Family • Araceae - Acorus gramineus - SWEET FLAG - Chou pu

Scientific name

Acorus calamus Linn.
Acorus asiaticus Nakai
Chang pu (Chin.)

Common names

Acoro (Span.)
Canna odorifera (Italy)
Dalaw (Ilk.)
Daraw (Ilk.)
Dengaw (Bon.)
Junco-de-cobra (Portugal)
Kalmus (Germany)
Lubigan (Tag.)
Acorus roseau (Engl.)
Calamus (Engl.)
Sweet calamus (Engl.)
Sweet flag (Engl.)
Sweet root (Engl.)
Chou pu (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

CHINESE: Ni chang pu, Xiang pu, Ye chang pu.
FRENCH: Acore aromatique, Acore calame, Acore odorant, Belle angelique, Roseau odorant.
GERMAN: Kalmus.
ITALIAN: Acoro vero, Calamo.
MALAYALAM: Vashampa.
NEPALESE: Bojho, Shyuedaa.
SANSKRIT: Bhuta nashini (Goa) (ANHC), Vacha, Vaca.
SPANISH: Cálamo aromático, Calamís.
TAMIL: Vasambu.
THAI: Hang khao pha (Chiang Mai), Som chuen, Wan nam, Wan nam lek.

Lubigan is a perennial aromatic herb, with creeping, branching and rhizomatous rootstock. Rhizome are prostrate, firm and stout with compactly arranged annular rings with numerous rootlets. Leaves arising from rhizome are linear, distichous, 25 to 50 centimeters long, 1 to 1.5 centimeters wide, with waved margins and stout midribs, base of leaf sheathed, clasping to each other. Peduncle is compressed. Spathe is green, much elongated, similar in shape to the leaves. Spadix is 3 to 5 centimeters long, and 1 centimeter or less in diameter, and bears many flowers. Flowers are very small, compacted into a concave-shaped spadix inflorescence. Sepals are 6, stamens 6, rarely flowering in the Philippines. Fruits are berries, turbinate, prismatic, with pyramidal tops, about 0.2 centimeter diameter.


– Along streams in mountains, creeks other moist places with running water, on boulders, etc., at low and medium altitude in Luzon (Laguna).
– Also found in Bontoc and Benguet provinces in swamps, at an altitude of about 1,300 meters, as a naturalized element.
– Also occurs in the temperate to subtemperate regions of Eurasia and the Americas.


– Rhizomes contain a volative and aromatic oil, sugars, choline, mucliage.
– Phytochemical studies yield volatile oil (active constituents a-asarone and beta-asarone) and saponin.
– Rhizome studies have yielded asaron, parasaron, asarylaldehyde, sesquiterpenes, acorin, eugenol.
– An oily substance, calamol (C12H18) has been extracted from the rhizome. Calamol oil is colorless, mobile liquid, with a strong characteristic, and rather pleasant aromatic odor. The oil has been described as containing palmitic and heptoic acids, ester of palmitic together with some pinene, camphene, asaraldehyde, eugenol, asarone, calamene, calamerol and calameon.
– Rhizome has yielded an alkaloid, mainly choline, soft resin, gum, starch, and a bitter glucoside, acorin.
– Rhizome also yields a little tannin.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Antifungal activity of B-asarone from rhizomes of Acorus gramineus / Jee Yeon Lee, Jung Yeop Lee et al / J. Agric. Food Chem., 2004, 52 (4), pp 776–780 / DOI: 10.1021/jf035204o

(2) Anti-secretagogue, anti-ulcer and cytoprotective properties of Acorus calamus in rats / S Rafatullah et al / Fiteropia • Vol LXV, No 1, 1994

(3) Insecticidal activity of asarones identified in Acorus gramineus rhizome against three coleopteran stored-product insects / Chan Park, Soon-Il Kim and Young-Joon Ahn / Journal of Stored Products Research, Vol 39, Issue 3, 2003, Pages 333-342 / doi:10.1016/S0022-474X(02)00027-9 |

(4) Inhibitory effects of the fragrance inhalation of essential oil from Acorus gramineus on central nervous system / Koo BS, Park KS et al / Biol Pharm Bull. 2003 Jul;26(7):978-82.

