Calamus (also called sweet flag or wikay) is widely used to treat cold symptoms, upset stomach, toothache, headache, rheumatism, muscle pain, tonsilitis and intestinal worms. This Manitoba-harvested species (Acorus americanus) is believed to be free of the two carcinogenic and mutagenic constituents (beta asarone and eugenol methyl ether) that are found in the Asian and European species (Acorus calamus).
If you have ever chewed on the root of calamus, you may be wondering how anyone could have come up with the name “sweet flag” for such a bitter-tasting plant! But chew on the leaves, and you will discover the sweet flavour of orange creamsicles!
I was very excited when I discovered wikay growing very close to me. Knowing how powerful a medicine it is, I felt very protective of the patch. I’ve always been interested in using plants for healing people. Though I’ve always wanted to be an herbalist of sorts, over the years I’ve come to realize that my role in herbal medicine is more of a gatherer. When I walk across a landscape, I am constantly updating my mental map of medicine areas, so that when someone asks for something, I’ll know where to find it.
A few years ago. I walked into Hollow Reed Holistic in Winnipeg and asked Chad Cornell if there were any wild medicines that I could gather for him. I left with a strong purpose to help heal the people who were constantly coming through the door seeking relief from so many illnesses. I returned to the wikay patch and asked for its help.
I have often heard that plants want to help people – that they thrive when they are doing what they were put here on Earth to do. I wasn’t sure I believed this. I started digging for roots, mindful of my thoughts and actions, while soaking in the sounds and smells of the early spring marsh. I welcomed the warmth of the sun on my back as my hands searched for roots in the ice-cold water. I’d only ever gathered for myself before, and as I got beyond what I would normally harvest, I found myself wondering if I was getting greedy and taking too much. I returned to check on the patch in the fall, afraid of what I might find. Afraid that, despite my care and mindfulness, I might have severely damaged the very plants I had sought to protect. As I approached the area where I had gathered roots from only months earlier, I could hardly believe my eyes. In all the years I’d been visiting this patch of wikay, I had never before seen so many plants! I stood there, completely humbled, as tears of thanksgiving streamed down my face.
Now, as a botanist, I know that there are scientific explanations for what happened in that wikay patch, but over the years I have come to realize that I am not a scientist at heart.
I have wikay available in 15-gram bags for $10. Larger lots are also available upon request. To place an order, please click here.