This post was last updated on April 30, 2020 by Preethi Sukumaran
Vacha / Sweet flag / Acorus calamus is an ayurvedic herb with multiple healing benefits. In this post we will explore the properties and benefits of Sweetflag / vacha from the Ayurvedic texts .
The benefits of Sweetflag / Vacha : an experience at Krya
One of our employees at Krya has a 3 year old daughter. One day when the child was playing outside her home, she wandered off from her street and got lost in the neighbourhood. It took the parents atleast 2 – 3 hours to find the child, and finally someone who knew and identified the child dropped her back home.
The experience severely frightened the child. Over the next two weeks she became very clingy and afraid, lost her appetite, and kept waking up at night telling her mother that she could see a ghost outside her window. The worried parents took her to the hospital and atleast 3 doctors. All of them examined the child and pronounced her fit as a fiddle. They asked the parents to tempt the child to eat by giving her favourite junk food and closed the case.
2 weeks later, my employee broke down at Krya and narrated the whole experience to us. By this time, the child had become weak and listless and stopped talking to anyone around her. She appeared semi conscious most of the time. And when food was kept around her or force fed, she would vomit it out. Her weight dropped from 16 Kg to 8 Kg in this 2 week period.
The effect of fear and mental stress in Children as per Ayurveda
Fear and mental stress of children is something that Ayurveda is very detailed about and warns parents to guard against. Ayurveda is particularly cautious in protecting and caring for young children and infants (upto the age of seven). Every Acharya in their treatise warns parents to ensure that children are not exposed to strangers, scary or unpleasant toys, inclement and scary weather (howling wind, lightning and thunder storms). Parents are asked to ensure children are not tossed up in the air or exposed to sudden movements.
Fear can cause debilitating effects in infants and small children according to the Ayurvedic acharyas. rapid weight loss, lowered immunity level, inability to absorb nutrition are all effects of fear based stress in children.
Parents are also asked to take extreme care when exposing children to stories, books, plays or TV shows. Great care is also to be taken to ensure children are not taken around at night time, in very high buildings, in lonely roads, etc where they can be frightened.
When children are exposed to sudden shocks, their normal excretory functions can abruptly stop, leading to urine retention which can become painful. They can go into a state of listlessness or semi consciousness as we saw in our employee’s child, and refuse to eat food. The body tends to drop weight very quickly and become extremely weak as well.
Various Rakshoghna herbs in Ayurveda:
Rakhshas means demons. In naming certain herbs as Rakshoghna, we can see many layers in the meaning: to protect, to keep “Rakhsasa” or scary things away or drive fear away, and to also drive away invisible objects or microbes. Hence Rakshoghna herbs are used extensively by Ayurveda around children. These herbs are used to swab the floors or nurseries, wash children’s bed linen, and are strewn around in herb pouches so that their fragrance permeates the air.
Sweetflag / Vacha, which we are writing about today, is a famous and renowned Rakshoghna herb in the ayurvedic canon.
Benefits of Sweetflag: How we used this herb to help the young child
For our employee’s child, 2 – 3 applications of Sweetflag / Vacha on her stomach, an amulet of Sweetflag / Vacha on her wrist, and Vacha strewn around her pillow, got her smiling and accepting small amounts of food. This combined with special prayers in the nearby temple, with copious applications of warm sambrani incense around the home got her laughing and talking. A mere one week later, little S strolled in to office to meet me, back to her chipper and naughty self.
Sweetflag or Vacha (Vasambu) with the Latin name Acorus calamus is one of the most important herbs we use at Krya. It is a potent growth inhibitor of gram negative bacteria. It is an intestinal relaxant, is a hypotensive herb (relaxes blood pressure), is antispasmodic in action on seized muscles and organs. The origin of Sweetflag is attributed to Europe. However, it has been known since ancient times in India and has been referred to right from the time of Charaka and is mentioned in all the Nighantus (Ayurvedic herb encyclopaedias).
Benefits of Sweetflag / Vacha in Classical Ayurveda:
Classical texts describe Sweetflag / Vacha as having “lekhaniya” (scraping action, therefore useful in bringing down excess fat), Sanjnasthapana (group of herbs that help restore consciousness), and Sheeta prashamana (group of herbs that give warmth to the body and relieve the sense of coldness).
Sweetflag has Panchana (digestion promoting and toxin expelling) action, promotes digestive strength, and is Medhya in its action (improves brain power), Vak prada (improves voice). It is also a Jantuhara (anti microbial) herb, is Shoolahara (relieves abdominal colic), and Adhamanahara (relieves bloating and gas in the abdomen) and is useful in psychological imbalances and disorders.
Because Sweetflag / Vacha has Katu (pungent) and tikta (bitter) rasa with Ushna veerya (hot action), it helps balance both Kapha and Vata dosha.
Benefits of Sweetflag / Vacha: other uses
Sweetflag is a famous anti microbial and insect repellent herb. One of the best uses for Sweetflag is to use it in grains to repel insects. It is also a very good herb to be used to repel crawling insects like cockroaches and mosquitoes and head lice.
With its multiple benefits like its anti spasmodic property, colic relieving, warmth giving and gas reducing properties, Sweetflag is very useful in relieving griping pains and colic. It can also be used to relieve menstrual cramps. It should not be used when abdominal pain is due to diarrhoea as this is a Pitta condition for which Vacha which is high in heat is unsuitable.
Sweetflag / Vacha is a very important part of the Medhya drugs prescribed in Ayurveda to be administered orally to infants. It is commonly given along with honey or breast milk along with other Medhya herbs like Swarna bhasma (gold bhasma), Brahmi, etc and is administered in small drops on the tongue of the baby from the 7th or 11th day of the baby’s birth. The texts say that children given this mixture of herbs have very high intelligence and intuitive and grasping capacity. The exact dosage is decided by the Vaidya after seeing the baby’s weight.
