Also called sweet flag or calamus, among many common names is a tall perennial wetland monocot of the Acoraceae family, in the genus Acorus. In spite of common names that include the words “rush” and “sedge”, it is neither a rush nor sedge. The scented leaves and more strongly scented rhizomes have traditionally been used medicinally and to make fragrances, and the dried and powdered rhizome has been used as a substitute for ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.
A. calamus has been an item of trade in many cultures for thousands of years. It has been used medicinally for a wide variety of ailments, and its aroma makes calamus essential oil valued in the perfume industry. The essence from the rhizome is used as a flavor for pipe tobacco. When eaten in crystallized form, it is called “German ginger”. In Europe Acorus calamus was often added to wine, and the root is also one of the possible ingredients ofabsinthe. It is also used in bitters. In Lithuania Ajeras (Sweet flag) is added to home baked black bread.
Sweet flag has a very long history of medicinal use in Chinese and Indian herbal traditions. The leaves, stems, and roots are used in various Siddha and Ayurvedic medicines. It is widely employed in modern herbal medicine for its sedative, laxative, diuretic, and carminative properties. It is used in Ayurveda to counter the side effects of all hallucinogens. Sweet Flag, known as “Rat Root” is one of the most widely and frequently used herbal medicines amongst the Chipewyan people.