Acorus calamus (calamus root, sweet flag, rat root, sweet sedge, flag root, sweet calomel, sweet myrtle, sweet cane, sweet rush, beewort, muskrat root, pine root) contains several active constituents called "asar-ones.'' The basic structure is 2,4,5-trimethoxy-1-propenyl-benzene, which is related to the hallucinogen 3,4-methylenedioxyphenylisopropylamine (MDA). The amounts of the asarones in calamus rhizomes vary considerably with the botanical variety. For example, there are high concentrations in triploid calamus from Eastern Europe but none detectable in the diploid North American variety.
Acorus calamus has been used as a hallucinogen since ancient times and it has several uses in folk medicine. It may have been one of the constituents of the Holy Oil that God commanded Moses to make (Exodus 30) and is mentioned by ancient writers on medicine, such as Hippocrates, Theophrastus, Dioscorides, and Celsus (http://www.a1b2c3.com/drugs/var002.htm). Walt Whitman's 39 "Calamus poems'' are to be found in his well-known collection "Leaves of Grass.''
Acorus calamus has in vitro antiproliferative and immunosuppressive actions (1).
Acorus calamus contains beta-asarone [(Z)-1,2, 4-trimethoxy-5-prop-1-enyl-benzene], which is carcinogenic (2). Commercial calamus preparations have mutagenic effects in bacteria (3), while calamus oil (Jammu variety) is carcinogenic in rats.
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