesses the ability to boost memory and improve the functioning of the brain. Administering this essential oil to people enduring memory loss or those who have already suffered memory loss owing to trauma, aging or any other reason, helps them to recover from their problems. In addition, the essential oil of calamus is also effective in repairing specific damages caused to the brain tissues as well as neurons.

It has been established that a good number of calamus essential oil's effects are associated with the brain as well as the nervous system. Hence, this essential oil is basically a nervine and helpful in maintaining the optimal health of our nervous system. In addition, use of calamus essential oil also facilitates recovery from shock and various other damages caused to the neurons and nerve tissues. This oil can also be used as a preventive medicine to reduce the incidences of hysteric attacks, epileptic fits and various other nervous problems.

From the above discussion it has been proved that the essential oil of calamus is especially invigorating for the brain and the nervous system. This oil not only stimulates the neurons and nerves, but also helps one to remain alert and steady all the time. At the same time, use of this oil also encourages specific discharges in the body, including hormones, increases blood circulation and promotes various bodily functions.

Even a small dose of calamus essential oil has the ability to induce sleep and, at the same time, serves as a very effective sedative. This oil may prove to be highly beneficial for people suffering from insomnia (sleeplessness) or do not have a sound sleep at night. The sedative action of this oil helps the body as well as the mind to relax, thereby enabling people to get the desired healthy rest.

Calamus essential oil is also employed to treat neuralgia, a condition caused when the surrounding blood vessels put pressure on the ninth cranial nerve, which sets of a severe pain as well as swelling. The use of this oil works on the blood vessels and makes then constrict, thereby reducing the pressure exerted on the cranial nerve. In addition the numbing as well as sedating effect of calamus essential oil on the brain and the nerves helps the sufferer to experience less pain. This oil is also used to treat a number of other health conditions, including headaches and vertigo. Besides, it is an excellent natural sedative.

General properties

  • anti-rheumatic and anti-arthritic
  • anti-spasmodic
  • antibiotic
  • carminative
  • cephalic
  • circulatory
  • laxative
  • memory boosting
  • nervine
  • sedative
  • stimulant
  • tranquilizing

Blends well with

General uses

  • blood circulation
  • epileptic fits and hysteric attacks
  • headaches
  • infections
  • memory loss
  • metabolism
  • neurotic disorders
  • nervous spasms
  • pain and swelling associated with rheumatism, arthritis, and gout
  • shock
  • sleeplessness or insomnia
  • vertigo


Notwithstanding the numerous health benefits offered by the essential oil of calamus, it needs to be used with great caution, as this oil contains a chemical known as asorone, which is not only toxic, but also believed to be carcinogenic. In addition, the use of this essential oil also results in narcotic effects and when taken in elevated doses, it can cause hallucinations and convulsions. Findings of several scientific studies have revealed that using the essential oil of calamus orally may result in prolonged as well as severe seizures and tumours. Hence, you should stay away from ingesting this oil unless it is done under the supervision of an experienced medical practitioner. Women should never use this essential oil during pregnancy.


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