Acorus Gramineus (Shi Chang Pu)

Dwarf sedgeThe medicinal properties of Acorus Gramineus, or known as sweet flag or Shi Chang Pu in Pinyin, have amazed the herbalists since a long time ago. Li Bai and Meng Jiao, two famous poets in Tang Dynasty, ever wrote poems to praise its extensive medicinal uses, in particular in prolonging life and staying young. Of course, it is kind of an exaggerated view but medicinally taking this herb can indeed improve eyesight, sharpen the ears, prevent forgetfulness, get rid of chest tightness and uncomfortable fullness, eliminate dampness, and relieve internal heat. In addition, many Chinese medicine shops love to grow it inside. By doing so there are two good reasons – it can both serve as bonsai for ornamental purpose and fresh herb by taking its rhizome for medicinal purpose. But when using it as medicine, don’t confuse it with the root of Anemone altaica Fisch. since they share the name Jiu Jie Chang Pu.

What is acorus gramineus?

Medicinally it mainly refers to the dried rhizome and root of Acorus tatarinowii Schott. This is a plant in the family Araceae and an Asian relative of Acorus Calamus (Sweet Flag). Other common names of it include Grassleaf Sweelflag Rhizome, Dwarf sedge, Drug Sweetflag Rhizome, Japanese rush, Rhizoma Acori Tatarinowii, Japanese sweet flag, Acorus gramineus rhizome, Rhizome of Grassleaf Sweelflag, and so on. In China it is mainly produced in the south of the Yangtze River, such as Sichuan, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu. Its rhizomes are generally dug up in autumn and winter. And then the fibrous roots must be removed before it is dried in the sun. And it is usually used raw medicinally.

Acorus gramineus plant is a graminoid perennial herb and with odorous rhizome. Leaves are arranged into two rows and with entire margin. Spadix is with green stalk and bract-like spathe. Acorus gramineus root is often used as medicine. It is distributed in Asia, including northeastern India, northern Thailand, China, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries. Main habitat is jungles at an altitude of 20 meters to 2,600 meters. Flowering time is from May to June and fruit period is from July to August.

Main chemical constituents

Both of its roots and leaves contain volatile oil (0.11% to 0.42%), sugars, organic acids, and amino acids. Volatile oil contains 34 kinds of ingredients, of which the main ones are β-asarone (63.2% to 81.2%), α-asarone (3.4% to 13.7%), Caryophyllene, α-humulene, Sekishone, Asarylaldehyde, Elemicin, Euasarone, 1-Allyl-2,4,5-trimethoxy benzene, Methyleugenol, cis-Methylisoeugenol, trans-Methylisoeugenol, and more.

Modern pharmacology

1) All its decoction, volatile oil, asarone, and β-asarone have sedative and anticonvulsant effects. In addition, all of them have a strong spasmolysis on isolated guinea pig trachea and ileum;
2) Intravenously its essential oil has a positive antiasthmatic action, which resembles the immediate effect of inhalation of salbutamol;
3) In rats its volatile oil has a certain therapeutic effect on aconitine-induced arrhythmia, fight against the adrenaline or barium chloride-induced arrhythmias, and slow down the heart rate during the treatment;
4) Its decoction can promote the secretion of digestive juice to stop abnormal gastrointestinal fermentation;
5) Its leachate of high concentration can inhibit common pathogenic skin fungus.

Acorus gramineus benefits

More than just a sedative medicine for the treatment of insomnia, in recent years acorus gramineus grass is used in a wide range of applications. Here are its top 5 health benefits.

1) Preferred sedative hypnotic drug that treats chronic sleeplessness. Thanks to its inhibition of certain central nervous system, it is not only sedative and hypnotic, but also aromatic and expectorant. That’s to say, it has a good effect on insomnia disorder caused by the interference of phlegm-heat. What’s more, it also has sedative and hypnotic effects for the mentally ill;

2) Joint pain relief by managing Qi and activating blood. It is of acrid nature and good at activating blood and managing Qi. Therefore, it treats blockage due to wind-damp, joint pain, and bruises. Clinically it is applied directly to the wound (topical) along with fresh ginger and gardenia in order to reduce swelling and pain;

3) Remedy of dampness obstructing spleen-stomach syndrome by arousing spleen and harmonizing stomach. Since the aromatic volatile oil contained can promote the secretion of digestive juice and inhibit the gastrointestinal abnormal fermentation, it arouses spleen and helps the transportation and transformation of stomach;

4) Treatment of epilepsy by eliminating phlegm for resuscitation. Since its aromatic nature can transform damp turbidity, open orifice, and dispelling phlegm-damp, it is applicable in the treatment of obnubilation, deafness, blurred vision, and mental retardation that are caused by phlegm dampness blocking and clear yang failing to ascend;

5) Disease prevention by eliminating turbid pathogen with aromatics. Thanks to its aromatic properties and the detoxicating and pathogen-expelling ability, it is often used as a common herb for the purpose of disease prevention in ancient time. No wonder ancient Chinese used to hang fresh mugwort and acorus leaves on the doors and windows in order to prevent plague.

