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Family Araceae
Acorus calamus L.
Chou pu

Scientific name  Common names 
Acorus angustatus Raf. Bueng (Pamp.)
Acorus angustifolius Schott. Dalau (Ilk.)
Acorus belangeri Schott. Dalaw (Ilk.)  
Acorus calamus L. Daraw (Ilk.)
Acorus calamus-aromaticus Clairv. Dengau (Bon.) 
Acorus casia Bertol. Lubigan (Tag., Bis.) 
Acorus elatus Salisb. Calamus (Engl.)
Acorus flexuosus Raf. Flag root (Eng.)
Acorus odoratus Lam. Myrtle grass (Engl.)
Acorus undulatus Stokes Sweet calamus (Engl.)
Acorus verus (L.) Raf. Sweet flag (Engl.) 
  Sweet root (Engl.)
Somes compilation list Acorus gramineus and A. calamus as synonyms; others list them as separate species: (1) A. calamus Shui Chang Pu and (2) Acorus gramineus (syn. A. tatarinowii, Shi Chang Pu) containing the potentially toxic B-asarone.
Acorus calamus L. is an accepted name The Plant List
Lubigan is a common name shared by (1) Acorus calamus, and (2) Mapania humilis, Malalubigan.

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Ni chang pu, Xiang pu, Ye chang pu, Chou pu (Chin.)
FRENCH: Acore aromatique, Acore calame, Acore odorant, Acorus roseau, Belle angelique, Roseau odorant.
GERMAN: Kalmus.
ITALIAN: Acoro vero, Calamo, Canna odorifera.
MALAYALAM: Vashampa.
NEPALESE: Bojho, Shyuedaa.
PORTUGUESE: Junco-de-cobra.
SANSKRIT: Bhuta nashini (Goa) (ANHC), Vacha, Vaca.
SPANISH: Acoro, Cálamo aromático, Calamís.
TAMIL: Vasambu.
THAI: Hang khao pha (Chiang Mai), Som chuen, Wan nam, Wan nam lek.

Lubigan is a perennial aromatic herb, with creeping, branching and rhizomatous rootstock. Rhizome are prostrate, firm and stout with compactly arranged annular rings with numerous rootlets. Leaves arising from rhizome are linear, distichous, 25 to 50 centimeters long, 1 to 1.5 centimeters wide, with waved margins and stout midribs, base of leaf sheathed, clasping to each other. Peduncle is compressed. Spathe is green, much elongated, similar in shape to the leaves. Spadix is 3 to 5 centimeters long, and 1 centimeter or less in diameter, and bears many flowers. Flowers are very small, compacted into a concave-shaped spadix inflorescence. Sepals are 6, stamens 6, rarely flowering in the Philippines. Fruits are berries, turbinate, prismatic, with pyramidal tops, about 0.2 centimeter diameter.

- Along streams in mountains, creeks other moist places with running water, on boulders, etc., at low and medium altitude in Luzon (Laguna).
- Also found in Bontoc and Benguet provinces in swamps, at an altitude of about 1,300 meters, as a naturalized element.
Also occurs in the temperate to subtemperate regions of Eurasia and the Americas.

- Rhizomes contain a volative and aromatic oil, sugars, choline, mucliage.
- Phytochemical studies yield volatile oil (active constituents a-asarone and beta-asarone) and saponin.
- Rhizome studies have yielded asaron, parasaron, asarylaldehyde, sesquiterpenes, acorin, eugenol.
- An oily substance, calamol (C12H18)3) has been extracted from the rhizome. Calamol oil is colorless, mobile liquid, with a strong characteristic, and rather pleasant aromatic odor. The oil has been described as containing palmitic and heptoic acids, ester of palmitic together with some pinene, camphene, asaraldehyde, eugenol, asarone, calamene, calamerol and calameon.
- Rhizome has yielded an alkaloid, mainly choline, soft resin, gum, starch, and a bitter glucoside
, acorin.
- Rhizome also yields a little tannin.