(5) Therapeutic Efficacy of Antihepatotoxic and Antioxidant Activities of Acorus calamus on acetaminophen-induced toxicity in rat / S Palani, S Raja et al / International Journ of Integrative Biology, 2009, Vol 7, No 1, 39.

(6) The treatment of cardiovascular diseases with Chinese medicine / Simon Becker, Bob Flaws, Robert Casañas, p 46 / Google Books

(7) The effect of Acorus gramineus on the bioavailabilities and brain concentrations of ginsenosides Rg1, Re and Rb1 after oral administration of Kai-Xin-San preparations in rats / Wang W, Liao Q O et al / J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Sep 15;131(2):313-20. Epub 2010 Jun 30.

(8) Study on Perfume Stimulating Olfaction with Volatile Oil of Acorus Gramineus for Treatment of the Alzheimer’s Disease Rat / LIU Zhi-bin, NIU Wen-min, YANG Xiao-hang, et al / Journ of Chinese Traditional Med

(9) Contact and fumigant toxicities of calamusenone isolated from Acorus gramineus rhizome against adults of Sitophilus zeamais and Rhizopertha dominica / Yan-Zhang Huang, Hong-Xia Hua et al / Insect Science Volume 18, Issue 2, pages 181–188, April 2011 / DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7917.2010.01358.x

(10) Experimental Study of Flavor Adjuvant Treatment of Volatile Oil of Acorus Gramineus for Alzheimer’s Disease Rats / LIN Hui-guang, DU Jian, ZHANG Liang-lianget al / DOI CNKI:SUN:FYXB.0.2007-04-010

(11) Psychoactive herbs in veterinary behavior medicine / Stefanie Schwartz / Google Books

(12) Essential Oils and Their Constituents: Anticonvulsant Activity / Reinaldo Nobrega de Almeida, Maria de Fatima Agra et al / Molecules 2011, 16, 2726-2742; doi:10.3390/molecules16032726

(13) Sorting Calamus names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher, / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / A Work in Progress / The University of Melbourne. Australia / Copyright © 1997 – 2000 The University of Melbourne.

(14) Acorus calamus L. (Sweet Flag) / Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada

(15) ACORUS CALAMUS: AN OVERVIEW / V. V. Paithankar, S. L. Belsare, R. M. Charde, J. V. Vyas / International Journal of Biomedical Research, Vol 2, No 10, 2011 / doi: 10.7439/ijbr.v2i10.174

(16) A clinical study on the management of generalized anxiety disorder with Vaca (Acorus calamus) / Bhattacharyya* D, Sur TK, Lyle N, Jana U & Debnath PK / Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge Vol. 10 (4), October 2011, pp. 668-671

– Considered stimulant, carminative, emetic, antispasmodic, insectifuge, astringent.
– Studies indicate anticonvulsant, antibacterial, antioxidant, insecticidal, radioprotective, glucosidase inhibitory, insulin sensitizing, antiepileptic, larvicidal, smooth muscle relaxant, neuroprotective, hypolipidemic, immunomodulatory properties.
– Rhizome considered stimulant and tonic.
– Oil of sweet flag considered antibacterial, antifungal, and antiamebic.

possess insecticidal, lucicidal, antiinflammatory, antibacterial, antiulcer radioprotective, antispasmodic, bronchodilatory, glucosidase inhibitory, insulin sensitizing, antiepileptic, anticholinestrase, larvicidal, antibacterial, mutagenic, anticonvulsant, neuroleptic, smooth muscle relaxant and smooth muscle stimulant activity

Division of rhizomes and potted without drainage holes. For potting, use one part river sand, one part garden soil, one part coco coir dust and one part rice hull. When established, place in partial to full sun.

Part utilized
· Rhizome and leaves.
· Best collected before flowering, the months of October and November.
· Rinse, remove rootlets, cut into sections, sun-dry. May be stored fresh for a long time by keeping under moist sand.

-Fresh rhizomes can be candied or used in cordial liquers, soups and sauces, mixed with other condiments (ginger, mace or cinnamon).
-Young shoots used in salads, believed to improve the appetite.

