Vacha (Sweet Flag) – Acorus Calamus

Vacha (also called Calamus and Sweet Flag in English and Botanically, Acorus Calamus) is a potent nootropic herb. Its root (rhizome) is used in ayurvedic medicine for improving memory, cognition, intelligence, voice, and other mental abilities. Its main effects appear on the brain, vocal cord, stomach, liver, lungs, and uterus. Therefore, it is used for many diseases related to these organs.

Vacha (Calamus) roots are used for the treatment of memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, tremors, anxiety, depression, and pain disorders of neurological origin. In addition to its nervine benefits, it is used to treat loss of appetite, loss of desire to eat, intestinal gas, abdominal distension, inflammatory diseases especially rheumatoid arthritis, tachycardia, high blood pressure, productive cough, asthma, and obesity. We will discuss many of these health conditions and effects of Vacha on them under benefits and uses section of this article.

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION

Vacha is the Hindi Name of Calamus root, also known as Sweet Flag in English. Botanically, it is Acorus Calamus, which belongs to the Acoraceae (sweet-flag).

Common Names

Botanical NameAcorus Calamus
English NameCalamus, Sweet Flag
Hindi NameVacha, Vach
Ayurvedic NameVacha, Ugargandha, Chhadgrantha

Botanical Classification (Plant Taxonomy)

KingdomPlantae
Sub-KingdomViridiplantae
Infra KingdomStreptophyta (Land Plants)
Super DivisionEmbryophyta
DivisionTracheophyta (Tracheophytes or Vascular Plants)
Sub DivisionSpermatophytina (Spermatophytes or Seed Plants)
ClassMagnoliopsida
Super OrderLilianae (Monocots or Monocotyledons)
OrderAcorales
FamilyAcoraceae (sweet-flag)
GenusAcorus L.
SpeciesAcorus Calamus L. (A. Calamus) – Sweet Flag
Vacha Acorus Calamus Sweet Flag Plant
Vacha Acorus Calamus Sweet Flag Plant

MEDICINAL PARTS

The Calamus (Vacha) roots and rhizome are the main part of the plant, which is used in ayurvedic and alternative and complementary or traditional medicine. Apart from it, Calamus oil is used in essential oil therapy for the similar benefits of the Calamus roots. However, Calamus oil is a potent medicine, which has more potency as compared to root powder and should be used strictly under professional observation.

PHYTOCHEMISTRY (Chemical Composition)

The Calamus (Vacha) roots and rhizome contain 1.7 to 9.3% volatile oil of the dried roots. (Reference)

The rhizome of the Calamus contains:-

  1. β-ASARONE
  2. β-GURJUNENE
  3. (Z)-ASARONE
  4. ARISTOLENE
  5. (E)-ASARONE
  6. SEQUESTERPENES – NORSEQUESTERPINE CALAMUSIN & CALAMUSIN A-H
  7. β-DAUCOSTEROL

In crude Vacha root powder, β-ASARONE is present between 0.1 to 0.44%. (Reference)

Water-soluble polysaccharide is also present in the roots as follows: (Reference)

D-GALACTURONIC ACID85%
GALACTOSE3%
RHAMNOSE3%
XYLOSE2%
ARABINOSE1%

Mass spectrometry and Gas chromatographic studies suggest that alcoholic extract of Acorus Calamus contains about 243 volatile constituents. (Reference)

β-ASARONE1723ppm
α-ASARONE21ppm
ACORONE5425ppm
ISOACORONE329ppm
ACORENONE1431ppm
CAMPHOR613ppm
CAMPHENE421ppm
SHYOBUNONE490ppm
TRANS-CARVEOL109ppm

Second study suggest: (Reference)

 γ-ASARONETrace
PRE-ISOCALAMENDIOL1557ppm and 0.91%
α-CALACORENE0.89%
LINALOOL171ppm and 0.1%
SPATHULENOL194ppm and 0.15%
EUGENOL0.09%
ELEMOL0.04%
ELEMICIN0.58%
CIS-ISOELEMICIN1.29%
2-FURALDEHYDE1.02%

PHARMACOLOGICAL ACTIONS

Vacha (Acorus Calamus) has a wide range of therapeutic uses. It has antispasmodic, carminative and digestive properties, which helps in the treatment of the abdominal diseases. It has stimulant action on the mind and increases attention span and concentration. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions help in arthritic disorders especially rheumatoid arthritis. Overall, it improves blood circulation and mitigates the inflammation.

