Calamus, Sweet Flag, Acorus calamus (Latin name). Acorus originally comes from the Greek name Acoron, which in turn is derived from Coreon which means pupil of an eye. According to some, the plant was used a long time ago to cure eye ailments. In Greek the word kalamos means 'reed'.
Calamus (Acorus Calamus) is a plant whose rhizome can be used medicinally. This rhizome is actually more of a horizontal stem that extends. This underground part can be up to 1.5 meters long. By the way, the rhizome is the part that is used. From this underground part flowering canes are formed with cylindrical flowering buds. These are dotted with small yellow flowers. It can grow up to 1 metre high and 1 metre wide. The plant flowers from May to July and the seeds are ripe from July to August. The leaves are elongated. Its English name (Sweet Flag) was created because of its shape (like a flag) and because of its aromatic, sweet scent that resembles tangerines. She likes to grow close to water. Mainly in marshy areas, along ponds and rivers. It is native to parts of Central Asia, India and North America. Over time, however, it has spread around the world and we can also find a variant of the species in Europe. Calamus was brought from an extremely West Asian island to Constantinople in 1557. An Austrian envoy took the plant for the city garden in Vienna. Here the plant was cultivated by the famous botanist Clusius. The plant spread easily through foothills of the rhizome (not through pollination) and probably thanks to its medicinal effect, it was cultivated frequently. Not only because of its healing power, but also because of its smell the plant was used. Different parts of the plant were spread freely on floors in houses, churches and at festivals.
Calmus and faith
In the Bible there is also written about Calamus. Here the ingredients are given to prepare the holy ointment:
"Furthermore, the LORD spake unto Moses, saying: Now take unto you the chief spices, the purest myrrh, five hundred shekels, and spice of cinnamon, half as much as two hundred and fifty shekels, also the spice of calamus, two hundred and fifty shekels; also cassia, five hundred, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and oil of olive trees a hin; and make from it an oil of holy anointing, an ointment made very skilfully according to the apothecary's work; it shall be an oil of holy anointing". (Exodus 30:22-38)
Also within Islam there is written about the use of Calamus. In the traditional medicine of Islam, Calamus is mentioned as a remedy for stomach ulcers and liver infections. As a poultice it is said to have cured an ulcer on Mohammed's finger.
The plant has a rich history of use in various medicine, including Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It was cultivated by man in Ceylon and Burma. Here you could find large quantities on markets and bazaars. According to the book Pharmacographia: a History of the principal Drugs of Vegetable Origin with in Great Britain and British India (1878) Calamus was seen as such a valuable medicine, that pharmacies were obliged to open their doors at night when asked for this medicine, for example when children had stool problems. It was used to treat diseases and ailments including digestive problems, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, cramps, bronchitis, coughing, chest pain and inflammation. This plant has also been used for depression and nervous disorders for centuries. The strength of the plant therefore lies in its root, from which not all active ingredients have yet been isolated. Research shows that the therapeutic effect of Calamus is mainly due to alpha- and beta-asarone, two substances that largely provide the medicinal effect, including analgesic, anti-inflammatory, suppressing the central nervous system and reducing anxiety. It contains, among other things, vitamin C, carbohydrates, choline, essential oil, bitter substances and vegetable gum and resin. Within homeopathy, Calamus is used for problems with the gallbladder, flatulence, anorexia and stomach complaints. Calamus is known to inhibit gastric acid in small doses, while increasing gastric secretion in large quantities. Note: large amounts could have a hallucinogenic effect. Calamus has a tonic effect and would be an ideal means to stimulate and normalize the appetite. Furthermore, there are several sources mentioning how different tribes from North America use the plant for different medicinal purposes. They called Calamus 'ratroot'. Calamus was highly regarded as a medicinal plant and could be used in a beverage that could dispel the flu. It was also chewed on the rhizome to relieve toothache. Furthermore, it was used to treat sore throats, stomach complaints and ulcers. There are also certain indigenous tribes (e.g. the Potawatomis) that ground the dried calamus root into powder and used it as a snuff called catarrh. The Indians of North America used Calamus not only medicinally, but also as a means to achieve visions. Furthermore, it is mentioned that Calamus is an effective means to combat alcoholism.
According to various sources, Calamus has a hallucinogenic effect. There are several anecdotes in which people talk about the psychoactive effects of Calamus. There are stories known where the indigenous people of northern Canada would chew on the fresh rhizome of the plant to obtain this hallucinogenic effect. In high doses strong visual effects would occur. For example, according to certain sources, the Cree Indians would chew on large quantities of the rhizome to get a very visual experience, which can be compared to an intense LSD trip.
Although more research is required, it is not recommended to consume the root in large quantities, as toxic effects could occur.
Warning: it is not recommended to use Calmus in combination with MAO-inhibiting antidepressants because of possible adverse reactions.
Calamus and stamina
Calamus would be an excellent way to improve stamina. There are several sources describing how consuming the rhizome can lead to improvement of physical capacities. Indigenous peoples in North America, for example, used Calamus to travel long distances on foot. Approximately 25 cm from the rhizome would help them cover more than 160 km per day.
Calamus in the kitchen
The rhizome is highly aromatic and is used as a seasoning in the kitchen. It is used to replace ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg, for example. It is also added as an ingredient in various beers and gins. It is also added to various herbal bitters, including Sonnema Berenburg. The rhizome can also be eaten raw. The outer layer can be peeled off to remove any bitterness. The young rhizomes have the sweetest taste and were often eaten by children. It is also possible to roast the rhizome and eat it as a vegetable. It can also be used to make salad. It is said that chewing the rhizome reduces the taste of tobacco. The dried rhizome can be used as a tea. In powder form it can also be mixed with for example (chocolate) milk or through dishes, to flavor them. For the preparation 2 to 3 year old rhizomes are used. When they are older, they become hollow and lose their strength. Dried, they retain about 70% of their original weight and improve in taste and aromas. A few generations earlier, the Calamus were also made into confectionery, which was sold in shops and on the street and often made at home. Sugared Calamus was not suitable for consumption in large quantities due to its intense taste. According to the book Stalking the wild asparagus, by Euell Gibbons (1962), sweetened Calamus was eaten in small bites, with the flavour coming into its own: 'This confectionery is too penetrating and too strong to eat in one go. Nevertheless, it is a tempting nibble. In addition to its pungent flavour, Calamus has a strong aroma that some do not like, they describe it as soapy. Still, I have discovered that when someone eats a piece of it on a regular basis, the statement of learning to liking it is soon replaced by the statement of having enough stock of it'.
Essential oil (with asaron)
Vitamin B4 (choline)
The active substances a-asarone and b-asarone are similar in chemical structure to the substance mescaline. This could be due to reports of strong visual effects.
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