- Considered stimulant, carminative, emetic, antispasmodic, insectifuge, astringent.
- Studies indicate anticonvulsant, antibacterial, antioxidant, insecticidal, radioprotective, glucosidase inhibitory, insulin sensitizing, antiepileptic, larvicidal, smooth muscle relaxant, neuroprotective, hypolipidemic, immunomodulatory properties.
- Rhizome considered stimulant and tonic.

- Oil of sweet flag considered antibacterial, antifungal, and antiamebic.

Division of rhizomes and potted without drainage holes. For potting, use one part river sand, one part garden soil, one part coco coir dust and one part rice hull. When established, place in partial to full sun.

Part utilized
· Rhizome and leaves.
· Best collected before flowering, the months of October and November.
· Rinse, remove rootlets, cut into sections, sun-dry. May be stored fresh for a long time by keeping under moist sand.

-Fresh rhizomes can be candied or used in cordial liqueurs, soups and sauces, mixed with other condiments (ginger, mace or cinnamon).
-Young shoots used in salads, believed to improve the appetite.
· Rheumatic arthritis, lumbago and leg pains: As embrocation, by cooking vine or rhizome (50 gms) with coconut oil (3 oz) .
· Indigestion, gastritis; Used for ague, tonic dyspepsia.
· Rhizome use as masticatory for toothache.
· Rhizome used as stimulant and tonic.
· Oil is carminative; also used as digestive and to increase the appetite.
· Dried rhizome chewed ad libitum to relieve dyspepsia.
· Oil used as expectorant and remedy for asthma. Also used for chronic dysentery.
· Hakims use the rhizome for hemorrhages and intestinal ulcerations; also for suppression of urine and menstrual evacuations.
· In Teheran, rhizome is reputed to be a remedy for rheumatism.
· Rhizome is a nervine sedative; in large doses, nauseant and emetic.
· Tinnitus, deafness, poor memory.
· Loss of consciousness during high fever.
· Sometimes combined with other drugs for treatment of insanity.
· Decoction: 30 gms of dried material (roots and leaves) to a pint of boiling water; tea drunk 4x daily for dyspepsia, gastritis, indigestion, stomach pains, diarrhea, asthma.
· Powdered rhizome used as insecticide and insectifuge.
· Rhizome skin used as hemostatic.
· Poultice of fresh material used for abscessed inflammation and scabies.
· In Ayurveda, used for psychoneurosis, insomnia, hysteria, epilepsy, memory loss. Also, for cough, fever, bronchitis, depression, inflammation, tumors, general debility.
· In Teheran, rhizome used as remedy for rheumatism.
· In Chinese medicine, used to aid digestion and regulate gastrointestinal fermentation and acidity. In ancient Chinese medicine, used to relieve swelling and constipation.
· In Greek-Arab medicine, used to treat gastritis, anorexia, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis.
· Early Europeans, Chinese and Arbas considered it a strong aphrodisiac; while in North America and New Guinea, once used to induce abortion.
Folkloric fringe
Used to protect young children from bales or usog. The matured rhizome is round-peeled and dried and the pieces thread together and worn as a protective waist or wrist band.
- Powdered rhizome used for sachet and toilet powders.
- Repellent: Fragrant leaves and oil used as insect repellent
- Oil used for scenting snuff. Also for flavoring alcoholic beverages.
- Calamus oil also used in making perfumes.

