Shǐ Chāngpú, 石菖蒲, Acorus gramineus, Reveal Date: 6/13

Article published at: Jun 6, 2024 Article author: Lily Michaud
color photograph of Acorus calamus, by Mokkie
All Brown Bear Herbs Herbalism & Tactics for Thriving Together Article comments count: 0

This week we meditated on Shǐ Chāngpú, 菖蒲, Acorus gramineus, known in English as Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus). Possibly the weirdest plant meditation so far. But, in the end, an informative exchange with the plant. 

The Shén Nóng Běncǎo Jīng (trans: Wilms) states this plant is non-toxic. This plant has a history of debatable safeness. The plant information came through that it was not good for some of us to consume it. Indigenous use in North America suggests only to use as a cold infusion. Further investigation of proper use and safety is warranted.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Acorus calamus, sweet flag photograph or the plant growing in the middle of a pond, bamboo in the background.



This herb had a dry, warm feeling. The steeped roots had a mild flavor, a bit like black pepper corns.

Meditation 1:


-Energy to face and forehead. 

-Smiling so big it felt like I had dental cheek retractors in. My cheeks started to hurt after a while.

-Very happy. Some laughing.

-Then I licked my teeth, relaxed my face and went into a regular silent meditation.

My daughter's vision:

People running across the beach. There is a sunset. I hear "Dentures can save lives. As a young park ranger once said: 'Jo Malone (a candle and perfume brand) was right about everything'." "Sponsored by Coach" The RITE-AID logo floats across the sky at the end. 

Meditation 2: 


Warmth in middle (above naval) abdomen. 

My daughter's:

The plant indicated it is not safe to take much. The plant said she should not drink more, nor should I.

A guy in his 60's is talking. He is wearing a cowboy hat, he is a sheriff-type dude from the country. He says, "Billy Bob Thornton once said 'what's mine is yours and what's your's is mine.' I really like to take that into consideration for my life, and especially my marriage."

Summary and Traditional Use: 

The combination of our experiences makes this the strangest plant I have worked with. I have tried Acorus calamus before for laryngitis and head injuries. I did not respond to it. This time I felt very happy to the extent it made my daughter concerned. Based on the advice not to take it, and given it is not to be used with yin deficiency with heat signs, I have some concerns about dosing. Looking at traditional use can help. Traditional Chinese use includes "opening the orifices" which it did! My mouth was open--in a muscular way, not a joint way. lol. It is also used to restore the "bright yang of consciousness". I did feel the top half of my head lit up (not with light, a clear energy). It harmonizes the Earth element (possibly indicated by the gentle warmth in my mid upper abdomen). Acorus calamus (the western varietal) is used for "senility" along with head injuries, and lack of comprehension/dull mental state.  In both Chinese medicine and native use in North America this herb is used for laryngitis as a remedy for singers from overuse of the voice. (Wood, M., The Earthwise Herbal, New World, 2009) In Ayurvedic medicine it is to help nervous speak. It is said to connect heart to voice. 

Teeth: We both had teeth related experiences and indeed this herb has a history of use for oral health. Bad breath (Wood, Earthwise Herbal: New World--tribal use); toothache, periodontal disease, periodontal regeneration (Research review, multiple sources were from tribal use--unfortunately I am not getting specific tribe names) 

Toxicity concerns: Calamus is prohibited in food by the FDA because most species contain the cancer-causing chemical beta-asarone. Studies on this were in high doses. It is also believed that beta-asarone is anticancer.   

Cold Infusions: Multiple sources from indigenous tribes (North America) suggested that this herb should be prepared by cold infusion, left to soak overnight. This is unusual--the herbal properties are different by cold infusion and it may be less of a risk when prepared this way. It would be interesting to see an analysis of the herb prepared by cold infusion vs hot tea or capsule/dry powder.

This might be a good herb to use by cold infusion with white oak bark as a mouthwash for dental health. I often use white oak bark as a mouthwash to cleanse and remineralize my teeth. (tip from Matthew Wood is to do this for 7 days, then swish and swallow thereafter). I find that drinking whole cups of white oak bark can be too drying. It is a powerful herb. It sounds like shǐ chāngpú is too, and while it may not be good for me internally, I think it might be supportive as an oral rinse. I have been procrastinating a dental visit for a while now and I do not want to find out how great dentures are! 


Have you had experiences with shǐ chāngpú, vacha, calamus, or sweet flag? I would love to hear your experiences. Please post them in comments.


Leave a comment