Economic Botany

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 397–412 | Cite as

The ethnobotany of sweet flag,acorus Calamus (Araceae)

  • Timothy J. Motley


Sweet flag,Acorus calamus, one of the few extratropical members of the Araceae, is a semi-aquatic component of aquatic habitats throughout the temperate to sub-temperate regions of Eurasia and the Americas. The plant has a rich ethnobotanical history dating back possibly to the time of Moses in the Old Testament of the Bible and in early Greek and Roman medicine. Sweet flag, thought to be indigenous to India and spread along trade routes, has been valued for its rhizome and fragrant oils which have been used medicinally, in alcoholic beverages, as a fragrant essence in perfumes and oils, and for insecticidal properties. Current research investigates sweet flag’s value as an insecticidal, antibacterial and antifungal agent. This paper is a comprehensive survey of the past, present and future uses of sweet flag.

Key Words

Acorus calamus sweet flag calamus ethnobotany alkaloids essential oils 

Calamus, Acorus calamus, ethnobotanique. Calamus, Acorus calamus


l’une des rares espèces non tropicales de la famille des Araceae, est une semi-aquatique composante des milieux aquatiques des régions tempérées et sub-tempérées d’Euraore et des Amériques. Cette plante bénéficie d’une riche histoire ethnobotanique datant de l’époque de Moise de l’ancien testament de la Bible et des medecines Romaine et Grecque. Calamus est probablement originaire de la péninsule Indienne etfut distribuée par les commercants pour qui le rhizome riche en huiles aromatiques, sont utilisés en pharmacopée, dans les boissons alcoolisées, la parfumerie et pour ses proprietes insecticides. Actuellement, des recherches sont entreprises pour evaluer les proprietes insecticiden, bactericide et fongicide de cette espece. La presente etude fait une synthese des usages et des potentialites de cette espèce (calamus).


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy J. Motley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonolulu

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