Acorus calamus L. (family Araceae/Acoraceae) has long, narrow leaves and an aromatic rootstock. It is similar to the iris in appearance and can be found in moist habitats such as the banks of ponds or streams and swamps in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Traditional medicine includes use of the rhizome and the herb's main traditional uses include therapy for colic, dyspepsia (upset stomach), and flatulence (gas). In Ayurveda there is major use of calamus for diseases of the kidney and liver, eczema, rheumatism, and enhancement of memory. Currently, traditional uses lack substantiation in the available medical literature. Vomiting was the primary toxicity reported following use of the root for assumed production of euphoria.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to calamus.
Side Effects and Warnings
Calamus may cause stomach upset. Use cautiously for relief of stomach complaints in children.
Skin rash may occur with the oil.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Calamus is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
Use cautiously in cancer patients or patients taking antineoplastic agents as the effects of calamus on cancer are controversial.
Calamus may increase constipation from calcium channel blockers.
Calamus may affect heart rhythm and interact with heart medications, such as digoxin. Thus, use cautiously in patients with heart problems or taking heart medications.
Calamus may also interact with immunostimulating agents, hypnotics (i.e. barbiturates), antispasmodic agents, antifungals, antibiotics, amphetamines, cholesterol-lowering agents, anti-inflammatories, anticholinergics, or antioxidant agents. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, to check for interactions.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Use cautiously in cancer patients or patients taking herbs or supplements with anticancer effects as the effects of calamus on cancer are controversial.
Calamus may affect heart rhythm and interact with herbs and supplements that alter the heart, such as foxglove.
Calamus may also interact with immunostimulating herbs and supplements, hypnotics (i.e. barbiturates), antispasmodic herbs and supplements, antifungals, antibacterials, amphetamines, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, anti-inflammatories, anticholinergics, or antioxidant herbs and supplements. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, to check for interactions.
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Aqil F, Ahmad I, Owais M. Evaluation of anti-methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) activity and synergy of some bioactive plant extracts. Biotechnol J 2006;1(10):1093-1102.
Bains JS, Dhuna V, Singh J, et al. Novel lectins from rhizomes of two Acorus species with mitogenic activity and inhibitory potential towards murine cancer cell lines. Int Immunopharmacol 2005;5(9):1470-1478.
Bertea CM, Azzolin CM, Bossi S, et al. Identification of an EcoRI restriction site for a rapid and precise determination of beta-asarone-free Acorus calamus cytotypes. Phytochemistry 2005;66(5):507-514.
Gacche RN, Dhole NA. Antioxidant and Possible Anti-Inflammatory Potential of Selected Medicinal Plants Prescribed in the Indian Traditional System of Medicine. Pharmaceutical Biology 2006;44(5):389-395.
Ghosh M. Antifungal properties of haem peroxidase from Acorus calamus. Ann Bot (Lond) 2006;98(6):1145-1153.
Gilani AU, Shah AJ, Ahmad M, et al. Antispasmodic effect of Acorus calamus Linn. is mediated through calcium channel blockade. Phytother Res 2006;20(12):1080-1084.
Hanson KM, Gayton-Ely M, Holland LA, et al. Rapid assessment of beta-asarone content of Acorus calamus by micellar electrokinetic capillary chromatography. Electrophoresis 2005;26(4-5):943-946.
Komalamisra N, Trongtokit Y, Rongsriyam Y, et al. Screening for larvicidal activity in some Thai plants against four mosquito vector species. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health 2005;36(6):1412-1422.
Liao WP, Chen L, Yi YH, et al. Study of antiepileptic effect of extracts from Acorus tatarinowii Schott. Epilepsia 2005;46 Suppl 1:21-24.
Manikandan S, Srikumar R, Jeya Parthasarathy N, et al. Protective effect of Acorus calamus LINN on free radical scavengers and lipid peroxidation in discrete regions of brain against noise stress exposed rat. Biol Pharm Bull 2005;28(12):2327-2330.
Prasad L, Khan TH, Jahangir T, et al. Acorus calamus extracts and nickel chloride: prevention of oxidative damage and hyperproliferation response in rat kidney. Biol Trace Elem Res 2006;113(1):77-92.
Rau O, Wurglics M, Dingermann T, et al. Screening of herbal extracts for activation of the human peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor. Pharmazie 2006;61(11):952-956.
Shukla PK, Khanna VK, Ali MM, et al. Neuroprotective effect of Acorus calamus against middle cerebral artery occlusion-induced ischaemia in rat. Hum Exp Toxicol 2006;25(4):187-194.
Sinha AK, Sharma A, Joshi BP, et al. A mild conversion of phenylpropropnoid into rare phenylbutanoids: (E)-4-(2,4,5-trimethoxyphenyl)but-1,3-diene and (E)-4-(2,4,5-trimethozypheny)but-1-ene occuring in Zingiber cassumunar. Nat Prod Res 2005;19(8):771-776.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.