Calamus  

Latin:  Acorus calamus, americanus

Family:  Acoraceae

Parts Used:  Primarily rhizomes

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, spicy, warming, aromatic

Properties:  Anxiolytic, sedative, laxative,  antimicrobial, diuretic, carminative, antispasmodic

Actions:  In traditional Chinese Medicine, the bitter and aromatic qualities of calamus (Shi cheng pu) have long been used to help with digestion, for nausea, heartburn, ulcers, and constipation.  It also has been used to “clear phlegm misting the heart orifices.”  Those poetic words refer to those who are so clouded and wired that they appear manic and delusional.  Essentially it has been used to help quell a mania as well as for seizures and trembling,.   In Ayurvedic medicine, where it is known as “Vacha”, it has also been used to help those who experience seizures, epilepsy, shock, scattered thinking and confusion.  It is also seen as specifically stimulating to the throat center and useful for those who are speaking poorly, stuttering, or with fast rapid blurred speech.   This is also noted by Native North Americans who at times have used calamus to help improve ones voice for singing.

(American) Today, a number of Western herbalists are using it to help those who are experiencing the heightened fight or flight adrenaline rush with feelings of dissociation and confusion associated with PTSD.  Herbalist Jim McDonald has quite a bit of experience with this plant and describes it as useful for those with “deficient/sluggish/stagnant digestive states, associated with tension, and perhaps infection or putrefaction.”  He also notes its excellent effect on the sinus and bronchial passages. helping to reduce “sore throats, irritable coughs, chest colds and head colds.”   McDonald also describes it as an over all energy tonic, both relaxing and stimulating the body and the senses.  He describes it as useful for “panic and anxiety attacks” and stuck mental states.

Dosage:  This is an herb to be used sparingly or in small amounts in tea formulas.  Dosage generally 1-2 tsp per pint of water decocted for 30 minutes  or as tincture 5 to 30 drops to twice a day.  Chewing a small piece of the root is a good place to start.

Contraindications:  Avoid with other sedatives, in pregnancy.

Further Reading:

Sweet Flag/Biterroot Monograph  by Jim McDonald

Acorus Calamus  by Lesley Tierra