Medicinal Properties

  • Neuroprotective
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Antidepressant
  • Nervine Stimulant
  • Nootropic
  • Sedative
  • Muscle relaxant
  • Analgesic
  • Anti-arthritic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antitussive
  • Antibacterial
  • Anti-hypertensive
  • Cardiac Stimulant
  • Cardioprotective
  • Aam Pachak (Detoxifier)
  • Carminative
  • Antispasmodic
  • Cholagogue
  • Digestive Stimulant
  • Emmenagogue
  • Intellect promoting
  • Thermogenic (produces heat in the body)

Medicinal Properties of Vacha (Calamus) Oil

  • Hypotensive
  • Sedative
  • Muscle Relaxant

Calamus oil is more potent hypotensive and sedative action when taken orally. In traditional medicine and ayurveda, the oil is not used for oral intake. The oil is added in some oil preparation used for external application only. Its oil tends to increase the pain-relieving action of the oil.

Ayurvedic Properties

RASA (Taste)KATU (Pungent), TIKTA (Bitter)
ANU RASA (After Taste)KASAYA (Astringent)
GUNA (Main Quality)LAGHU (Light), TIKSHNA (Sharp)
SANDRA (Dense) – DRAVA (Liquid or Fluid)
VIRYA (Potency)USHNA (Hot)
VIPAKA (Resultant)KATU (Pungent)
PRABHAVA (Action)Nootropic
DOSHA KARMA (Effect on Humors)Pacifies KAPHA & VATA and increases PITTA
Dhatu (Tissue) EffectRASA, RAKTA, MEDAS, ASTHI
Organs EffectBrain, Vocal Cord, Stomach, Liver, Lungs, & Uterus
Main IndicationSkin Disorders

According to ayurvedic point of view, it is good for Vata and Kapha disorders and it should be avoided in Pitta dominance and increased Pitta symptoms.

Vacha (Calamus) Indications

When used as tonic, Vacha (Calamus) root helps to increase:-

  • Memory
  • Cognition
  • Intelligence
  • Confidence
  • Digestive fire
  • Lifespan

Vacha (Calamus) root is widely used for many ailments and some of them are listed below:

Mind, Brain & Nerves
  • Memory Loss
  • Mental Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Epilepsy
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression with passive symptoms
  • Postpartum depression
  • Paralysis
  • Delayed speech and language milestones in children
Abdomen
  • Diseases due to accumulated AMA (toxins from undigested foods or particles)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of desire to eat
  • Constipation (due to excess AMA)
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Piles
  • Worm infestation – intestinal worms
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Bad breath
  • Diarrhea
Respiratory System
  • Productive cough
  • Upper respiratory tract infection and fever due to it
  • Hiccup
  • Asthma
  • Common cold or Flu
Muscles, Bones & Joints
  • Fibromyalgia or muscle pain
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
Heart & Blood Vessels
  • Tachycardia
  • Hypertension
Women’s Health
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Oligomenorrhea
Others
  • Sinusitis
  • Laryngitis
  • Intermittent fever
  • Obesity
  • Teething problems in children
Vacha Acorus Calamus Roots with Vacha Churna (Powder)
Vacha Acorus Calamus Roots with Vacha Churna (Powder)

Vacha Benefits & Medicinal Uses

A list of the uses and indications of Vacha is a very long. Here we will discuss some important benefits and uses.

