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Acorus calamus

Family : Acoraceae


Acorus calamus (sweet flag), occurs in the wetlands of North America and from India to Indonesia in the Old World. It is plentiful in the marshy tracts of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and in Manipur and Naga Hills. It is cultivated in some parts of Karnataka.


Sweet flag is a semi-acquatic, perennial, aromatic herb with flat, leaf-like stems and sword-like leaves at the base. It grows to a height of about 1.5m and bears a 5 to 10 cm long fleshy cylindrical structure halfway to the top. The creeping rhizomes are jointed, vertically compressed, pale to dark brown in colour. Tiny yellowish brown flowers are embedded in a spadix. Berries are green, angular and 1-3 seeded.


Sweet flag is grown in clayey loams and light alluvial soils. The growing tops of the previous year’s crops are planted 30 cm apart. The crop is ready for harvest within an year. The plants are dug out, fibrous roots are removed and the rhizomes are cut into pieces, washed and dried in the sun.

Aroma and flavour

It yields around 1.5-3.5% volatile oil known as calamus oil. The important constituents of this oil are asarone and its b-isomer.

Medicinal and Other use

The dried rhizomes constitute the drug ‘calamus’ of commerce. In Ayurved the rhizomes are considered to possess anti-spasmodic, carminative and anti-helmintic properties. Extracts of whole plants of sweet flag have been employed for medical purposes since the time of ancient Greece, and its leaves have provided floor covering as well. American Indians had so many medicinal used for the rhizomes and roots. Physicians used it for stomach cramps and gas and as a tonic and stimulant. Its root is used in india to treat toothache, fever and menstrual problems.



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