CALAMUS, Acorus calamus

Calamus Plant

The rich, moist soil in swamps and mashes is the growing field for the calamus, or sweet flag.

Calamus comes from the Greek word “calamos,” which means reed. Calamus has been around for a long time. Way back in the time of Moses, the Bible speaks of sweet calamus in exodus 30:23.

We had a neighbor who grew up in a small town in Germany. She said her mother knew a little about herbs because her mother’s father-in –law was an herbalist. When our neighbor was just a very young girl, she had stomachaches a lot of the time. She said she felt poorly quit often and much of the time she was sick to her stomach and didn’t want to eat. She said for this, and other reasons, she was thin and frail.

One day, the grandfather came over to visit the family. When he saw his granddaughter, he remarks that she didn’t look very well. After they talked awhile, he told her if she would get a calamus root and chew on it several times a day, she would be well and would never have any stomach problems. She said her sister took her out to the marsh and they pulled up several calamus roots. They cleaned them up and she chewed on this root several time a day. Very soon, the stomachaches were gone and she started to gain a little weight. Soon she was healthy and strong.

Calamus root is known by many different names: sweet flag, sweet rush, sweet grass, sweet root, sweet sedge, grass myrtle, and many more. It grows under the water in slow running streams or in marshes. The plant grows from one to three feet tall. The root, or rhizome, is about as thick as your thump and can get over three feet long. The leaves grow out of the root in the tight bundles, and are mostly flat swordlike, and resemble a blue flag. The leaves on some species are almost triangular and much more ridged. About a third of the way up he leaf,there is a small greenish-brown tapering spadix. This is a cone-like projection that grows out of the side of the leaf. It has hundreds of tiny yellowish-green flowers. It blooms from May until August and is edible. The root has a gingery, yet soapy, taste.

In older times, until not so long ago, people cut and gathered these leaves or reeds. They would scatter them on the floors of their homes and in hospitals. When these leaves or reeds are walked on they give off a sweet scent and keep moths and bags away. The calamus root is used mainly as a tonic for the stomach and digestive system. Jethro Kloss said, “calamus will improve the gastric juices, is good for dyspepsia, gas and colic. It helps digestion, prevents fermentation in the stomach, is good for pyrosis, or heartburn.”

A European herb doctor says “Calamus is second to none as an aid to the digestive system. With calamus root, every disorder of the stomach and the intestine is cleared up, be it stybborn, old or malignat. Take a level teaspoon of chopped calamus root and soak it overnight in a cup of cold water. Warm the liquid slightly in the morning, stain and take one sip of it before and one sip after each meal. That makes 6 sips a day, more should not be taken. The tea should be refrigerated, then warmed slightly before each use. This remedy refers to the entire gastrointestinal tract, including the liver, gall bladder, spleen and the pancreas.”

The six sips are also recommended for a duodenal ulcer, for flatulence as well as colic, for glandular disorders and gout. It is said to help anemia and dropsy, stomach ache, diarrhea, fevers and even menstrual problems. The dried root chewed slowly helps smokers to break their smoking habit. Some Indians used this herb as money for exchange. Not bad for an herb that was raised in the swamp.

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