Calamus Oil


Calamus essential oil is obtained from the roots of Acorus calamus, better known as Sweet Flag. Calamus oil has been extracted and used since ancient times, and so is the herb. Calamus essential oil is an excellent aromatherapy oil for the mind as it alleviates problems like memory difficulties and loss of concentration. It is a stimulant for the mind and the body.


Calamus oil is an essential oil distilled from the roots of Acorus calamus.  It is a fragrant plant. Its rhizome is used as a spice, similar to ginger. It is also called German ginger when used in crystalline form. The most important part of calamus plant is its root. Throughout the ages, it has been used as a herbal remedy for numerous complaints. The herb has been mentioned in many prominent ancient civilizations, like the Egyptians and the Indians. It is mentioned in the Ayurveda for its effects on the human psyche. There are some conflicting accounts about this herb. In some books, it is used to reduce the effect of hallucinogens, while others use it to create hallucinations.

Acorus calamus also called sweet flag or calamus
Acorus calamus also called sweet flag or calamus (Image:Shutterstock)


Calamus essential oil is obtained through steam distillation, and as such it is pure and organic. It contains the original ingredients of calamus root without any trasnformation because of the use of solvents or chemicals.


Calamus essential oil possesses many healing and beneficial properties. However, it also has some harmful properties.

  • Antioxidant – it has got powerful antioxidant capacity. [1]
  • Cicatrizant – It is a wound healer. [2]
  • Nervine – It has a stimulatory effect on the nervous system.
  • Antimicrobial – effective against many species of bacteria, fungi and viruses.
  • Insecticide – repels many insects, like cattle ticks.
  • Anti-rheumatic – provides relief in rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Anti-spasmodic – prevents the occurrence of spasms.
  • Nootropic – It is a memory booster.
  • Tranquilizer and Sedative – It provides relaxation and induces sleep.
  • Cephalic – It improves the functioning of the brain and nervous system.
  • Anti-epileptic – provides relief from epilepsy.
  • Anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation, specially in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Circulant – Improves blood circulation.
  • Hypothermic – It reduces body’s core temperature. This is helpful in fevers.

Color and Aroma

Calamus essential oil has a yellowish brown color. The aroma of this oil is somewhat similar to that of cinnamon. It is sweet, uplifting and refreshing for the mind.

Health Benefits

Calamus oil is toxic if not used correctly. It should be therefore be used under professional supervision.

Health Benefits for the Mind

Calamus oil can be diffused in the air using a vaporizer. One should add about  3 -4 drops in vaporizer, and about 10 drops in case of an oil burner. When the air contains the essence of calamus, it provides many health benefits to the mind.

  • It improves mental focus, concentration and alertness. It can thus be used when there is a need to stay sharp and focussed.
  • It aids the memory retention process.
  • It improves blood circulation to the brain and thus gets rid of dizziness. The person can experience better balance and steadiness.
  • It alleviates anxiety, stress and tension.
  • Its aroma is spiritually uplifting. It can foster positive feelings to the mind.


Calamus essential oil is helpful in mild fever, or feverishness. The aroma, when diffused in the air alleviates the symptoms of a fever and allows the person to lie down and get rest. This is a simple home remedy for a mild fever.

Arthritis Pain

Calamus oil is good at relieving pain caused by arthritis, specially rheumatoid arthritis. One can add about 2 drops of calamus oil to 5 ml of base oil, like castor oil and apply it on the painful. It is anti-inflammatory and reduces redness and pain on the joint.

Promotes Relaxation

One can get great relief from the calamus essential oil by using in a bath. Prepare some warm water for bath and add about 6 – 8 drops of calamus essential oil along with lavender essential oil. The two go well with each other. Take bath in this water. It creates a tranquilizing effect and the person feels a sedative effect. This provides relief from pain, like chronic back pain. It also alleviates anxiety and mental stress. This bath makes the mind calm and alleviates irritation and negative feeling. The presence of lavender oil in this home remedy induces sleep and alleviates insomnia.


