VACA (Acorus Calamus)
In Sanskrit, vaca literally means speaking. It simulates the power of self expression and intelligence. It is one of the most renowned herbs of the ancient Vedic seer as a rejuvenative for the brain and nervous system. Vaca clears the subtle channels of toxins and obstructions by augmenting the activity of sadhaka pitta- the metabolic fire of the nervous system, and sharpens the reception and memory. It is indeed a divine herb especially for the children, as a nervine.
Maharishi Charka has categorized it as lekhaniya- reducing herb, espedially, kapha and meda etc, trptighna (anti-saturative), asthapanopaga (an adjunct to decoction enemas), sita prasamana (relieves cold sensation on the skin), samjna sthapana (restores consciousness), vaya sthapana (promotes longevity), arsoghna (anti-hemorrhoidal) and siro virecana (cleansing nasal therapy). Susruta has cited it as stanya sodhana (lactodepurant) and has been also mentioned as pramathi – wards off doshas from the channels i.e. srotasas (Sarngadhara Samhita). Many ayurvedic texts have praised it as apasmaraghna – antiepileptic and unmadaghna – antihysteric one.
The herb grows throughout India, in marshy places, up to 1800 meters height. It is mainly cultivated in Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland. The perennial herb, with branched rhizome immersed in the mud, grows 1-2 meters in height. The leaves free, distichously alternate, green, shiny, with wavy margins. The flowers small, sessile, densely packed on all sides of the spadix of 5-10 cm length. The fruit bluntly six-sided, 1-3 seeded. The seeds with a thin testa, green, cylindrical in shape.
The botanical name of vaca is Acorus calamus and it belongs to family Araceae. The Materia Medicas like Bhavaprakasa and Raja Nighantu etc mention another variety of vaca, sveta vaca or hemavati which Dravyaguna vijnana identities as Iris germanica. It is reported that there is another variety of vaca (Acorus gramineus, Soland) found growing abundantly in the Himalayas. The shweta vaca mentioned in the ancient textbooks might perhaps be this plant.
The rhizomes contain, calamediol essential oil, tanning substances and vitamin C. Two new selinane type sesquiterpenes acolamone and isoacilamone have been isolated. Other constituents reported are : asarone, asarone in oil, calamenol, calamene, calamenone, eugenol, methyl eugenol etc. The leaves contain also essential oil, tanning substances and vitamin- C. The sweet flag oil contains two new sesquiterpenic ketones named as calamusenone and a new tropone. The root extract exhibits antimicrobial activity against staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Aspergillus niger. Currently, in the U.S.A. vaca is restricted by the Food and Drug Administration authorities, but it has been used by the sages and rishis of India for thousands of years and held in high esteem by Ayurvedic practitioners.
Structure of calacone from oil confirmed by synthesis, structure of telekin and isotelekin established by chemical degradations. A new sesquiterpene diol-isocalamendiol – isolated from essential oil from Japanese plant rhizomes and its structure elucidated, 3 monocyclic sesquiterpenes – shyobunone, epishyobunone and isoshyobonone and also calamediol isolated. Acoradin, galangin and sitosterol isolated from rhizomes and characterized Cadinene, thymol, and asarones, myristic acid and asaronal dehyde isolated from bulb oil.
Vaca is bitter and pungent in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has hot potency. It has a special potency as a nervine tonic. It possesses light, sharp and dry attributes. It alleviates kapha and vata doshas but aggravates the pita appetizer, de-flatulent and anti (epileptic in properties)
The rhizomes of vaca are used for the medicinal purpose. The herb is used both internally as well as externally. In rheumatism, rheumatic fever and inflamed joints, the paste applied externally, alleviates the pain and swelling. The juice of vaca instilled into ears mitigates the earache and tinnitus. In piles, the fumigation with vaca is helpful. The nasya – nasal route of administration, of vaca is salutary in headache, heaviness, epilepsy and hysteria. The inhalation of vaca and pippali powders in benevolent to alleviate the headache due to migraine. The paste of vaca and sarsapa is applied on inflammatory swelling of testis. The decoction of vaca with camphor is effectively used for cleansing the wounds and ulcers, as it possesses the antibiotic activities. The dry powder massage (udvartana) of vaca is beneficial in obesity, to reduce the subcutaneous fatty accumulations.
Internally, vaca is valuable in a vast range of diseases. It works well in digestive ailments like flatulence, loss of appetite, distaste, abdominal dull pain and worms. In higher dosage, it induces vomiting. In diarrhea and dysentery, associated with excessive thirst due to ama, the decoction of vaka is used with benefit. The powder of vaka given with lukewarm salt-water, induces vomiting and relieves the phlegm, eases cough and asthma. Vaca is also useful to reduce fevers.
In epilepsy, the powders of vaca, Brahmi and jatamamsi work well, when given with honey. Vaca is given with kostha, mixed with honey, in hysteria. The popular formulation Sarasvata choorna, which contains vaca is commonly used in epilepsy, hysteria and as a brain tonic. Vaka siddha ghrta is an excellent nervine tonic for children, which improves memory, reception as well as the speech. For children, vaca and yastimadhu powder with honey is given as a general nervine tonic and a rejuvenative. Vaca is mild diuretic and hence, is beneficial is dysuria and urinary stones, as an adjunct. The fresh lemon juice and fennel is an antidote for emetic effects of vaca. Vaca should be used sparingly in pitta constitutions and aggravated conditions due to pitta. As it stimulates the uterine contractions, the combination of vaca, kunkuma and pippali is used to augment the labor pains. It is also salutary in dysmenorrhea. In slow-learning children, vaca powder in small amount is recommended with honey for long duration with great benefit.
Vaca taila (for nasya)