A stimulant sacrament used as a tonic for alleviating fatigue

Calamus - A stimulant sacrament, used as a tonic for alleviating fatigue

• Botanical Name: Acorus calamus.

• Synonyms: Sweet sedge, sweet flag, rat root, sweet myrtle, beewort, bachh (Hindu), racha (Vedic), and shih-ch'ang pu (Chinese).

• Geographical Location: Europe, Asia, and China. North America from Nova Scotia to

Minnesota, south to Florida and Texas.

• Habitat: Marshes, borders of streams and ponds. Commonly seen among cattails and other species of flag.

• Botanical Description: A perennial resembling the iris that has a horizontal, creeping rootstock up to 5 feet long. It can be distinguished from real iris by the peculiar crimped edges of its leaves and their aromatic odor when bruised. The leaves are sword-like and grow from 2 to 6 feet high, and a similar ridged flower stalk appears from the base of the outer leaves, bearing a cylindrical blunt spike or spadix covered by minute greenish yellow flowers.

For over two thousand years, calamus has been used by the Moso sorcerers of Yunnan, China, and Ayurvedic medical practitioners as a remedy for bronchitis, asthma, and fevers. In China, calamus is ingested to relieve constipation and swelling. Walt Whitman wrote forty-five ballads under the title "Calamus" in his Leaves of Grass:

The essential oil of calamus contains the psychoactive substances asarone and B-asarone. These are the nonamine precursors to TMA-2, a phenethylamine having ten times the potency of mescaline.


For I must change the strain—these are not to be pensive leaves, but leaves of joy,) Roots and leaves unlike any but themselves, ...

-Calamus 13-



1, 2, 4-Trimethory-5-Propenylbenzene (Asarone)

Another possible source of asarone is the wild carrot of central Asia (Caucasus Carota). Asarone is converted to TMA-2 in the body by aminization that occurs shortly after ingestion.

Primary Effects

Stimulant when a dried root 2 inches long and the thickness of a pencil is eaten; a hallucinogen when over 10 inches is eaten.


Most preferred technique is to eat the raw root. The root is much like ginger when dry, both in taste and texture. The tongue becomes numb after the root is chewed for four minutes. A common tonic recipe is to boil 1 ounce of calamus root in 1 pint of water. Drink daily before meals. The asarone is more easily converted to TMA-2 on an empty stomach. The root deteriorates with age and should not be used after two years. The asarone has, by that time, become useless.

Ritual Use

Calamus was one of the constituents of an ointment that Moses was commanded to rub on his body when approaching the tabernacle:

Moreover the Lord spoke to Moses, saying 'Take thou also unto thee the chief species, of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred fifty, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty, and of cassia five hundred, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a kin. And thou shall make it a holy anointing oil, an essence compounded after the art of the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.' (Exodus 30:22-25)

The psychoactive aspects of asarone in small quantities create the effect of a stimulant. In Canada it is customary for Cree over the age of forty to chew calamus regularly in small amounts as an antifatigue medicine. In larger amounts it can be used as a mind-altering sacrament for the initiation of a boy into warrior status.

Note ofCaution: Some experiments indicate that large quantities of calamus produce tumors in rats. The amount given to produce this effect, however, is astronomical for the weight of the rat. No ill effects have been reported in any of the Cree who use it daily. In fact, they seem to be in good health.

During the Depression, calamus root was chewed as a tobacco substitute in England. It kills the craving for nicotine because of the ginger taste and the aminization that occurs.

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