What is Kalmus root used for?
Calamus (Acorus calamus L) is a perennial plant that belongs to the Calamus plant family.
Kalmus grows 60-150 cm tall. Its leaves are linear, pointed, glossy green, 1-2 cm wide and with one edge wavy. The stem is triangular like the leaves.
Kalmus does not flower often and in the Nordic countries only sterile triploids occur.
(A triploid is an organism with three sets of chromosomes and is thus sterile. An example of another triploid crop is the banana.)
In the Nordic countries, calamus is quite common and thrives in muddy soil and shallow nutrient-rich waters, for example lake bays, ponds, rivers, stream outlets and marshes. Its distribution is southern Finland, southern Sweden, small areas in southern Norway and all of Denmark.
The kalmus originally comes from southern China and the Himalayas and came to Scandinavia in the early Middle Ages.
Records of the use of kalmus are found in Chinese writings dating back to the 4th millennium BC, where it is mentioned as "the one who prolongs life", as well as in ancient Persian writings from the 7th century BC. The Indian Vedas from the 4th century BC. contains detailed descriptions of this medicinal plant, whose name, translated from Sanskrit, reads: "one who makes speech clear".
Hippocrates also wrote about the healing properties and uses of calamus.
In European writings, it was first mentioned in the 16th century, as a medicinal plant that is widely used in folk medicine due to its properties.
As a medicinal part, the dried rhizome is used, which is collected during late summer and early autumn. The rhizome contains a significant proportion of starch, mucilage and tannins, glucosides, alkaloid calamine, bitter compounds, saponins and essential oil.
The taste of calamus is bitter-aromatic. Kalmus is also used in the production of beer and spirits, which gives it a special aroma.
The distillation of the rhizome yields an essential oil used in perfumes and in the production of insecticides and parasites. The essential oil contains monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes (camphene) and phenylpropanes (of which beta-asarone is the most common).
Essential oil isolated from the Asian calamus contains a significant proportion of beta-asarone, a compound attributed to neurotic and carcinogenic effects.
While essential oil isolated from the European and American variety of Kalmus contains this trace or no trace. Despite the content of beta-asarone in the essential oil, on the Asian continent, especially in India, where this plant is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine, no increase in malignant diseases has been recorded.
In ancient times, the rhizome of Kalmus was also used to improve memory.
Among its healing properties, Hippocrates mentioned, in addition to its effect on the stomach, also a beneficial effect in the treatment of asthma and nasal congestion, stimulating expectoration and bile secretion. He considered it a medicinal plant that has a rejuvenating effect on the nervous system, has a beneficial effect on the clarity of the voice and promotes sexual desire. Applied externally, it was used for skin and hair care.
Traditionally, calamus rhizome is used to treat catarrh of the stomach and intestines, stomach weakness, upset stomach, sluggish stomach muscles and lack of appetite. In addition to these effects, the rhizome of kalmus stimulates urination, facilitates the release of gases, normalizes bile secretion and thus has a beneficial effect on digestion, metabolism, circulation and contributes to improving the condition of anemia.
Chewing dried rhizome in smokers leads to aversion to tobacco when smoking the next cigarette, so its use is recommended during smoking cessation courses.
In folk medicine, kalmus is also recommended to improve memory, as a sedative for cardiac nervousness, while for stomach and kidney weakness it is used in a tea mixture with the above-ground part of the diaper. It also has a beneficial effect on elevated body temperature as it encourages sweating. Root decoction sedentary baths are effective in promoting menstruation. For mild sexual disorders, men are advised to use an extract made from the rhizome of Kalmus and apple cider vinegar, used as a ten-day course.
For external use, calamus extract in apple cider vinegar is used for wounds and bone fertilization, while baths are recommended for frostbite and poor circulation in the hands and feet. Bathing also has a relaxing effect on the nervous system and makes it easier to fall asleep. Rinsing with tea is recommended for toothache and gingivitis, due to the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effect of its active ingredients.
Excessive use of Kalmus can also have harmful effects, in the form of increased blood pressure, so it is extremely important to follow the prescribed recommendations for use. Tea can be used for therapeutic purposes in cycles of 3-6 weeks in a row, with breaks. The use of kalmus tea is not recommended for children, during pregnancy and breastfeeding.