Calamus is a perennial herb with long creeping and aromatic rhizomes or underground stems sprouting leaves. The flowering shoots of the plant are supported by a large leaf like structure called spathe. It has pale-green, small flowers, in 5 to 10 cm long cylindrical spikes and yellowish fruits. The root stock of the plant is an aromatic stimulant, bitter tonic and expectorant.
The dried rhizomes of the plant constitute the drug calamus and are of great medicinal value. The dry rhizomes of calamus contain yellow aromatic oil. The essential oil contains calamen, calamenos, calamenon and asarone. Indian calameon oil contains asarone, small amounts of sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene alcohols. The odor of the oil is ascribed to an unidentified constituent. The leaves contain oxalic acid and calcium.
Botanical Name: Acorus calamus
Indian Name: Bach
Below are some of the medicinal properties of calamus:
- It gives relief to heavy stomach by relieving flatulence, colic and increasing appetite. The burnt root mixed with some bland oil such as refined coconut oil or a poultice of the root may be applied over the abdomen in treatment.
- Calamus is a valuable remedy for chronic diarrhea. It is also effective in chronic dysentery, due to the presence of tannins. Its infusion can be given to children suffering from these ailments.
- It is useful in the treatment of asthma; it removes catarrhal matter and phlegm from the bronchial tubes. About 65 centigrams of the herb is taken every 2 or 3 hours in this condition.
- Calamus is also useful in treating common cold. A small piece of rhizomes is roasted and powdered. A pinch of this powder taken with honey provides great relief. For infants, the paste of calamus mixed in breast milk is touched on the baby's tongue. Another convenient method of giving the medicine to infants is to apply a little paste on the mother's nipple.
- It is also useful in treating mouth ulcers, coating on tongue and rawness, that is, inflammation of the skin. A small piece of the herb should be rubbed on the tongue to obtain relief.
- The powder of the roasted calamus is a valuable home remedy for children suffering from whooping cough. A pinch of this powder can be given with honey. Being antispasmodic, it prevents the severe bouts of coughing. For smaller children, the dose must be proportionately smaller.
- It is effective in expelling intestinal worms. The powdered root is taken for this purpose.