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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Volatile Oils

Calamus consists of dried rhizomes of Acorus calamus Linn., belonging to family Araceae.






Sweet Flag, Sweet cane, Sweet root, Sweet grass, Sweet rush. Cinnamon sedge, Myrtle grass, Myrtle flag, Myrtle sedge, Sweet myrtle Beewort, Calamus rhizome, Sweet segg


Biological Source


Calamus consists of dried rhizomes of Acorus calamus Linn., belonging to family Araceae.


Cultivation and Collection


The plants can be propagated by rhizomes either in early spring or in late autumn. The portions of the rhizome are planted in damp, muddy spots, on the margins of water. They are set 1 foot apart and well-covered. It grows very well in moist ground which is rich and frequently watered. The rhizomes are gathered generally after two or three years when they are large enough. It is collected in late autumn or early spring.




It is a semiaquatic perennial plant. The plant grows from 60 to 100 cm tall. The stem is triangular and sprouts from a horizontal, round rootstock, which has the thickness of a thumb. The leaves are yellowish-green, 2 to 3 feet in length, oblong, sword-shaped, tapering into a long, acute point, often undulate on the margins and arranged in two rows. The rhizome has an intensely aromatic fragrance and a tangy, pungent and bitter taste. The flowers are small dice-shaped, slim, conical spadix, greenish in colour appear from May to July. Fruits are berries, full of mucus, which falls when ripe into the water or to the ground. Rhizomes are about 20 cm long, 1 to 2 cm in diameter, either peeled or unpeeled, reddish grey in colour, soft, porous, with longitudinal furrows. On the lower surface there are small root scars which are slightly raised.


                         Acorus calamus

Chemical Constituents


The dried rhizome contains about 1.5–2.7% of a neutral, yellow, aromatic, essential oil. The fresh aerial parts yield about 0.12% of the volatile oil, whereas the unpeeled roots yield the maximum of 1.5–3.5%. The constituents present in calamus are acorin a volatile essential oil, amorphous, which is semifluid, resinous, neutral in reaction, bitter and aromatic, and soluble in alcohol, chloroform and ether; acoretin or choline is a bitter principle with resinous nature; a crystalline alkaloid soluble in alcohol and chloroform, Calamine; along with other constituents like bitter glucoside, starch, mucilage and traces of tannin. The volatile oil is yellowish-brown in colour and is composed of asaryl aldehyde, heptylic and palmitic acid, eugenol, esters of acetic and palmitic acids, pinene, camphene, sesquiterpene, calamene and a small quantity of phenol, methyl eugenol, cilamenenol, and calameone.





Calamus is an aromatic, bitter stomachic, carminative, appe-tizer, digestive, spasmolytic, stomach tonic, nervine sedative, and antiperiodic. The volatile oil is aromatic, expectorant and antiseptic, as a flavouring agent, in perfumery. The dried root and rhizomes are chewed to relieve dyspepsia, bronchitis and also chewed to clear the voice.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparations known as Abana, Mentat, Anxocare Pain massage oil (Himalaya Drug Company) and Mahamarichadi tail, Brahma rasayan (Dabur).


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