Calamus oil is quite helpful in all kinds of neuralgia, like trigeminal neuralgia. In these conditions, engorged blood vessels constrict or pinch the nerve. When the nerve is constrained, it stimulates all along its length. If the contraction is large, it can lead to sharp, intense burning pain which feels like shocks of electricity rushing through. Application of calamus essential oil in a base oil reduces inflammation in the nearby tissues. The blood vessels constrict and return to their normal size. As pressure on the nerve is relieved, neuralgia is also relieved. This way, it is helpful in diabetic neuropathy. A scalp massage using this oil as an ingredient reduces this kind of pressure on the cranial nerves.


Because this oil has some toxic effects, it is generally not used to make products for personal use. However, it has some other uses.

  • Calamus oil is still used as an ingredient for anointing oil.
  • It is used as an insecticide to prevent insects from troubling cattle.

Side Effects, Safe Dosage and Toxicity Issues

Calamus essential oil is not used for internal consumption. That is because this essential oil is toxic and considered a carcinogen. This has not been proven however this essential oil seems to have procarcinogenic effect on ingested. This was pointed out in a study  that a nutrient from calamus, called β – asarone may have carcinogenic effects, although quite weak.  Calamus essential oil should not be used by pregnant women.
Even through aromatherapy and inhalation, calamus essential oil can induce strong hallucinations and convulsions. So, in small amounts, it is quite medicinal, although turning toxic and harmful at high concentrations.


There are no verified contraindications of calamus essential oil, although it may interefere with medication for anxiety, neuritis and depression.

Nutritional and Medicinal Information

Let us look at the nutrition facts of calamus essential oil. There are quite differences in the essential oil composition taken from Calamus from different parts of the world. This is the chemical composition of this essential oil.

Nutrient Percentage
β – Asarone 83.2 %
α – Asarone 9.7 %
β – Bisabolene 1.2 %
(Z) – Isoelimicin 1.1 %
α – Terpineol 0.4 %

Source : 3

Besides these compounds, calamus oil also contains other nutrients like (Z) – Ocimene, Linalool, Linalyl Acetate, δ – Elemene, β – Caryophyllene, β – Gurjurene, ar- Curcumene, α -Muurolene and many more. The concentration of each of these is below 1 % of the total calamus rhizome essential oil. However, we notice that nearly 90% of the oil is made up of just two ingredients.

  • β – Asarone – It is the chief sedative compound in Calamus essential oil . Most of the health benefits are attributed to this compound. It also induces a drop in core body temperature. It also helps to improve the positive respone of a person to a stressor, like an urge to fight.  [4] [5]
  • α – Asarone – It is a powerful antioxidant and a protector of the nervous system. It protects the nervous system from damage due to inflammation. It reduces oxidative stress, improves memory and is even helpful in cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s. [6]

There is not enough information about other important chemical properties of calamus essential oil, like its pH, ORAC value ( measure of antioxidant power ) and its storage tempreature.

Buying and Storage

Calamus oil can be easily obtained online, or at an essential oil store. There are chances that this oil may be adulterated with camphor components, so one should be sure about it. Calamus essential oil is not quite stable. It should be kept away from sunlight in a dark vial in cool temperature.


1. Toxicity of Acorus calamus rhizome powder from Eastern Nepal to Sitophilus granarius (L.) and Sitophilus oryzae (L.) (Coleoptera, Curculionidae). Paneru, R.B. et al.; Lepatourel, G; Kennedy, S (1997).Crop Protection .
2. Evaluation of wound-healing activity of Acorus calamus Linn. Nilesh Jaina*, Ruchi Jaina, Arti Jainb, Deepak Kumar Jainc & H.S. Chandelc . Natural Product Research: Formerly Natural Product Letters
3. Essential oil composition of Acorus calamus L. from the lower region of the Himalayas. V. K. Raina,1 S. K. Srivastava1* and K. V. Syamasunder
4. Sedative and hypothermic effects induced by β-asarone, a main component of Acorus calamus. P. Zanoli, R. Avallone andM. Baraldi. Phytotherapy Research
6. Neuroprotective effect of alpha-asarone on spatial memory and nitric oxide levels in rats injected with amyloid-β(25–35) Ilhuicamina Daniel Limón et. al. Neuroscience Letters

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