· Rheumatic arthritis, lumbago and leg pains: As embrocation, by cooking vine or rhizome (50 gms) with coconut oil (3 oz) .
· Indigestion, gastritis; Used for ague, tonic dyspepsia.
· Rhizome use as masticatory for toothache.
· Rhizome used as stimulant and tonic.
· Oil is carminative; also used as digestive and to increase the appetite.
· Dried rhizome chewed ad libitum to relieve dyspepsia.
· Oil used as expectorant and remedy for asthma. Also used for chronic dysentery.
· Hakims use the rhizome for hemorrhages and intestinal ulcerations; also for suppression of urine and menstrual evacuations.
· In Teheran, rhizome is reputed to be a remedy for rheumatism.
· Rhizome is a nervine sedative; in large doses, nauseant and emetic.
· Tinnitus, deafness, poor memory.
· Loss of consciousness during high fever.
· Sometimes combined with other drugs for treatment of insanity.
· Decoction: 30 gms of dried material (roots and leaves) to a pint of boiling water; tea drunk 4x daily for dyspepsia, gastritis, indigestion, stomach pains, diarrhea, asthma.
· Powdered rhizome used as insecticide and insectifuge.
· Rhizome skin used as hemostatic.
· Poultice of fresh material used for abscessed inflammation and scabies.
· In Ayurveda, used for psychoneurosis, insomnia, hysteria, epilepsy, memory loss. Also, for cough, fever, bronchitis, depression, inflammation, tumors, general debility.
· In Teheran, rhizome used as remedy for rheumatism.
· In Chinese medicine, used to aid digestion and regulate gastrointestinal fermentation and acidity. In ancient Chinese medicine, used to relieve swelling and constipation.
· In Greek-Arab medicine, used to treat gastritis, anorexia, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis.
· Early Europeans, Chinese and Arbas considered it a strong aphrodisiac; while in North America and New Guinea, once used to induce abortion.
Folkloric fringe
Used to protect young children from bales or usog. The matured rhizome is round-peeled and dried and the pieces thread together and worn as a protective waist or wrist band.

– Powdered rhizome used for sachet and toilet powders.
– Repellent: Fragrant leaves and oil used as insect repellent
– Oil used for scenting snuff. Also for flavoring alcoholic beverages.
– Calamus oil also used in making perfumes.

