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Calamus Root

Acorus calamus

Calamus Root

Description: A semi-evergreen perennial with scented rhizomes, arching tapered reed-like leaves and minute yellow-green flowers. It grows by water. The ancient Egyptians used calamus in the Kyphi recipes. In ancient times calamus was considered a symbol of masculine vitality and worldly success.

Calamus oil is one of the ingredients in the Holy anointing oil in Exodus 30:23. It's said powdered calamus will repel ants and was used in Medieval times along with lavender and pennyroyal as "strewing herbs" for scattering on the floor to ward off insects and other vermin.

Threatened Species Alert: Becoming rare in India: CIMAP (1997). See Cropwatch.

Family: Araceae

Synonyms: sweet flag, sweet reed, myrtle flag, sweet rush, sweet sedge

Origin: native to the wetlands of East Asia and Europe. Naturalized in North America and Russia

Parts Used: rhizomes (roots)

Aroma Description: pleasant, sweet, warm, woody, spicy, slight cinnamon-like fragrance

Emotional Attributes:  cleansing/purifying, strengthening, energizing

Cosmetic Uses: none known

Culinary Uses: the essential oil was once used to flavor liqueurs, bitters, beer, soft drinks, cordials, and vinegar, though this is no longer done due to the oils carcinogenic properties.

Medicinal Attributes: history of use for digestive problems, bronchitis, and sinusitis. Used externally for skin eruptions and rheumatic discomfort. Used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine, in which it is regarded as restorative for the brain and nervous system, especially after a stroke. Excess use causes vomiting.

Element Association: Water

Magical Associations: healing, protection, luck, prosperity

Astrological Association: Cancer, Pisces

Planetary Association: Moon

Season: Summer

Aromatic Note: Middle note

Essential Oil: Yes, steam distilled. A fixative in perfumes. The oil is banned by the United States FDA and Great Britain.  Restricted use in Australia and New Zealand. The leading component of the essential oil, beta-asarone, is carcinogenic (and reputedly hallucinogenic). Oil from calamus populations grown in N. America and Siberia have been found to be free of beta-asarone.

Mixes Well With: benzoin, borneol camphor, cardamom, cassia, cedar, cinnamon, frankincense, galangal, guggul, labdanum, musk seed, myrrh, opoponax, patchouli, rose, spikenard, star anise, etc.

Medical Disclaimer: Information on this web site is for entertainment purposes only. This information is NOT intended as medical advice or for use as diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or as a substitute for consulting a licensed medical professional.

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