Sweet Flag or Rat Root or Calamus Root
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Sweet Flag, Rat Root, or Calamus RootSWEET FLAG
(commonly known as Calamus Root)
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Botanical:  Acorus americanus
Family:  Arecaceae (arum/palm) - Acoraceae (sweet flag)
Other common names: Calamus, Calamus Root, Rat Root, Sweet Sedge, Sweet Grass, Sweet Root,

Sweet Rush, Sweet Cane, Sweet Calomel, Sweet Myrtle, Myrtle Grass, Myrtle Sedge, Cinnamon Sedge, Muskrat Root, Gladdon, Pine Root, Flagroot, Beewort

American Sweet Flag* has been used mainly to ease digestive disorders, especially relieving flatulence, indigestion and stomach cramps.  It is also thought to be an effective herbal expectorant that clears nasal and respiratory passages, and some herbal practitioners claim it even clears the mind.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

History:
Sweet Flag is a vigorous, reed-like, aquatic plant with somewhat vague origins. Some say that it is a native of Europe; others claim Asia, and it is distributed widely in the temperate regions of Europe, the United States, Eurasia, northern Asia Minor, and throughout the Far East (including India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka). This perennial plant bears sword-shaped leaves with small yellow and green flowers on a fleshy, cane-like stalk and thrives in rich, wet soil (or shallow water) in a sunny position, reaching a height of five feet.  Although the iris-like plant resembles "yellow flag" (a member of the lily family and the reason it is called Sweet Flag), it is actually a member of the palm family and flourishes in ditches, lakesides and marshy places.  The derivation of Sweet Flag's botanical name, Acorus, is also vague:  Some say it is derived from the Greek word, coreon, meaning "pupil of the eye," referring to the plant's use to cure eye diseases; others say it is derived from an old Latin word meaning "aromatic plant," referring to the pleasant fragrance emitted from the reeds.  Its botanical specific, calamus, is a translation of the Greek word meaning "reed," and its use in herbal medicine may be traced back to the ancients.  Dioscorides prescribed it for eye problems, and in ancient India, practitioners employed it as a candied chewing medicine for coughs and bronchitis.  In Europe and England, Sweet Flag was utilized as a popular "strewing herb" to ward off disease and to add a pleasant fragrance to churches; and the esteemed seventeenth-century English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper, recommended Sweet Flag as a "strengthener of the stomach and head."  Native Americans had so many medicinal uses for Sweet Flag that it was actually considered a commodity and medium of exchange.  Plains Indians chewed it for toothache, and the Meskwakis applied the boiled root to treat burns.  Some of the tribes utilized the herb to increase strength and endurance, while other, more northerly Native Americans used it as a digestive aid and to help improve mental clarity and sharpness (echoing Culpeper's earlier recommendations), and the herb was included in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820 through 1916 and the National Formulary from 1936 through 1950.  The sweet-scented roots and leaves are used in perfumes, and its pungent, cinnamon-spicy qualities add flavor to candies, medicines, beers and gins, while the same aromatic, bitter roots and leaves are used in herbal medicine.  Some of the constituents included in Sweet Flag are essential oil, choline, soft resin, gum, starch and the bitter glucoside, acorin. The oil from North American Sweet Flag/Calamus Root is beta-asarone-free.

Beneficial Uses:
Sweet Flag is an aromatic stimulant that has been used for centuries in many cultures mainly for digestive complaints.  It is considered a "stomachic," or substance that stimulates and strengthens stomach function, and is said to benefit digestion, increase the appetite, and ease dyspepsia and stomach cramps.  The herb is thought to relieve the discomfort of flatulence, as well as check the growth of the bacteria which gives rise to it.

As an expectorant, Sweet Flag has been used to loosen and expel phlegm from the respiratory tract and is said to be useful in cases of bronchitis and sinusitis. The powdered root was included in snuff to relieve nasal congestion and shock, and in European countries the root was included in lozenges to clear the voice and ease coughs.

Sweet Flag is considered a parasiticide that has been used to destroy and expel parasites from the intestines (an insecticide is also produced from the essential oil).

As an emmenagogue, Sweet Flag has been used to stimulate and regulate menstrual flow.

The powdered root of Sweet Flag was once smoked and chewed, because it was thought to destroy the taste for tobacco and, thus, discourage and break the smoking habit.

Sweet Flag has been used to calm the nerves and act as a mild tonic that restores and nourishes the entire body by exerting a gentle strengthening effect.  It was a very important herb in Ayurvedic medicine and was used as a restorative for the brain and nervous system, especially after a stroke.

Used externally, Sweet Flag has been used to relieve burns, skin problems, eruptions, rheumatic pains and neuralgia.

Contraindications:
Pregnant and nursing women should not use Sweet Flag Herbal Supplement (Calamus), as it is considered a uterine stimulant.  Overuse (many times the recommended dosage) should be avoided, as it may cause vomiting and further serious problems.

*Note: The B-asarone content in the essential oil of an Asian variety of the species is thought to be carginogenic and said to be excluded from the American species, but because the USFDA labeled all varieties of Acorus calamus as unsafe in 1968, further research has been discouraged with regard to the herb's many historic applications. Thus, it is always recommended that any use of Sweet Flag (Calamus) be conducted only under the care of a qualified health care provider.

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