Insecticidal / Asarones: Study indicate the toxicity of asarones might be due to the cis configuration. In a fumigation test, the insecticidal activity of the compound was largely attributable to its fumigant action. • Insecticidal activities of asarones identified in Acorus gramineus rhizome against Nilaparvata lugens (Homoptera: Delphacidae) and Plutella xylostella (Lepidoptera: Yponomeutoidae) (2)
Antifungal / B-Asarone: An antifungal substance, B-Asarone, was isolated from the extract of AG with in vivo and in vitro activity against plant fungal pathogens M. grisea and C. orbiculare. (1)
Antibacterial / Antihelmintic: Isolation of beta-asarone, an antibacterial and anthelmintic compound, from Acorus calamus in South Africa: The aromatic rhizomes is used in many traditional medicine systems for stomach cramps, dysentery, asthma and as anthelmintic, tonic and stimulant. The beta-asarone isolated showed anthelmintic and antibacterial activities. However its mammalian toxicity and carcinogenicity discourages its use for traditional healing. (3)
Glutathione S-transferase Activity / Hyaluronidase Inhibitory Effect: Of 20 alcohol extracts of 20 species plants tested, Acorus gramineus and Pueraria lobata exhibited GST activity. (6)
Anti-Diarrheal: Study of plant extracts on their anti-diarrheal potential against castor-oil induced diarrhea in mice showed Acorus calamus rhizome significantly reduced induction time of diarrhea and the total weight of the feces. Results established the efficacy of the plant extracts as antidiarrheal agents. (7)
Anti-Ulcer / Anti-Secretory / Cytoprotective : Ethanol extract study produced significant anti-secretory, anti-ulcer and cytoprotective effects in rats. Its ability to protect the mucosa against indomethacin-induced mucosal damage confirms its anti-ulcer activity. Calamus also showed significant adaptive cytoprotective activity. It is known to possess sesquiterpenes which could contribute to its anti-ulcer activity. (8)
Anti-Convulsant / Essential Oil Inhalation Effects: Sedative effect after inhalation or oral administration of AGR essential oil suggests the oil may act on the CNS via the GABAergic system. An inhibitory activity of preinhalation of the essential oil was also noted on lipid peroxidation, to which an anticonvulsive action is attributed. (10)
Antihepatotoxic / Antioxidant: Study showed the ethanol extract of AC confers hepatoprotective and antioxidant activities by histopath and biochemical observations against acetaminophen-induced liver injury is rats; an effect comparable to the standard drug silymarin. (11)
Volatile Oil / Olfaction Stimulation / Benefits in Alzheimer's Disease: Study showed perfume stimulating olfaction with volatile oil of Acorus gramineus significantly increase the learning-memory ability, decrease MDA content and increase SOD and GSH-Px activities and brain weight in AD rats. (14)
Memory / Cerebral Atrophy / Alzheimer's Disease: Study in AD-induced rats treated with extract of volatile oil of A. gramineus and piracetam showed adjuvant therapy has the effect of controlling cerebral atrophy and prevention and cure of AD.
Calamusenone / Pesticidal: Calamusenone isolated from A. gramineus rhizome showed promise as a novel pesticide candidate for stored-product pest control. (15)
CNS Neuroprotective Effects / Anticonvulsive: (1) Korean study in mice on central effects of inhalation of essential oil from AG produced significant inhibition of GABA-transaminase enzyme degradation with resultant increase in GABA and glutamate. An anticonvulsant and sedative effect was reported. (2) Both Acorus gramineus and a-asarone can enhance reactivity and convulsive threshold of immature rats to electric stimulation. (3) Rhizome essential oil study showed neuroprotective effects on cultured cortical neurons through the blockade of NMDA receptor activity.
Pharmacognostical and Phytochemical Study: Microscopic studies showed the presence of epidermis, cortex, fibrovascular bundle, and starch grain the the drug powder. Phytochemical screening showed alkaloids carbohydrate, glycoside, phenolic compounds and tannins.
