Calamus has been used as an aphrodisiac in ancient Egypt and in India, for more than 2,500 years today. This wonder herb has been used for a variety of purposes throughout the world, by different people suffering from different ailments and disorders. While in Europe calamus was used as a stimulant for one's appetite, or even for other appetites, or to aid one's digestion, in North America the herb was used in the form of decoction for fevers, colics, and stomach cramps, while rhizome was chewed to help ease tooth ache. The powdered form was taken to treat congestion. As a matter of fact, the calamus has been used extensively in Western herbal medicine to provide effective relief from digestive problems such as flatulence, bloating, and weak digestive function. In Ayurvedic medicine too, calamus has been used to treat patients suffering from digestive disorders, as well as for 'rejuvenating' the brain and the nervous system of the user. Calamus, particularly 'A. calamus var. americanus', also known as one of the best antispasmodics, relieves intense spasms of the intestines. Calamus helps and relieves distended and uncomfortable stomachs, and also treats the intense headaches that are generally related to a weak digestion. Taken in small amounts, the drug can help reduce and relieve acidity of the stomach, while larger amounts would increase deficient acid production. This is a good example of the way in which the same drug, when used in different dosages, would produce entirely different results, and can therefore be used to treat different ailments.
Calamus is reported to have originated from India, and it now grows in several parts of the world, in marshy and swampy areas where the soil is wet and damp. Calamus grows in abundance near ditches, near lakes, ponds and marshes. Calamus is propagated by dividing the clumps of the rhizome and re-planting them in shallow waters. The best time to carry this out is spring or early autumn. Harvesting can then be done as needed.
Much attention has been focused on the ingredient asarone in the volatile oil, which has been proved to be carrying carcinogenic properties when isolated. However, the variety that is found growing in the United States of America, known as A. calamus var. americanus does not contain this ingredient, and can therefore be used in various preparations, and in India, the herb has been supposedly used for thousands of years today, and there have been no reports of cancer arising from the usage of the herb to date. This can be taken to mean that although the plant may be safe to use, more research is absolutely necessary before it can be promoted popularly.
Calamus contains mucilage, up to 3% volatile oil, bitter principles, glycoside, tannin.
As an infusion, calamus can be prepared this way: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried calamus and leave this herbal tea to infuse for about 10 -15 minutes, then drink half a cup an hour before food. As a tincture, calamus can be utilized this way: take 2 - 4 ml of the calamus tincture thrice daily for prompt relief.
The rhizome of the calamus must be harvested during the months of September and October. A sharp hook can be used to extract the calamus from the muddy soil where it grows, and then the rhizome can be freed from its roots and leaves. After calamus is thoroughly cleaned, the rhizome must be split in half along its length and then dried thoroughly in the shade, before it can be used.
Calamus is effective when used in combination with other herbs. For example, for the treatment of flatulent colic, calamus can combine with ginger and wild yam. In the treatment of gastric conditions calamus can be effectively combined with meadowsweet and marshmallow.