Shi Chang Pu – Acorus rhizome (A. gramineus) – Related to and similar to the American species A. calamus (Calamus, Sweetflag)

Nature: acrid, warm

Enters: Heart, Stomach, Liver

Actions: Opens the orifices; calms the Shen; vaporizes phlegm; resolves damp; adjusts the stomach/harmonizes the middle Jiao; brightens the eyes; improves hearing; benefits muteness; mildly induces resuscitation.

• Damp-phlegm obstruction of the heart and sensory orifices: fuzzy head, loss of consciousness, dizziness, forgetfulness, dull senses, seizures, stupor, phlegm blockage of the ears including deafness.
• Damp accumulation with Qi stagnation: chest, epigastric, and abdominal fullness and pain.
• Damp/phlegm in the middle Jiao which disturbs the mind.
• Used internally or externally for wind-cold-dampness: Bi syndrome, trauma, sores.
• Potential use in ADD/ADHD (e.g., Seven Forests Acorus Tablets).
• Increases digestive secretions, relaxes intestinal spasm.
• Ulcerations of the cornea: with Hu po, Gou qi zi, and Ju hua.
• Hoarseness with accompanying sputum in the throat or swollen, edematous vocal cords: with Jie geng and Shi hu.
• This herb’s ability to open the orifices is secondary to its general, aromatic action in vaporizing phlegm.
• Powdered herb can be blown up the nose in emergency situations.
• Used in Ayurveda to antidote marijuana.
• Contains β-asarone, which has been show to be carcinogenic to animals in laboratory studies. These studies do not conclusively demonstrate any danger from standard therapeutic doses in humans. Also, β-asarone is destroyed by prolonged cooking. Traditionally, Shi chang pu is long-cooked with other herbs.
DY: Some materia medica maintain that Shi chang pu opens the nine portals (the seven sensory orifices plus the anus and urethra). It is particularly effective for sensory or psychological problems such as deafness, tinnitus, nasal obstruction, blurred vision, loss of consciousness, slow-wittedness, loss of memory, dementia, and psychoses.
Shi chang pu is incompatible with meat, lamb’s blood, and Yi tang.
• With Chan tui to effectively rouse the spirit and open the portals. For vertigo, tinnitus, and deafness due to obstruction of the portals.
• With Ci shi to enrich the kidneys, calm the liver, diffuse impediment, open the portals, and sharpen the hearing. For indications such as:
– 1. Tinnitus and/or deafness due to Yin deficiency or deficiency fire. (Use vinegar dip-calcined Ci shi.)
– 2. Headaches, vertigo, heart palpitations, vexation and agitation, and insomnia due to Yin deficiency causing Yang hyperactivity. (Use unprepared Ci shi. However, it is important to know this form can cause abdominal pain. Therefore, the dosage should be moderate [15g] and it should be combined with Shen qu.)
Shi chang pu is a generic name which covers three distinct medicinal substances:
– 1. Jiu jie chang puAnemone altaica: Transforms phlegm; eliminates wind-phlegm; opens the orifices. To treat sensory or psychological disorders due to phlegm confounding the orifices of the heart, Jiu jie chang pu is the most appropriate and effective of these various medicinals.
– 2. Xian chang pu or Xi ye chang puAcorus gramineus var. pulsillus: Is prescribed fresh (Xian) and clears heat; transforms phlegm-heat; used for loss of consciousness due to febrile disease or accumulation of phlegm-fire.
– 3. Shi chang puAcorus gramineus: Transforms phlegm; eliminates dampness; stimulates hunger.
Bai chang pu or Shui chang puAcorus calamus [Sweetflag] is substituted for Shi chang pu by the majority of importers. This has a similar action to Shi chang pu, but is less powerful.
HF: A Sha Chong (kill worms or parasites) herb, important in Gu Zheng (Gu parasites) formulas.
Hsu: Stimulates secretion of digestive juices, prevents abnormal fermentation in the GI tract; analgesic – relieves spasms of intestinal tract smooth muscle; sedative; antifungal; diuretic.