Detoxification

Vacha (Calamus) roots reduce the AMA (toxins) formation in the digestive system and in minute channels. Its active constituents enter into the various channels in the body, stimulate the metabolic power, and induce the elimination of the toxins from the body. For this purposes, it is used in dosage of 500 mg by mixing in honey. The warm water can also be taken with it.

Common Cold & Respiratory Allergies

Vacha (Calamus) root powder in dosage of 500 mg along with Trikatu powder (250 mg) and milk (250 ml) reduces nasal congestion, body aches, sneezing, sore throat and running nose. It also reduces the inflammation of the pharynx (pharyngitis).

Acorus Calamus has anti-allergic effect. It inhibits the mast cell-dependent anaphylaxis and allergic reactions. (Reference)

It can also be used along with Haldi (Turmeric) for the treatment of allergic disorders of the respiratory tract.

Cough

Vacha reduces chest congestion, wheezing, and irritation in the lungs due to excess mucus. The antitussive action also reduces cough. It is mainly effective when cough is productive in nature.

It should be avoided in dry red throat with burning sensation, or dry cough. In that case, Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza Glabra), Vasa (Adhatoda Vasica) and Misri (Sugar) are more beneficial.

Jamalgota (Croton Tiglium) Toxicity

Vacha (Calamus) root ash is an excellent remedy for Jamalgota (Croton Tiglium) toxicity. Its root is burnt to obtain the ash. Then the Vacha Ash is given in dosage of 500 to 1000 mg twice or thrice daily along with Tankan Bhasma (250 mg) and Praval Pishti (1000 mg) to reduce the symptoms of Jamalgota toxicity.

Headache

In ancient times, paste is prepared using Vacha root powder and water. This paste is applied over the head and scalp to cure the headache.

Its internal intake is also effective in headache in people having following symptoms:

  1. Feelings of heaviness in the head
  2. Dull, but non-pulsating pain
  3. Feeling congestion in the head

Dosage & Administration

Vacha is used in various ways. The dosage of most common preparations is as follows:

Vacha (Calamus) Root Powder

The general dosage of Vacha (Calamus) root powder is as follows.
Infants & Children2 to 8 mg per Kg body weight *
Adults125 to 500 mg *
Maximum Possible Dosage1 gram Per Day (in divided doses)
* Twice a day with honey, water or milk
Best Time to Take: After Food

In larger dosage (i.e. more than 1 gram), Vacha is emetic. In folk medicine, it is also used in dosage of 1 to 2 grams to induce vomiting.

Vacha (Calamus) Root Extract

The general dosage of Vacha (Calamus) root powder is as follows.
Adults25 to 50 mg *
Maximum Possible Dosage100 mg Per Day (in divided doses)
* Twice a day with water
Best Time to Take: After Food

Vacha (Calamus) Root Ash Powder

Vacha ash is obtained by burning the Vacha roots.

The general dosage of Vacha (Calamus) root powder is as follows.
Infants & Children5 to 10 mg per Kg body weight *
Adults500 to 1000 mg *
Maximum Possible Dosage3 gram Per Day (in divided doses)
* Twice a day with water
Best Time to Take: After Food

Safety Profile

According to ayurveda, Shuddha Indian Vacha (Indian Sweet flag) is non-toxic when taken less than 1 gram per day for a short period (i.e. less than 4 weeks). One thing is also considerable that in ayurveda, Vacha is used after SHODHAN PRAKRIYA (detoxification). A study on this process and effect on β-asarone content in the Vacha found that AYURVEDIC CONVENTIONAL SHODHAN PRAKRIYA reduces the β-asarone due to the heat involvement in the process, which results in volatilization of the β-asarone from the Vacha roots. (Reference)

However, still the safety profile of the Calamus is very contradictory. Many suggest it is unfit for human consumption due to β-asarone content it, which is well-know pesticide, have potential toxicity and known for carcinogenic properties. Based on this information, it is likely unsafe for human consumption.

