Sweet Flag Agrotechnology

Home » Technology » Project Profiles » Agriculture & Food Processing » Sweet Flag Agrotechnology

Uploaded on : August 2009

Product and its applications

Sweet flag (Acorus calamus L.) is also known as Acorus or Sweet calomel. This medicinal plant is called as Bach or Gorbach in Hindi; as Vacha, Ugragandha or Bhadra in Sanskrit. Its leaves possess a lemony scent and the roots also have a sweet fragrance. Sweet flag has long been known for its medicinal value and its aroma makes its essential oil valued in the perfume industry.

Sweet flag has a very long history of medicinal use in many herbal traditions. It is widely employed in modern herbal medicine as an aromatic stimulant and mild tonic. In Ayurveda it is highly valued as a rejuvenator for the brain and nervous system and as a remedy for digestive disorders. The root is anodyne, aphrodisiac, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant and febrifuge, hallucinogenic, hypotensive, sedative, stimulant, stomachic, mildly tonic and vermifuge. It is used internally in the treatment of digestive complaints, bronchitis, sinusitis etc. It is said to have wonderfully tonic powers of stimulating and normalizing the appetite. In small doses it reduces stomach acidity whilst larger doses increase stomach secretions and it is, therefore, recommended in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. However if the dose is too large it will cause nausea and vomiting. Sweet flag is also used externally to treat skin eruptions, rheumatic pains and neuralgia. An infusion of the root can bring about an abortion whilst chewing the root alleviates toothache. It is a folk remedy for arthritis, cancer, convulsions, diarrhea, dyspepsia, epilepsy etc. Chewing the root is said to kill the taste for tobacco. Roots 2 - 3 years old are used since older roots tend to become tough and hollow. They are harvested in late autumn or early spring and are dried for later use. The dry root loses 70% of its weight, but has an improved smell and taste. It does, however, deteriorate if stored for too long. Caution is advised on the use of this root, especially in the form of the distilled essential oil, since large doses can cause mild hallucinations. A homeopathic remedy is made from the roots. It is used in the treatment of flatulence, dyspepsia, anorexia and disorders of the gall bladder.

In antiquity in the Orient and Egypt, this rhizome was thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac. In Europe Acorus calamus was often added to wine. The root is also one of the possible ingredients of absinthe. Among the northern Native Americans, it is used both medicinally and as a stimulant; in addition, the root is thought to have been used as an entheogen among the northern Native Americans. In high doses, it is hallucinogenic. Acorus calamus shows neuroprotective effect against stroke and chemical induced neurodegeneration in rat. Specifically, it has protective effect against acrylamide induced neurotoxicity.

Cultural symbolism: The calamus has long been a symbol of male love. The name is associated with a Greek myth: Kalamos, a son of the river-god Maeander, who loved Karpos, the son of Zephyrus and Chloris. When Karpos drowned, Kalamos was transformed into a reed, whose rustling in the wind was interpreted as a sigh of lamentation. The plant was a favorite of Henry David Thoreau (who called it sweet flag), and also of Walt Whitman, who added a section called the "Calamus" poems, possibly celebrating his love of men, to the third edition of Leaves of Grass (1860). In the poems the calamus is used as a symbol of love, lust, and affection. The name Sweet Flag refers to its sweet scent (it has been used as a strewing herb) and the wavy edges of the leaves which are supposed to resemble a fluttering flag.

In Japan, the plant is a symbol of the samurai's bravery because of its sharp sword-like leaves. Even now many families with young boys enjoy "Sweet Flag Bath (sh?bu yu)" in the Boy's Festival (Tango no Sekku) on May 5. Also, the legendary Japanese sword Kusanagi was said to resemble a calamus.

For the Penobscot this is a very important root. One story is that there was a sickness plaguing the people. A muskrat spirit came to a man in dream and told him that he was a root. He told the man where to find him. The man awoke, found the root, and made a medicine which cured the people. In Penobscot homes, the root was cut and hung up. Steaming it throughout the home is thought to cure sickness. While traveling, a piece of root was kept and chewed to ward off illness.

Teton-Dakota warriors chewed the root to a paste, which they rubbed on their faces. It prevented excitement and fear when facing an enemy.

The Ojibway make a tea by taking a piece of root and scalding it, then drinking the tea warm. Gargling the tea or chewing on a piece of root is also good for sore throat. The Potawatomi powder the dried root and put up the nose to cure a runny nose.

In Ayurvedic system of medicine, the rhizomes of Sweet flag are considered to possess anti-spasmodic, carminative and anthelmintic properties and have been used for a number of beneficial reasons. Vacha is considered as a 'sattvic' herb which feeds and transmutes the sexual 'kundalini' energy.

The plant is used to make a number of products, e.g. powder, extract and oil. Its powder is used in India since Vedic ages. Sweet flag powder is a stimulating nervine antispasmodic and a general tonic to the mind. As a rejuvenative for the brain and nervous system, Sweet flag powder is used to promote cerebral circulation, to stimulate self-expression, and to help manage a wide range of symptoms in the head, including neuralgia, epilepsy, memory loss and shock. The powder reportedly feeds and transmutes the sexual 'kundalini' energy.
Sweet flag extract is anti-rheumatic and analgesic. It is very much useful in case of asthma, bronchitis and cough. The root has a long history of usage. Many Indians and native American tribes were familiar with and its smell makes calamus essential oil valued in the perfume industry. The Ayurvedic system, it has been used as an anesthetic for toothache and headaches.

Sweet flag essential oil is anticonvulsant, antiveratrinic and antiarrhythmic. The oil of Sweet flag is used as an ingredient in flavours, particularly in liquors and in also in perfumery. Because of its peculiar, warm and somewhat spicy odour, it blends well into compositions of the heavier oriental types.