Antimicrobial: Study of rhizomes and leaf extracts showed pronounced antifungal activity with the ethyl acetate extracts. In addition, both a- and ß-asarones exhibited very strong antimicrobial activities against fungi and yeasts, higher than the rhizome and leaf extracts. Study suggests the active principles a- and ß-asarones might be responsible for the antimicrobial activity. Only antibacterial activity to E. coli was noted.
Anti-Anxiety: Study of 70% hydro-alcoholic extract was done on general anxiety in humans. The results showed the extract not only significantly attenuated anxiety related disorders but also significantly reduced stress phenomenon and correlated depression. (26)
Bioanalytical Investigation of Asarone in Connection with Intentional Intoxication / : A study, spurred by reports of intentional intoxication in humans, failed to demonstrate the presence of 2,4,5-trimethoxyamphetamine, claimed as a hallucinogenic component of A. calamus.. The study identified cis-TMC as a urinary target metabolite for LC-MS for detection of intoxication cases, and possible as an alternative to GC-MS analysis of a- and ß-asarone. (27)
Anti-Seizure: Study of an aqueous extract of Acorus calamus showed protective effect against MES (maximal electric shock) but not against PTZ (pentylenetetrazole) induced seizures.
Anticonvulsant / Raw and Processed Vacha Rhizomes: Study confirmed the anticonvulsant activity of raw Vacha and subjecting it to classical Shodhana (purification) procedure enhanced, rather than decrease, the activity profile of the Vacha. (30)
Toxicity Study / Rhizomes: Study evaluated the potential toxicity of an ethanolic extract of Acorus calamus rhizomes in Wistar rats. Hematologic and biochemical analysis showed no marked differences in any of the parameters, with no gross or histopathological changes observed. The ethanolic extract does not appear to have toxicity on acute and chronic administration in rats. (31)
Bioanalytical Study on Possible Calamus Oil Intoxications: Calamus or sweet flag is being marketed as being hallucinogenic. Study aimed to identify α- and β-asarone, considered active components of A. calamus, in urine samples collected from seven cases. Study showed not evidence for the presence of the claimed hallucinogenic substance TMA-2 (2,4,5-trimethoxyamphetamine) in urine samples collected after ingestion of A. calamus oil. (33)
Prevention of CCI Induced Neuropathy: Study investigated the attenuating role of A. calamus plant extract in chronic constrictive injury (CCI) of sciatic nerve induced peripheral neuropathy in rats. Results showed AC prevented CCI induced neuropathy which may be attributed to its multiple actions including antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and calcium inhibitory actions. (34)
Cytotoxic Potential / Rhizome: Study evaluated the cytotoxicity of methanolic and aqueous extracts of rhizomes of A. calamus. Both extracts showed to be cytotoxic by Allium cepa root tip assay and XTT assay in MDA-MB-435S and Hep3B cell lines. Results suggest a potential for the development of anticancer drugs. (35)
Cytotoxic Effect / Breast Carcinoma Cell Line: Study evaluated the cytotoxic effect of A. calamus extract on breast carcinoma (MCF-7) cell lines. Results showed A. calamus can cause cell death in MCF-7 cancer cells, decreasing cell viability in malignant cells in a concentration dependent manner. (36)
Analgesic Effect: Study evaluated the analgesic activity of methanolic extracts of Acorus calamus and Oroxylum indicum in adult Swiss albino mice using acetic acid induced writhing method. Results showed inhibition of writhing reflex, with the methanolic extract of A. calamus showing greater activity than O. indicum. (37)
Bioactive Fraction (F3) Effect in Hyperlipidemia: Study evaluated the bioactive F3 fraction from the rhizomes in experimentally induced hyperlipidemia in rats. The bioactive fraction F3 demonstrated cholesterol reducing effect y increasing fecal cholesterol excretion and decreasing cholesterol biosynthesis in the liver. The effects on fibrinogen levels and free radicals indicate the F3 fraction provides potential benefit in atherosclerosis associated with hyperlipidemia. (