Acorus Calamus is also banned in USA and Europe due to β-asarone content. The β-asarone content also varies from 0 to 96% among the Acorus species. So, some of them may be safer.

It should be noted Calamus oil may contain a significant amount of β-asarone, but Indian Vacha (Calamus) root powder contain no or a negligible amount of β-asarone.

The Acorus Calamus root powder in natural form is likely to be safer than its oil and extract.

Side Effects of Vacha (Acorus Calamus)

The most common side effect of Vacha (sweet flag) is headache, which generally occurs in people with increased Pitta Dosha in their body.

  1. Headache (common in people with Pitta Constitution or having Pitta disease)
  2. Nausea
  3. Vomiting (occurs only with higher dosage i.e. more than 1 gram)
  4. Low blood pressure (uncommon with Calamus root powder, but common with Calamus oil)
  5. Bradycardia – slow heartbeat

Pregnancy & Lactation

According to scientific information on β-asarone content in Acorus Calamus (Vacha), it is unsafe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Therefore, it should be avoided.

Secondly, it also has emmenagogue action, which is likely to promote menstruation or bleeding from the uterine wall. Therefore, it should be strictly prohibited in pregnancy.

Precautions

However, Vacha (Sweet Flag) is likely to affect the heart and helpful in high cholesterol and triglyceride level, but it reduces heart rate and blood pressure. Therefore, it is included in many antihypertensive medicines used in ayurveda.

The precaution should be taken when you are using modern (allopathic) antihypertensive drugs. Vacha may boost up the antihypertensive action and may lead to hypotension (low blood pressure). In some very rare cases, it may also lead to low heart rate. This effect only appears when it is used in higher dosage i.e. more than 1 gram per day. The dosage less than 1 gram per day is less likely to cause side effect on the heart.

Contraindications

  1. Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure): However, the hypotensive action is more observable with Vacha (Calamus) oil as compared to its crude powder. Still for the precautionary purposes, the dosage more than 125 mg twice daily of Vacha (Calamus) powder should be avoided in cases of low blood pressure. Its high dosage may also result in further reduction in the blood pressure.
  2. Bleeding Disorders & Surgery: Vacha (Calamus) has hot potency according to ayurveda that increases Pitta Dosha and may also increase bleeding. Therefore, it should be avoided in bleeding disorders and 2 to 3 weeks prior to the schedule surgery.

Words of Caution (for Ulcer Treatment Using Calamus)

Some experts or people also recommend Acorus Calamus (Vacha) in ulcer and gastritis based on a rat study. The study concluded that A. Calamus has inhibitory action on gastric secretion and antiulcerogenic activity. (Reference)

According to ayurveda, it is not suitable remedy for ulcers and gastritis when Pitta is dominant with symptoms such as burning sensation, sour belching, and tenderness in the upper abdomen, acid peptic disorder, sour regurgitation, and burning headache. However, if one have no such symptoms, Vacha (Calamus) can be helpful. Before using it for ulcers, please rule out the dominance of the Dosha. It would be most suitable for ulcers with Kapha dominance.

Antidote

The following antidotes can be used if Vacha affects adversely, its intake results in any side effect or Calamus toxicity is observed.

  • Fennel Seeds (Saunf)
  • Lemonade – Sweet diluted lemon juice (10 ml lemon juice + 10 grams sugar + 250 ml water)

FAQs about Vacha

Acorus Calamus is banned in the USA. Is it safe to use or does it really cause cancer?

β-asarone content varies according to Acorus species. I am not sure about the β-asarone content in Indian Variety of Acorus. In India, it is widely used without any restrictions. The side effects can also vary person to person.

Can we give Ashwagandha churna and Vacha churna together?

Yes, Vacha and Ashwagandha churna can be taken together.

You might also like

Comments are closed.