Garden Angelica (Angelica archangelica, or Archangelica officinalis)
Other common names: Wild celery, Norwegian angelica, holy ghost, archangel, angelique.
*Be aware that there are multiple species of angelica, some used medicinally and others not. This is the most common one, followed closely by Dong quai (Angelica sinensis). For the time being I will make this profile on garden angelica, and dong quai will be covered in another.
**Also I would not recommend wild crafting ANY angelica species. It looks a lot like water hemlock and many good herbalists have mixed up the two and poisoned their patients.
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Aromatic, bitter, cholagogue, astringent, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, abortifacient, expectorant, appetite stimulant, carminative, uterine stimulant, digestive, antitussive, nervous system stimulant (in high doses), emmenagogue, tonic, aperient laxative, antipruritic, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, vermifuge, analgesic, circulatory stimulant.
You can harvest angelica leaves in the summer, preferably while they are still tender. Seeds usually are ripe for harvest in later summer or early autumn – sometimes not until the second year. Roots should be taken in late autumn.
Part used: Roots, leaves, seeds.
Volatile oils, bitter principle, estrogenic, phellandrene, angelic acid, coumarin, tannins, angelicin (a resin, requires high alcohol content to extract in a tincture), sugars, valeric acid. It also has hydroxymyristic acid, methyl-ethylacetic acid, terpene and terebangelene in the essential oil.
Used to treat fevers, stimulate kidneys, suppress coughs, treat cold and flu symptoms, dispel gas, soothe digestive/intestinal cramps, ease rheumatism and neuralgia pain (topically), promote urine flow, promote menstrual flow, perk up a sluggish liver or spleen by increasing bile flow, helps a birthing mother expel her afterbirth (do not use until labour is underway, or it can prematurely bring it on – and do not continue use after the birth has completed, as prolonged presence in breastmilk is not good), can abort babies if taken early in pregnancy, although this is very dangerous to do without a qualified practitioner. Angelica also helps with asthma, bronchitis (any respiratory complaint, really), hepatitis, heartburn, colic (in adults), lack of appetite, anemia, menstrual cramps, female hormone balance, pleurisy, gout, blood poisoning (not my first choice for this), hangover, sciatica, skin lice, alcoholism (regular use causes patient to have a distaste for alcohol), sore throats, itching and swelling. It encourages circulation in the pelvic region especially.
Oil of angelica is made by steam distilling the seeds, and in addition to being used as a flavouring for foods, it also has medicinal value.
Try chewing on angelica root next time you have a hangover – or giving the root regularly to an alcoholic to cause them to develop a distaste for alcohol. It even heals the liver afterwards.
A standard decoction of the dried root is ideal for liver and blood cleansing, and all the internal conditions mentioned under “Indications”. It loves being used for female reproductive and respiratory complaints, as well as its common digestive affinity. You can gargle with it for sore throats, or inhale it in a steam for congestion or spasms of the diaphragm (as seen in asthma and acute bronchitis).
It is being speculated now that angelica may be helpful in preventing the hemorrhaging that can occur with some cancer treatments, but this is still being tested and should not be attempted without a doctor’s guidance.
Use in a wash, poultice or a liniment to soothe neuralgic pain, gout or other rheumatic conditions. It also reduces swelling when applied in this way. You can infuse it in oil or add its tincture to a salve as per usual. A wash made with strong angelica tea has been used for external abscesses with considerable success, and also to treat skin lice infestations.
Do not use if severely diabetic (it increases the sugar in your urine), pregnant or nursing, or if you have any problem with blood pressure. Use caution if you suspect the patient might have gallstones or kidney stones, or impaired bile ducts. The oil of angelica in particular (as well as other parts taken in high doses) can overstimulate the nervous system and cause photo-sensitivity. Be careful going out in the sun while taking this herb – always use a good sunscreen with a 30 SPF minimum. Also in overdoses, angelica can cause an increased heartbeat, irritation of the kidneys, and even respiratory distress due to excessive stimulation of the lungs. I personally do not use angelica in a patient who has had a history of breast cancer, ovarian or cervical cancer, due to its potential estrogen-modifying effects.
I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.
Angelica has largely feminine connotations. It is connected with purity, female reproductive tissues and the element of water. Despite its ability to cool fevers and inflammation, it can also warm the lung tissues, so it has both hot and cold affiliations.
When the black plague was in Europe, angelica was considered to be an antidote. “Angelica water” was actually published by the College of Physicians for this purpose in 1665. It has also been used in baths or the leaves burned to repel bad energy and break hexes.
Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.