JTCM: For insomnia, particularly after history of using sleeping pills which have blocked the orifices of the heart with phlegm: use Wen Dan Tang plus Shi chang pu, Yuan zhi, He huan pi. In Ben Cao Gan Mu, Shi chang pu is said to tonify the heart Qi.
• Somnolence: when due to spleen Qi sinking, preventing the clear Yang from reaching the head, add Shi chang pu to Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang. When due to phlegm-heat flaring up and blocking the orifices of the heart, add Shi chang pu to Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang.
• Fresh Shi chang pu juice can be dropped into the ear to unblock the ear and disperse EPIs.
• Tongue stiffness after wind-stroke.
• Hoarse voice, loss of voice, difficulty speaking: fresh herb gives better results than dry – use 15g fresh slices in tea (particularly effective with Chao yi, Xuan shen, Ma bo).
• Leukorrhea: in Ben Cao Gan Mu, it is said that Shi chang pu can treat uterine bleeding and leukorrhea. Use Hua Zhuo Tiao Jin Tang for dampness and imbalance of the Chong and Dai Mai: Shi chang pu 15g/day, Chao yi ren 30, Cang zhu 10, Bai zhu 10, Che qian zi 10, Chao huang qin 12.
• Inhibits growth of fungus. Especially good for women with both digestive disorders and leukorrhea.
• Short cook to preserve the volatile oil which calms the mind.
MLT: With Yu jin for mental derangement, the effects of intoxicating drugs such as marijuana, and lack of focus.
Yoga: Vacha, meaning “speaking” the power of the word, of intelligence or self-expression that this herb stimulates.
• Pungent, bitter, astringent/heating/pungent; V, K-; P+
• Stimulant, rejuvenative, expectorant, decongestant, nervine, antispasmodic, emetic.
• Colds, coughs, asthma, sinus headache, sinusitis, arthritis, epilepsy, shock, coma, memory loss, deafness, hysteria, neuralgia.
• Used by Vedic seers.
• Rejuvenates the brain and nervous system, purifies and revitalizes.
• Rejuvenates Vata and secondarily, Kapha.
• Clears the subtle channels of toxicity and obstructions.
• Promotes cerebral circulation, increases sensitivity, sharpens the memory, enhances awareness.
Sattvic nature.
• Helps transmute sexual energy, feeds Kundalini.
• Apply paste to the forehead for headaches, on joints for arthritis.
• Take nasally for congestion, polyps, to revitalize prana.
• Take with fresh ginger to counter its emetic properties.
• Take powder nasally to resuscitate from shock or coma.
• Caution with bleeding.
Weng Weiliang, et al:
• Epilepsy: shi chang pu extract was used to treat 90 cases of grand mal epilepsy and epileptiform discharge in EEG. Dosage for adult: 50mg, tid, 30 days as a course of treatment. In the clinical observation for 3 months ~ 2 years, the effective rate was 83.3%.
• Pulmonary encephalopathy: shi chang pu was made into injection. Mild pulmonaryencephalopathy was treated with intravenous injection of 10ml this injection mixed with 20ml 5% glucose, bid. For severe cases, the dosage was increased. 5~7 days as a course of treatment. 279 cases were treated, and the total effective rate was 74.89%.
• Coronary heart disease, pectoris angina: shi chang pu, xuan shen, chuan lian zi, long yan rou, sheng shan zha, chao mai ya, dang gui, long gu, mu li, chao zao ren, shu di, water decoction. 82 cases of pectoris angina due to coronary heart disease were treated, after days, 92.68% was relieved, and the EKG improving rate was 65.85%.
• Atrophic gastritis: dang shen, shi chang pu, e zhu, dang gui, pu gong ying, gan cao were used to treat 61 cases of atrophic gastritis, 27 cases were markedly effective, 14 effective.
RW: Aromatic bitter; powerful stomach tonic, encourages its secretions; stimulates the appetite for any type of anorexia.
• Chew the herb to help quit smoking.
• Tonic effect on the mucus membranes of the mouth and throat, and stimulates saliva.
• Put bits of the herb into a piece of cloth for a teething baby to chew on.