Toxicity concerns
- Cancer concerns: Banned from food products in some countries because of cancerous findings in animal studies, using high doses of carcinogenic ß-asarone, present in large amounts in Asian plants, but of limited amounts in European plants. Studies report limited amounts of the toxic derivatives in North American plants.
- Putting the cancer concern in perspective, large doses are fed to test animals in elicit hepatic cancers. Other studies failed to show embryotoxicity or teratogenicity in the embryos of pregnant mice. These test doses are much larger than those found in herbal preparations. Alternativists argue it safety with its more than 2000 years of use by ancient cultures and folk medicinal practices.
- Wild-crafted.
- Usually sold in the Quiapo herbal market.
- Essential oil, leaf and rhizome extracts in the cybermarket.

Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

Last Update November 2015

Photo © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Acoraceae - Acorus calamus. / Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen in naturgetreuen Abbildungen mit kurz erläuterndem Texte. / Köhler’s magnum opus was published in parts from 1883-1898. The first volume was finished in 1887, eight years after his death. The set of three volumes with 283 colour-plates was a noteworthy achievement and included European plants of medicinal interest. From the botanical standpoint the finest and most useful series of illustrations of medicinal plants (Great flower books). The beautiful colour-plates after illustrations by Walther Müller and C.F. Schmidt, which were skillfully rendered in lithography by E. Günther. / MEEMELINK

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Antifungal activity of B-asarone from rhizomes of Acorus gramineus / Jee Yeon Lee, Jung Yeop Lee et al / J. Agric. Food Chem., 2004, 52 (4), pp 776–780 / DOI: 10.1021/jf035204o
Insecticidal activities of asarones identified in Acorus gramineus rhizome against Nilaparvata lugens (Homoptera: Delphacidae) and Plutella xylostella (Lepidoptera: Yponomeutoidae)
Isolation of B-asarone, an antibacterial and anthelmintic compound, from Acorus calamus in South Africa
Pharmacological profile of Acorus calamus: An Overview
Lubigan: Serapion Metilla. Philippine Daily Inquirer. July 3, 2005

Glutathione S-transferase Activity and Hyaluronidase Inhibitory Effect of Medicinal Plants
Study of antidiarrhoeal activity of four medicinal plants in castor-oil induced diarrhoea / Gricilda Shoba and Molly thomas / Journal of Ethnopharmacology • Volume 76, Issue 1, June 2001, Pages 73-76 / doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(00)00379-2
Anti-secretagogue, anti-ulcer and cytoprotective properties of Acorus calamus in rats / S Rafatullah et al / Fiteropia • Vol LXV, No 1, 1994