Study Findings
• Insecticidal / Asarones: Study indicate the toxicity of asarones might be due to the cis configuration. In a fumigation test, the insecticidal activity of the compound was largely attributable to its fumigant action. Insecticidal activities of asarones identified in Acorus gramineus rhizome against Nilaparvata lugens (Homoptera: Delphacidae) and Plutella xylostella (Lepidoptera: Yponomeutoidae)
• Antifungal / B-Asarone: An antifungal substance, B-Asarone, was isolated from the extract of AG with in vivo and in vitro activity against plant fungal pathogens M. grisea and C. orbiculare.
• Antibacterial / Antihelmintic:Isolation of beta-asarone, an antibacterial and anthelmintic compound, from Acorus calamus in South Africa: The aromatic rhizomes is used in many traditional medicine systems for stomach cramps, dysentery, asthma and as anthelmintic, tonic and stimulant. The beta-asarone isolated showed anthelmintic and antibacterial activities. However its mammalian toxicity and carcinogenicity discourages its use for traditional healing.
• Glutathione S-transferase Activity / Hyaluronidase Inhibitory Effect: Of 20 alcohol extracts of 20 species plants tested, Acorus gramineus and Pueraria lobata exhibited GST activity.
• Anti-Diarrheal: Study of plant extracts on their anti-diarrheal potential against castor-oil induced diarrhea in mice showed Acorus calamus rhizome significantly reduced induction time of diarrhea and the total weight of the feces. Results established the efficacy of the plant extracts as antidiarrheal agents.
• Anti-Ulcer / Anti-Secretory / Cytoprotective : Ethanol extract study produced significant anti-secretory, anti-ulcer and cytoprotective effects in rats. Its ability to protect the mucosa against indomethacin-induced mucosal damage confirms its anti-ulcer activity. Calamus also showed significant adaptive cytoprotective activity. It is known to possess sesquiterpenes which could contribute to its anti-ulcer activity.
• Anti-Convulsant / Essential Oil Inhalation Effects: Sedative effect after inhalation or oral administration of AGR essential oil suggests the oil may act on the CNS via the GABAergic system. An inhibitory activity of preinhalation of the essential oil was also noted on lipid peroxidation, to which an anticonvulsive action is attributed.
• Antihepatotoxic / Antioxidant: Study showed the ethanol extract of AC confers hepatoprotective and antioxidant activities by histopath and biochemical observations against acetaminophen-induced liver injury is rats; an effect comparable to the standard drug silymarin.
• Volatile Oil / Olfaction Stimulation / Benefits in Alzheimer’s Disease: Study showed perfume stimulating olfaction with volatile oil of Acorus gramineus significantly increase the learning-memory ability, decrease MDA content and increase SOD and GSH-Px activities and brain weight in AD rats.
• Memory / Cerebral Atrophy / Alzheimer’s Disease: Study in AD-induced rats treated with extract of volatile oil of A. gramineus and piracetam showed adjuvant therapy has the effect of controlling cerebral atrophy and prevention and cure of AD.
• Calamusenone / Pesticidal: Calamusenone isolated from A. gramineus rhizome showed promise as a novel pesticide candidate for stored-product pest control.
• CNS Neuroprotective Effects / Anticonvulsive: Korean study in mice on central effects of inhalation of essential oil from AG produced significant inhibition of GABA-transaminase enzyme degradation with resultant increase in GABA and glutamate. An anticonvulsant and sedative effect was reported.Both Acorus gramineus and a-asarone can enhance reactivity and convulsive threshold of immature rats to electric stimulation. Rhizome essential oil study showed neuroprotective effects on cultured cortical neurons through the blockade of NMDA receptor activity.
• Pharmacognostical and Phytochemical Study: Microscopic studies showed the presence of epidermis, cortex, fibrovascular bundle, and starch grain the the drug powder. Phytochemical screening showed alkaloids carbohydrate, glycoside, phenolic compounds and tannins.
• Antimicrobial: Study of rhizomes and leaf extracts showed pronounced antifungal activity with the ethyl acetate extracts. In addition, both a- and ß-asarones exhibited very strong antimicrobial activities against fungi and yeasts, higher than the rhizome and leaf extracts. Study suggests the active principles a- and ß-asarones might be responsible for the antimicrobial activity. Only antibacterial activity to E. coli was noted.
• Anti-Anxiety: Study of 70% hydro-alcoholic extract was done on general anxiety in humans. The results showed the extract not only significantly attenuated anxiety related disorders but also significantly reduced stress phenomenon and correlated depression.
• Bioanalytical Investigation of Asarone in Connection with Intentional Intoxication / : A study, spurred by reports of intentional intoxication in humans, failed to demonstrate the presence of 2,4,5-trimethoxyamphetamine, claimed as a hallucinogenic component of A. calamus.. The study identified cis-TMC as a urinary target metabolite for LC-MS for detection of intoxication cases, and possible as an alternative to GC-MS analysis of a- and ß-asarone.
• Anti-Seizure: Study of an aqueous extract of Acorus calamus showed protective effect against MES (maximal electric shock) but not against PTZ (pentylenetetrazole) induced seizures.

Toxicity concerns
– Cancer concerns: Banned from food products in some countries because of cancerous findings in animal studies, using high doses of carcinogenic ß-asarone, present in large amounts in Asian plants, but of limited amounts in European plants. Studies report limited amounts of the toxic derivatives in North American plants.
– Putting the cancer concern in perspective, large doses are fed to test animals in elicit hepatic cancers. Other studies failed to show embryotoxicity or teratogenicity in the embryos of pregnant mice. These test doses are much larger than those found in herbal preparations. Alternativists argue it safety with its more than 2000 years of use by ancient cultures and folk medicinal practices.

– Wild-crafted.
– Usually sold in the Quiapo herbal market.
– Essential oil, leaf and rhizome extracts in the cybermarket.