Sample sweet flag recipes on herbal remedies

The Chinese Materia Medica says that it is acrid and bitter in flavor and slightly warm in nature. It goes to meridians of heart, liver, and spleen. Crucial functions are dissipating phlegm for resuscitation, resolving dampness to move qi, expelling wind to relieve limb pain or numbness, and relieve swelling and pain. Prime acorus gramineus uses and indications include coma caused by intense heat, coma due to blocking of the respiratory system, forgetfulness, tinnitus, deafness, abdominal pain and bloating, food-denying dysentery, arthralgia due to wind and dampness, traumatic injury, ulcer, and scabies. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 6 grams in decoction or 6 to 12 grams in fresh herb. In addition, it is often used in the forms of powder and pills too.

1) Di Tan Tang from Ji Sheng Fang (Life-saving prescriptions). It is combined with Ban Xia (Pinellia), Tian Nan Xing (Arisaema), Ju Hong (Exocarpium Citri Erythrocarpae), etc. to treat stoke due to phlegm confusing heart, unconsciousness, and a hardened or stiff body of the tongue impeding speech.

2) Chang Pu Yu Jin Tang from Wen Bing Quan Shu (Complete Compendium of Warm Disease). It is formulated with Yu Jin (Tumeric Tuber), Pinellia, Zhu Li (Succus Bambusae), etc. to cure blocking of phlegm-heat, high fever, coma, and delirium.

3) Qing Xin Wen Dan Tang from Gu Jin Yi Jian (Mirror of Ancient and Contemporary Medicine). It is coupled with Zhi Shi (Citrus Aurantium), Zhu Ru (Bamboo Shavings), Huang Lian (Coptis Root), etc. to heal epileptic seizures caused by phlegm-heat.

4) Ru Lian Po Yin from Huo Huan Lun (Treatise on Cholera). It is matched with Coptis, Hou Po (Magnolia Bark), etc. to treat dampness forming with heat, retention of damp-heat, vomiting and diarrhea accompanied with fever, chest and epigastric fullness and distress, and yellowish glossy coating of the tongue.

5) Kai Jin San from Yi Xue Xin Wu (Medical Revelations). It works with Coptis, Fu Ling (Poria), Shi Lian Zi (Sinocrassula indica seed), etc. to cure no desire to eat and rectal tenesmus after dysentery due to the accumulation of damp turbidity and heat toxic in colon.

6) Bu Wang San from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng (The Level-line of Patterns and Treatment) and Kai Xin San from Qian Jin Fang (Thousand golden essential prescriptions). Both of them are equipped with Ren Shen (Ginseng), Poria, Chang Pu (Acorus calamus), etc. to heal forgetfulness.

Clinical research of acorus gramineus rhizoma

Today, acorus-based recipes are widely used in the treatment of many different diseases, such as pulmonary encephalopathy, cerebral infarction, epilepsy, senile dementia, vascular dementia, psychogenic vomiting, sequelae of cerebral concussion, neurasthenia, myocardial infarction, aphonia, chronic sore throat, and the like.

a) 279 cases of pulmonary encephalopathy have been treated with its injection (0.5% of the total Acorus Gramineus volatile oil solution) in 38 hospitals in Eastern China. And the total effective rate was 74.9%;

b) 36 cases of cerebral infarction have been treated with oral liquid that consists of acorus 10g, Chuan Xiong (lovage) 10g, Di Long (Lumbricus) 10g, Ji Xue Teng (Evergreen Wisteria) 25g, and Ze Xie (Rhizoma Alismatis Orientalis) 25g, 1g crude drug containing in per ml. And the total effective rate was 74.9%;

c) 60 cases of epilepsy have been treated with acorus decoction, 10g dried herb contained in each 30ml. 17 cases were significantly improved and 28 cases were effective. And the efficiency was 75%;

d) 30 cases of senile dementia have been treated with the variant of Si Qi Tang, which is composed of prepared Pinellia, Poria, acorus, Citrus Aurantium, and Tumeric Tuber. Compared to the control group treated with Pyritinol hydrochloride, it had a significant effect.

Acorus Gramineus side effects and contraindications

Acorus gramineus herb is considered edible by traditional Chinese medicine. But taking large amount of it could cause adverse reactions since its volatile oil contains mainly asarone, caryophyllene, and sekishone, which can excite the spinal nerves. And the main poisoning symptoms mainly include seizures, convulsions, or even death caused by tonic convulsions induced and aggravated by external stimuli. TCM wise, it shouldn’t be used in cases of yin deficiency and yang excess, excessive sweating, and seminal efflux.


a) Zhong Chen Yao Yan Jiu (Research of Chinese Patent Medicine) 1990;2:37;
b) Zhong Guo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi (Chinese Journal of Modern Developments in Traditional Medicine), 1994;2:117;
c) Zhong Hua Yi Xue Za Zhi (Chinese Journal of Medicine), 1978;1:62;
d) Shan Xi Zhong Yi (Shaanxi Traditional Chinese Medicine), 1996;3:112.

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