Sweetflag is also effectively used in Ayurvedic medicines to improve memory power, grasping power and in neuro-degenerative disorders. So it has application in epilepsy, autism, speech disorders and neuro degenerative disorders we see in geriatric conditions as well.
Sweetflag / Vacha is also a very important herb to relieve fear and provide warmth to the body. It is therefore used as an amulet around an infant’s wrist so its fragrance can stimulate the brain growth and calm the infant. We have seen its effect in many cases of fear induced fever and chills. Vacha is able to quickly calm the brain, and relieve fear within minutes of external application, bringing balance.
Caution to be followed when using Sweetflag / Vacha:
Sweetflag is a highly effective and potent herb, even when used externally. Before using it on children or yourself, kindly check with an experienced herbalist or a Vaidya for doses.
If you use too much Sweetflag / Vacha it can severely increase warmth in the body and stimulate the intestinal system enough to give diarrhoea. Please use extremely carefully and after finding out the right dosage. Vacha should not be used internally in certain conditions like pregnancy, high fever due to high pitta, etc.
Benefits of Sweetflag / Vacha : How we use this herb in Krya’s formulations
At Krya, we use Sweetflag across most of our formulations. Our wash off products for the skin (like our face and body washes and our masks) are made from edible grains and lentils. Our biggest challenge is insect infestation because many of our skin care products are edible. So we use Sweetflag / Vacha across the board for its insecticidal and anti microbial properties. (This is also why we insist that our products be stored in clean dry conditions and used quickly. Bugs love our goodies!)
Sweeetflag is also used prominently in the Krya Anti lice range of products. Sweetflag / Vacha goes into the Anti lice hairwash, Anti lice hair mask and the Anti lice hair oil. Consumers love how effective all these 3 products are, and the Krya Anti lice range is recommended across the board by parents who are looking for a safe, non-toxic , yet effective anti lice solution for their children.
Sweetflag / Vacha is also an important part of all Krya Baby products as it is an excellent herb suggested extensively in Ayurvedic texts for baby care. We have written about how Vacha can be used in baby care in an earlier post. We use this important herb for its calming, vata balancing, warming, anti spasmodic and medhya improving benefits in the Krya traditional baby massage oil, the Krya baby ubtan for boys and the Krya baby ubtan for girls, the Krya gentle baby bodywash and the Krya baby hair oil. Parents report that our baby products are extremely calming and soothing for babies, apart from being great for skin and good for overall muscle and bone development. The Krya baby care range is completely based on ayurvedic herbs and contains no chemicals that can potentially harm children, unlike synthetic baby soaps and mineral oil based baby oils.
Sweetflag also goes into the Krya range of Abhyanga Snana products. It is used extensively in the Krya Intense Women’s Ubtan and the Krya Intense Men’s ubtan for the increased warmth and vata balancing required in these products. These 2 products form part of the Krya Intense Abhyanga range for Men and Women along with the Krya Intense Abhyanga Oil.
This range is formulated to balance greater amounts of aggravated vata dosha and is typically formulated for post partum women, athletes, vegans and other people who may be dealing with much more aggravated vata dosha. . Warmth is required to balance the body post abhyanga, so Sweetflag / Vacha is used in the Post oiling ubtans to help relieve the body of tiredness, balance all 3 doshas and retain warmth. The use of Vacha also relaxes the brain and calms it down leading to a feeling of balance and harmony.
Besides these products, Vacha / sweetflag also goes into the Krya herb hand wash, an excellent cleansing product that we recommend using in the kitchen to safely cleanse and sanitize your hands.
To sum up: the Ayurvedic properties and benefits of Sweetflag / Vacha
So there you have it: that’s a brief glimpse into the properties of Sweetflag / Acorus calamus / Vacha which goes into Krya’s skin care and Anti Lice products. Sweetflag is a powerful and potent Ayurvedic herb with many benefits like having an anti spasmodic action, reliving griping and colic, improving warmth, binding aggravated vata dosha, repelling insects and improving speech and medhya.
However, being a very potent drug, Sweetflag should not be experimented with if you do not know how to use it. DO NOT SELF MEDICATE EITHER INTERNALLY OR EXTERNALLY WITH VACHA. If you feel internal consumption of Vacha could help you or your child, please meet an Ayurvedic Vaidya who can diagnose your/ your child’s condition and prescribe Vacha in the right dose and right format for you.
Our work at Krya is part of our larger mission to bring in more awareness of traditional Indian medicinal systems like Ayurveda and Siddha, inculcate a sense of pride in India’s deep historical, cultural, spiritual and medicinal traditions. We also exist to bring in a sense of balance: there are too many products and companies out there recklessly and thoughtlessly endangering human health, water and soil health by using highly toxic and dangerous chemicals to formulate everyday consumer products. We exist to provide you with safe, holistic and sustainable alternatives using India’s divine and sacred herbs.
We do herb related posts at Krya to give you a glimpse into just how potent, powerful and good for us the plants used in Ayurveda are and to help you understand how safe and effective hair, skin and home care products can be easily formulated using these healing herbs. We hope you found this post inspiring and useful. Please go through our other herb posts on other ayurvedic herbs like Bael, Arishtaka, Shikakai, Daruharidra, Mulethi, Mushta, Durva, etc. Do also go through our posts on Hair care herbs around the world.
If you too would like to transition to our holistic sustainable goodies and need help choosing products, please call us (0-75500-89090) or write to us.