Insecticidal activity of asarones identified in Acorus gramineus rhizome against three coleopteran stored-product insects / Chan Park, Soon-Il Kim and Young-Joon Ahn / Journal of Stored Products Research, Vol 39, Issue 3, 2003, Pages 333-342 / doi:10.1016/S0022-474X(02)00027-9 |
Inhibitory effects of the fragrance inhalation of essential oil from Acorus gramineus on central nervous system / Koo BS, Park KS et al / Biol Pharm Bull. 2003 Jul;26(7):978-82.
Therapeutic Efficacy of Antihepatotoxic and Antioxidant Activities of Acorus calamus on acetaminophen-induced toxicity in rat / S Palani, S Raja et al / International Journ of Integrative Biology, 2009, Vol 7, No 1, 39.
The treatment of cardiovascular diseases with Chinese medicine / Simon Becker, Bob Flaws, Robert Casañas, p 46 / Google Books
The effect of Acorus gramineus on the bioavailabilities and brain concentrations of ginsenosides Rg1, Re and Rb1 after oral administration of Kai-Xin-San preparations in rats / Wang W, Liao Q O et al / J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Sep 15;131(2):313-20. Epub 2010 Jun 30.
Study on Perfume Stimulating Olfaction with Volatile Oil of Acorus Gramineus for Treatment of the Alzheimer’s Disease Rat / LIU Zhi-bin, NIU Wen-min, YANG Xiao-hang, et al / Journ of Chinese Traditional Med
Contact and fumigant toxicities of calamusenone isolated from Acorus gramineus rhizome against adults of Sitophilus zeamais and Rhizopertha dominica / Yan-Zhang Huang, Hong-Xia Hua et al / Insect Science
Volume 18, Issue 2, pages 181–188, April 2011 / DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7917.2010.01358.x
Experimental Study of Flavor Adjuvant Treatment of Volatile Oil of Acorus Gramineus for Alzheimer's Disease Rats / LIN Hui-guang, DU Jian, ZHANG Liang-lianget al / DOI CNKI:SUN:FYXB.0.2007-04-010
Psychoactive herbs in veterinary behavior medicine / Stefanie Schwartz / Google Books
Essential Oils and Their Constituents: Anticonvulsant Activity / Reinaldo Nobrega de Almeida, Maria de Fatima Agra et al / Molecules 2011, 16, 2726-2742; doi:10.3390/molecules16032726
Acorus calamus L. / Chinese names / Catalogue of Life, China
Sorting Calamus names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher, / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / A Work in Progress / The University of Melbourne. Australia / Copyright © 1997 - 2000 The University of Melbourne.
Acorus calamus L. (Sweet Flag) / Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada
Toxicity Myths / The Actual Risks Of Essential Oil Use / Ron Guba / From Toxicity Myths - Essential Oils and Cancer
Pharmacognostical and preliminary phytochemical investigation of Acorus calamus linn. / Batra Neha*, Jain Honey, Bairwa Ranjan and Bachwani Mukesh / Asian J. Pharm. Res. 2012; Vol. 2: Issue 1, Pg 39-42
ACORUS CALAMUS: AN OVERVIEW / V. V. Paithankar, S. L. Belsare, R. M. Charde, J. V. Vyas / International Journal of Biomedical Research, Vol 2, No 10, 2011 / doi: 10.7439/ijbr.v2i10.174
Antimicrobial activity of Acorus calamus (l.) rhizome and leaf extract / Asha Devi S and Deepak Ganjewala
/ Acta Biologica Szegediensis, Vol 53(1):45-49
A clinical study on the management of generalized anxiety disorder with Vaca (Acorus calamus) / Bhattacharyya* D, Sur TK, Lyle N, Jana U & Debnath PK / Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge Vol. 10 (4), October 2011, pp. 668-671
Bioanalytical Investigation of Asarone in Connection with Acorus calamus Oil Intoxications / Kristian Bjornstad, Anders Helander, Peter Hulten, and Olof Beck / Journal of Analytical Toxicoloty, Vol 33, Nov-Dec 2009
/ Gopalakrishna H.N, Sudhakar Pemminati*, Shilin Giri, Ashok K Shenoy, G.K.S. Holla, Vinod Nair, Alwar MC, Sheethal D.Ullal / International Journal of Applied Biology and Pharmaceutical Technology, Volume: I: Issue-2: Aug-Oct -2010
Acorus calamus / Synonyms / The Plant List
Anticonvulsant activity of raw and classically processed Vacha (Acorus calamus Linn.) rhizomes / Savitha D. Bhat, B. K. Ashok, R. N. Acharya, and B. Ravishankar / Ayu. 2012 Jan-Mar; 33(1): 119–122. / doi: 10.4103/0974-8520.100328
Toxicity study of ethanolic extract of Acorus calamus rhizome / Payal D Shah, Mrunali Ghag, Pradeep B Deshmukh, Yogesh Kulkarni, Shrikant V Joshi, Bhavin A Vyas, Dinesh R Shah / International Journal of Green Pharmacy, 2012, Volume 6, Issue 1, Pp 29-35
Acorus calamus Linn.: A herbal tonic for central nervous system / Dr. Jina Pattanaik*, Yogesh Kumar, Ravi Shankar Khatri / Journal of Scientific and Innovative Research 2013; 2 (5): 950-954
Bioanalytical Investigation of Asarone in Connection with Acorus calamus Oil Intoxications / Kristian Björnstad, Anders Helander, Peter Hultén, and Olof Beck* / Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Vol. 33, November/December 2009
Attenuating effect of Acorus calamus extract in chronic constriction injury induced neuropathic pain in rats: an evidence of anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and calcium inhibitory effects / Arunachalam Muthuraman and Nirmal Singh* / BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011, 11:24 doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-24
Evaluation of Cytotoxic Potential of Acorus calamus Rhizome / Rajkumar V, Gunjan Guha, Ashok Kumar R* and Lazar Mathew / Ethnobotanical Leaflets 13:832-39, 2009
Cytotoxic properties of Acorus calamus in MCF -7 breast cancer cells / S.B. Sreejaya and K.S. Santhy* / International Journal of Current Research and Academic Review, 2013, Vol 1, No1, pp 106-111
STUDY OF ANALGESIC ACTIVITY OF THE METHANOLIC EXTRACT OF ACORUS CALAMUS L. AND OROXYLUM INDICUM VENT BY ACETIC ACID INDUCED WRITHING METHOD / S.M. Zahid Hosen, Rasel Das, Zahed Bin Rahim, Nipa Chowdhury, Linkon Paul and Dibyajyoti Saha / Bulletin of Pharmaceutical Research 2011;1(3):63-7
Efficacy study of the bioactive fraction (F-3) of Acorus calamus in hyperlipidemia / T D Souza, S A Mengi, S. Hassarajani, S. Chattopadhayay / Indian J. Pharmacol, August 2007, Vol 39, Issue 4, pp 196-200

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