Acorus

Acorus gramineus

Herbs gallery - acorus.jpg

Common names

  • Acorus
  • Chang Pu
  • Gramineus
  • Shi Chang Pu
  • Sweet Flag Rhizome

The herb known as the acorus is a rhizome forming grass. Acorus is a perennial herb similar in appearance to an iris; it is found mainly in Japan. The acorus is found growing in and around the edges of streams and in places near ponds and lakes or other large bodies of standing water. Acorus is used in the preparation of herbal medications of many kinds, as the rhizomes possess an aromatic, spicy and fragrant quality. The American herb calamus or the "sweet flag" is similar to the acorus and can be considered the American relative of the Japanese species.

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Parts used

Roots.

Uses

The medications made from acorus have an antioxidant effect, aside from other special effects on the functioning of the central nervous system in humans. The herbal medications made from the acorus have been traditionally used by the Akha people of Thailand for the treatment of persistent stomachache and other digestive disorders. This medication is also used by the Chinese for treating problems such as sudden bouts of vomiting, persistent diarrhea, acute abdominal pain and long term dysentery. Medications made from this herb aid in removing phlegm and bring on a tranquilizing effect on the mind. Such medications have been used in the treatment of amnesia, in treating heart palpitations, in the treatment of insomnia, in alleviating tinnitus (ear-ringing), as well as in treating chronic bronchitis and problems like long term bronchial asthma.

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Acorus based herbal medications have specific benefits for specific health conditions:

Acorus based medications can be used in treating withdrawal symptoms in drug addicts. The acorus based herbal therapy can beneficially affect the brain of a person suffering from the withdrawal symptoms of long term cocaine, heroin or morphine use. Drug addicts typically suffer greatly from acute withdrawal symptoms during the first one to ten days of the withdrawal process, most people will experience very intense drug cravings, persistent nausea as well as bouts of vomiting. Some of the beneficial effects of medications made from the acorus include the reduction in the intensity of gastric problems that come during the acute phase of withdrawal, this is realized through its property of preventing the secretion of the inflammatory chemical histamine in the body - however, the medication does not effect the cravings for the drug felt by the person. The medications made from acorus can also be used in the treatment of seizure disorders that affect different people. The medications made from the acorus are used in the treatment of a wide range of conditions that affect the brain.

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One of the main ways in which the medication made from acorus work is by protecting the brain tissues from the deleterious effects of toxic free radicals - these ions are released as a part of the normal metabolic process at the cellular level in the presence of excessive amounts of oxygen during cellular respiration. Cells are temporarily unable to utilize the available oxygen whenever the flow of oxygen is suddenly restored to brain cells that have been deprived of oxygen for some time. Most of this underutilized oxygen will then have a chance to escape the normal biochemical pathways that normally control and regulate oxygen use - the result is excessive free radical damage at the cellular level. Normally, free radicals damage is limited by restorative processes in the body; however, long term free radical damage can often induce permanent tissue damage in the cells of the brain, leading to problems like memory loss or even seizures that resemble epilepsy symptoms. The brain tissue damage resulting from free radical actions is limited by the beneficial actions of acorus based medications - the herbal medications prevents the formation of free radicals of oxygen and limits the damage. The most beneficial effects of acorus medications come about in the period immediately preceding the restoration of normal circulation in the body - this can be the period that falls within the first few days or a month following a stroke or injury to the head.

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The dried out roots of acorus keep insects at bay. In addition, perhaps this root also works in the form of an insecticide, people in Vietnam use it to eliminate bugs, lice and fleas. The acorus plant also yields an essential oil. Moreover, acorus can also be effectively used in the form of a cover plant, which develops as spreading clumps.

Culinary uses

Acorus is also used for culinary purposes. The root of this herb is consumed fresh or after cooking. However, before consuming the root, it is essential to peel the root and slice it finely and immerse it into water, which should be changed frequently. The root of acorus has a more potent as well as pleasant flavor compared to the sweet flag (botanical name A. calamus).

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Habitat and cultivation

Acorus is an extremely tough grass that grows all through the year and flowers during the middle of summer. This herb thrives well in locations having complete sunlight or partial shade. In addition, it has a preference of high water levels, as it cannot endure drought, but can tolerate high flood.

Acorus also grows along the shallow edges of water bodies like ponds and others. You may grow one of the cultivars of acorus called 'Pusillus' in the form of an underwater aquatic herb.

Acorus is generally propagated by its seeds sown immediately when they have matured in a cold frame. When the seedlings have become quite large to be handled, prick them out and plant them in individual pots. Ensure that you keep the seedlings wet by placing the pots in shallow water. It is advisable that you keep the pots in a cold frame or greenhouse throughout the night during their first winter of existence.

You may also propagate acorus through root division, preferably undertaken during spring and immediately prior to the growing season of the herb. Propagating acorus through root division is extremely simple and the process involves dividing the herb during any period of the year, barring the growing season, and planting the roots directly outdoors in the stable positions.

Constituents

Chemical analysis of the acorus plant has revealed that its roots enclose an essential oil that comprises of aryl aldehyde and asarone, in addition to an astringent glucoside acorin. It has been found that asarone has the aptitude to augment the hypnotic actions of ethanol and barbiturates, reduce blood pressure levels, and it works as an antibacterial agent against a number of bacteria, including Streptococci, Staphylococcus and Mycobacterium. The entire acorus plant possesses antiperiodic, anodyne, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, sedative, expectorant, sudorific, tonic, stomachic and vermifuge attributes.

Side effects and cautions

Experienced practitioners of the traditional Chinese medicine system or TCM, typically recommend acorus based medications as this herb is used in many therapeutic treatments by the Chinese. Herbal stores in the United States sell acorus based medications as chang pu or shi chang pu, these herbal preparations of acorus normally come in the form of powders, as herbal teas and as tinctures.

Herbal medications made from the American relative of the acorus, called calamus was found to have the potentially cancer inducing chemical beta-asarone, this potential carcinogenic agent in the herb was seen as a danger and led to the banning of calamus based herbal medications in the United States. At the same time, there is no ban in the US on the form of acorus used in TCM; however, even this medication comes with restrictions on its use in Canada. The use of acorus or calamus based herbal medications is also banned by many other countries around the world for similar reasons. Herbal medications made from the acorus must never be used unless the therapy occurs under the supervision of a professional herbalist.

Collection and harvesting

It is possible to harvest the acorus root throughout the year, barring the period when the plant is in bloom.

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