Calamus (Acorus calamus)
Usage / Preparation
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Agar Turki, Bach, Buch, Calamus Root, Cinnamon Sedge, Flag Root, Gladdon, Kalmus, Makan-Ninida, Mankan-Kereh, Rat Root, Shobu, Shui Chang, Sweet Calomel, Sweet Flag, Sweet Rush, Sweet Sedge, Vacha, Vasamber, Weekas.
Calamus is used in incense mixtures in ancient Mesopotamia and by the ancient Egyptians in their Kyphi mixtures. Calamus has a strong herbal, warm, spicy, Cinnamon-like fragrance.
Active constituents of Calamus are Monoterpene hydrocarbons, sequestrine ketones, (trans- or Alpha) Asarone (2,4,5-trimethoxy-1-propenylbenzene), and Beta-asarone (cis-isomer) contained in the roots essential oils. The oils in the rhizomes of Calamus contain eugenol and asarone. Both compounds undergo biotransformation in vivo, but asarone probably is the natural precursor to TMA-2 (2,4,5 trimethoxyphenylisopro pylamine); asarone can be converted through an aminationprocess to TMA-2. Safrole, the active constituent of Sassafras albidum undergoes a similar bioactivation-process. Because TMA-2 is structurally very similar to mescaline, amphetamine and the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline, it might replace the neurotransmitters from the storage vesicles in the nerve endings.
Calamus has been regarded as an aphrodisiac in India and Egypt for at least 2,500 years. In Europe, Calamus was valued as a stimulant, bitter herb for the appetite and as an aid to the digestion. In North America, the decoction was used for fevers, stomach cramps, and colic; the rhizome was chewed for toothache, and powdered rhizome was inhaled for congestion. In Ayurvedic medicine Calamus is an important herb, and is valued as a "rejuvenator" for the brain and nervous system, and as a remedy for digestive disorders. In Western herbal medicine the herb is chiefly employed to support digestive functions.
The Cree Indians used Calamus for medicinal purposes, primarily as an analgesic for toothaches or headaches, a disinfectant for teeth, relief for exhaustion or fatigue, and as a cure for hangovers. Other North American Indians used the plant to treat coughs and diabetes. The Sioux used the whole plant, making aromatic garlands from the leaves and using the roots to make tea to treat bowel pains or placing chewed root on the skin to treat illness. Sweet flag has also been used by the Chinese to reduce swelling and to help relieve constipation. In India, Calamus was used to cure fevers, asthma, and bronchitis. The ancient Greeks also utilized the plant in many traditional remedies. The Dakotas use Calamus to treat diabetes, and there are several reported cases where Calamus had cured people who had been given up by Western medicine. When Calamus was chewed regularly by the Indians, they would be miraculously cured within a matter of months. During the Middle Ages Calamus was an admixture in several of the ancient, psychoactive, "Witches Flying Ointments", often being mixed with solanacious herbs.
Asarone is a potential carcinogenic agent. Some experiments indicate that large quantities of Calamus produce tumors in rats. The amount given to produce this effect, however, is astronomical for the weight of the rat. No ill effects have been reported in any of the Cree who use it daily. In fact, they seem to be in good health. Calamus does have emmanagogic properties and should be avoided during pregnancy. Calamus should not be taken with MAO inhibitors.
Acorus calamus, Sweet Flag, is a common plant in Europe, Asia and also America. This aquatic plant likes quiet waters. Calamus is a grass-like, rhizome forming, perennial that can grow to 2m high, resembling an Iris. This species inhabits perpetually wet areas like the edges of streams and around ponds and lakes, in ditches and seeps. The plants have long creeping roots that spread out just below the surface of the soil. These roots spread horizontally and can grow to almost 2m in length. The thick, erect leaves are very similar in appearance to those of an Iris, but with edges that are crimped. Plants very rarely flower or set fruit, but when they do, the flowers are 3-8cm long, cylindrical in shape, greenish brown and covered in a multitude of rounded spikes. The fruits are small and berry-like, containing few seeds. Calamus flowers from early to late summer depending on the latitude. The herb normally grows between 1000 to 3700m. Calamus can often be found growing close to Indian villages, camping areas or trails.
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|Calamus has a long history of use. The Sumerians and ancient Egyptians made use of it, and remains of the plant have been found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Besides internal usage, the roots have been used as incense and as a flavor. In the bible, Exodus 30, Calamus is probably named as a an ingredient of the Holy Oil Moses made. Many of the great classical writers on medicine mention the plant: Hippocrates, Theophrastus, Dioscorides. In Ayurvedic medicine it has been used for several thousand years. Calamus is known to help calm down the mind and support the nervous system. It was also an ingredient of the Flying Brews of European witches in the Middle Ages.|