Market Potential

Sweet flag has been an item of trade in many cultures for thousands of years. Sweet flag forms a useful adjunct to other tonics and stimulants. It is forms a popular remedy for cough and cold and also the other respiratory disorders like bronchitis. In raw form it is used as cough lozenge. Sweet flag provides aid to the digestive system and acts against flatulent colic, dyspepsia, and vomiting. Acorus calamus depresses central nervous system and is a well known ingredient in formulation for psycho-somatic disorders like epilepsy. The vapours of Sweet flag repel some insects. Importers, buyers within the country, processors, traditional practitioners, Ayurvedic and Siddha drug manufacturers throng the markets for procurement of this plant every year. Its domestic demand is quite large. As the production is much less in India, the internal market itself is highly potential.

Basis and Presumption

  • The agricultural land and related infrastructure is available with the entrepreneur.
  • Provision has been made for additional investment on drip irrigation which can be saved if good irrigation facilities are existing.
  • Prices are calculated as per the prevailing market rates.
  • The yields depend on proper implementation of package of practices.
  • Economics of cultivation greatly improves on scale of operation.
  • This activity provides tax-free high returns. Additionally a number of government support schemes are available. Latest provisions need to be checked up.
  • Market for medicinal plants is volatile and economics may vary from time to time.

Agri practices

Sweet flag is a perennial, semi-aquatic and smelly plant, found in both temperate and sub temperate zones. It is up to 2m tall, aromatic, sword-shaped leaves and small, yellow/green flowers with branched rhizome.
Probably indigenous to India, Sweet flag is now found across Europe, in southern Russia, northern Asia Minor, southern Siberia, China, Japan, Burma, Sri Lanka, Australia, as well as southern Canada and northern USA.

Soil & Climate

It's a hardy plant found growing from tropical to sub-tropical climates. Plenty of sunshine should be available to the plant during its growth and after harvesting for drying the rhizomes. Temperature ranging from 10°C to 38°C and annual rainfall between 70 and 250 cm are best suited. Cultivation should be avoided in places where there is no irrigation facility. This species comes up well in clayey loams, sandy loams and light alluvial soils of river banks.

Land Preparation

The land should be ploughed twice or thrice prior to the onset of rains. The land should be prepared like paddy fields.


Acorus is propagated through rhizomes. Rhizomes obtained from earlier planting are kept preserved in the soil and constantly kept moist. After emergence the rhizomes are cut into small pieces and planted. Sprouted rhizome pieces are planted at a spacing of 30 x 30 cm and depth of 4cm in the month of July-August. The best time for planting is the second fortnight of June. Around 1, 11,000 plants can be planted per hectare. As the growth rate is very fast, sprouts are visible on the second day of planting.


Compost/FYM @15 t per hectare along with nitrogen and phosphorus is applied. One third of N along with 50 kg of P and 25 kg of K is the basal requirement. The second dose of N should be given after one month of planting as broadcast and a third dose should be applied after two months of planting.


The river or canal banks where the land is saturated with water is very suitable for its growth. The initial level of water standing in the field should be 5 cm and later increased to 10 cm. Irrigation can be avoided in the rainy season, however, if there is prolonged dry spell it must be irrigated at an interval of 2-3 days.

Plant Protection

Mealy bugs and caterpillar are the pests occurring on this crop. Spraying the shoots and drenching the roots of plants with 10 ml methyl parathion or 20ml Quinolphos in 10 litres of water can be effective in controlling the shoot and root mealy bugs. Major disease is leaf spot and a spray of Captan 10 g with Chloropyriphos 20ml/10 L controls leaf spot as well as mealy bugs and caterpillar.


Timely weeding and hoeing to control the spread of weeds and to obtain good yield is essential. After each weeding the growing plants are pressed down into the soil.


After 6-8 months, in December, the lower leaves turn yellow and dry indicating their maturity. The field should be partially dried only leaving sufficient moisture for uprooting the plant. In case of large scale cultivation rhizomes may be removed by passing the plough.

Post Harvest Operations

The uprooted rhizome is cleaned after washing with water and cut into size of 5-7.5 cm length and fibrous roots removed.


The cut rhizomes are dried by spreading under the shade so that the amount of oil present in it is not harmed.


The yield is expected to be 4.22 t of dry rhizomes or 10 t fresh rhizomes per hectare.

Economics of Cultivation per hectare land

Sales proceeds per hectare for 4220 kg @ Rs 45/kg) = Rs. 190,000
Expenditure per hectare = Rs. 65,000
Net Returns per hectare = Rs. 125,000

Addresses of Some Dealers in Medicinal plants/ Planting material

Tropical Forest Research Institute
Mandla Road, Jabalpur (M.P.)

60, Jail Road, Jahangirabad,
Bhopal (M.P.)

KRD Musli Farm,10/47, Station Road, Rau,
Indore-453331 (M.P.)

Mittal Musli Farm and Research Centre,
Jamod, Jalgaon (Maharashtra)

Regional Research Laboratory
Jorhat (Assam)

Jeevan Herbs & Agro Farms
178,Keshav Ganj, Sagar (M.P.)

SSS Biotic.com
C/o biosourcing.com (P)Ltd.
A-41, Janpath, Ashoknagar
Bhubaneswar (Orissa)

Kasiraj Exports,
37, Santhai Road,
Tuticorin (TN)

A.Y. Agritec Private Limited
16-7-382/18, Azampura Masjid,
Hyderabad (A.P.)

Contact for more information

Information Manager
TIMEIS Project
E-mail: timeis@ficci.com