Sweet flag


Calamus root, known as Acorus calamus, is a wetland plant with a rich history in traditional medicine. It is reputed for its soothing properties and potential health benefits such as digestive aid and anti-inflammatory effects. Although less commonly smoked, some users report mild stimulation and enhanced clarity from its aromatic, spicy, and slightly bitter flavor. However, due to safety concerns regarding its compounds, it should be used with care.

Common name(s): Sweet flag, beewort, bitter pepper root, flag root, gladdon, myrtle flag, myrtle grass, myrtle sedge, pine root, rat root, sea sedge, sweet cane, sweet cinna, sweet grass, sweet myrtle, sweet rush, sweet sedge
Scientific name: Acorus calamus


Life Cycle

forest, the brook, brook

Known for its aromatic, stimulant qualities and widespread use in traditional medicine for gastrointestinal and inflammatory conditions.


Primarily found in the wetlands of North America, Asia, and parts of Europe.

Natural Habitat

The Calamus root plant is typically found in wetlands and marshy areas.


Prefers full to partial sunlight, consistently moist or boggy soil, and can grow in shallow water.

Traditional Usage

Calamus root has been embraced for centuries in traditional medical systems for its multipurpose therapeutic qualities. These uses stem from its reputation as an aromatic stimulant and its bitter tonic nature, which aids in digestion and respiratory issues. Below are some of the traditional ways in which Calamus root has been utilized:

  • As an expectorant, fostering the clearing of mucus from the respiratory tract.
  • For its soothing properties, offering relief from toothaches and headaches.
  • To aid gastrointestinal conditions like ulcers and gas issues, enhancing appetite.
  • For its anti-inflammatory effects, potentially helping with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
  • In inducing sweating, which was commonly used as a treatment for fevers and other illnesses.
  • In treating external afflictions such as skin problems and even earaches.

Its calming influence and ability to serve as a digestive aid further solidify its standing in traditional medicine[2]. Despite its benefits, using Calamus root requires careful consideration of dosage and potential risks, always under the guidance of a healthcare provider[1].

Historical Usage

Used in ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, later adopted in Europe and North America for herbal practices.

Common Usage

Used in herbal medicine for digestive issues, inflammation, and as a calming agent.


The Calamus root herb has been appreciated for centuries for its potential health benefits. It plays an integral role in soothing various ailments, from physical discomforts to gastrointestinal issues. Here are some general effects attributed to this remarkable plant:

  • Calamus has calming properties that can help in reducing stress and anxiety.
  • It acts as a digestive aid, often used for relieving gas, inflammation, and loss of appetite.
  • As an anti-inflammatory agent, it has been utilized to address symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and skin problems.
  • There are reports that it may also offer cognitive enhancement benefits.

More than being merely soothing for toothaches and headaches, as used by American Indians, it has also been recognized for its potential to induce sweating and treat more acute conditions such as ulcers and earaches. Despite its varied uses and benefits, it’s essential to approach Calamus root with an understanding of its potency and the guidance of a healthcare professional3 4.

sweet flag, scrubs, nature

Aquatic plants bordering a tranquil pond, valued for their aromatic properties and potential health effects.

Effects when smoking

Smoking Calamus root may yield a variety of effects, influenced by the individual’s response and the quality of the root used. It’s important to be aware of these potential impacts:

  • Mild stimulation, which some users find enhances mental clarity and focus.
  • A soothing sensation may be experienced, which can relieve certain types of discomfort.
  • Some report a calming effect on the mind, which could be beneficial for those dealing with stress.

Despite these anecdotal effects, it is essential to approach smoking Calamus root with caution. The absence of extensive scientific studies on the inhalation of this herb means potential risks could be present 5. It’s also critical to consider the legal status of Calamus in your region, as it varies internationally and may be subject to restrictions 3.

If you decide to try smoking Calamus root, it’s recommended to:

  • Dry and shred the root before use.
  • Combine it with other herbs to mitigate its strong and slightly bitter flavor.
  • Use it sparingly to avoid any potential adverse effects, keeping in mind the presence of β-asarone which has raised safety concerns 2.

Remember to always consult with a healthcare provider or a knowledgeable herbalist to determine a safe and appropriate dosage unique to your needs and health status 1.

Flavor Profile

Warm, spicy, and slightly bitter.

Edible Parts

Rhizome (root)

Effects when Smoked

Mild stimulation and enhanced perceptual clarity are reported effects when smoked, but not well-studied; caution is recommended.

User Experiences

Users often report improved digestive health and a calming mental effect, but experiences and reactions vary widely, with some noting little impact and others adverse effects.

Medicinal Benefits

Calamus root has a heritage steeped in traditional medicine and is known for its potential health benefits. Here are some of the key medicinal advantages it may offer:

  • Aids in addressing gastrointestinal issues such as ulcers and inflammation.
  • Helps alleviate gas and improve appetite.
  • Utilized for its expectorant properties to treat respiratory conditions.
  • May induce sweating and assist in managing rheumatoid arthritis and strokes.
  • Traditionally used to soothe toothaches and headaches.
  • Can act as a digestive aid and anti-inflammatory agent.

These benefits are attributable to the essential oils present in Calamus root that contain compounds such as eugenol. It is important, however, to consult with a healthcare provider before use due to its potent active ingredients and potential safety concerns3.

History and Folklore

Calamus root has a rich history in traditional medicinal practices worldwide. It has been a key herb in Ayurveda, revered for its aromatic, stimulant, and expectorant qualities. American Indians found it beneficial for easing toothache and headaches. When it reached Europe and North America, healers incorporated it into their herbal repertoires. Its utilization spans centuries, embedding itself in various cultural health remedies2.
While contemporary use varies by region, its historical applications set the foundation for its enduring presence in herbal medicine today.

sweet flag, water, shoots

Calamus root has woven its way through history, cherished by Ayurvedic tradition and Indigenous cultures for its myriad of healing properties and aromatic allure.

Side Effects and Contraindications

Side Effects of Calamus Root

While the soothing and digestive properties of Calamus root are noteworthy, there are potential side effects that users should be mindful of. Notable adverse reactions may include nausea, vomiting, and prolonged usage could lead to kidney or liver damage. Caution is especially advised due to the presence of β-asarone, a compound linked to carcinogenic and mutagenic effects.


  • Individuals with a history of kidney or liver disease should avoid Calamus root.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women are advised not to use Calamus due to a lack of safety data.
  • Excessive doses or long-term use should be avoided to prevent potential toxicities.

It’s crucial to consult healthcare providers before adding Calamus to your herbal routine2.

Legal Status

When considering the use of Calamus root, be sure to understand the legal implications. The legal standing of this herb varies globally. For instance, in the United States, the FDA prohibits specific Calamus preparations due to the asarone content, which has raised safety concerns. It is crucial for individuals to check local laws and regulations concerning the possession and use of Calamus root before acquisition and use.
Adherence to legal guidelines is as important as understanding potential health benefits and risks—failure to do so could result in legal repercussions3.