• Topical: the oil is refreshing and stimulating – for tired feet, varicose veins, more.
PCBMP: Chinese studies show the herb to be anti-arrhythmic, hypotensive, vasodilatory, anti-tussive, antibacterial, and expectorant.
• The American variety may be preferable to the Chinese kind, since it contains less or no β-asarone (a carcinogen) and is also more aromatic, with superior spasmolytic activity.
MW: Opens the sinuses (as in nasya oil) and third eye.
• Good for slow speaking, voice sounding impacted, or when the voice is wearing out, especially due to smoking or singing. Acts on the trachea.
• Post-stroke: inability to speak.
• Joint pain.
IBIS: (A. calamus)
• Qualities: aromatic, pungent, bitter, sweet, warm, dry.
• Affinities: mucous membranes.
• Actions: carminative, diaphoretic, sialogogue, spasmolytic, stomachic.
• Therapy: encourages secretory action of stomach; anorexia nervosa; lack of appetite in asthenic, young girls; children with umbilical colic; children with appetite disorders; tones mucous membrane lining mouth and throat; to stop smoking; teething children (Weiss, pp. 44-45); acute and chronic dyspepsia; gastritis; gastric ulcer; intestinal colic (British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, p. 14). Increases appetite, improves digestion.
• Use with caution during pregnancy due to emmenagogue effect (Lust, Farnsworth)
• Potential hallucinogen (Kinghorn; Lewis and Elvin-Lewis; Schultes and Hofmann, p. 201) [large dose of the fresh herb]
• Isolated constituents, beta-asarone and safrole, have been shown to be carcinogenic (Duke, pp. 14-15)
CHA: (Karen S Vaughan, 8-30-2001)
(Regarding the concern of beta-asarone carcinogenicity:)
Traditionally, in Mideastern and European herbalism, the Acorus calamus was candied, thus cooked for a long period, which would reduce the beta-asarone. Native Americans did chew the raw root as well as infuse and decoct it, but the dosage would tend to be self-limited as the taste can become unpleasant after prolonged chewing. (And I believe that the native American calamus species are somewhat milder.) However, in large doses sweet flag can be mildly hallucinogenic and quite emetic.
The Mongolians, who brought calamus to Russia in the 13th century, were known for planting the stronger Indian and Chinese versions of the root near water sources in order to keep the drinking water pure. It’s nickname “Mongolian Poison” appears to be a slur against the Mongols rather than a reference to the plant, which was considered benign. However, this tradition made more use of the antiseptic qualities of calamus.
The live plant was introduced into Europe in 1565 and widely distributed by the botanist Clausius. It was decocted for food stagnation, and for problems of the liver, gallbladder, kidney, bladder and for malaria. Leaves were burned as an aromatic disinfectant and insectide. The roots were burned to clear the air from typhus, cholera and influenza. It was used topically and in alcohol solution as a disinfectant, for scrofula and for ulcerous skin conditions.
In Ayurveda, Acorus calamus is known as Vacha and is generally used as a dried powder. This probably leads to a partial dispersion of the essential oils. It is considered light and drying and is frequently used for epilepsy and as a gargle for acute tonsilitis. It can be boiled with milk to reduce the mucous-producing properties of the milk. It is also used to counteract the effects of constant marijuana smoking.
One note which may account for the California ban: sweet flag oil is widely used as an aromatic wine adulturant.
The FDA frowns upon the sale and use of calamus and has issued directives to certain herb dealers not to sell it to the public. (An FDA directive is simply a polite word for a threat of hassling without a law to back it.) At present there are no federal laws against calamus.

Dose: 3-9g (up to 15g)

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