Botanical Name: Angelica archangelica.
Other Common Names: European angelica, wild parsnip, garden angelica, holy ghost, masterwort, wild celery, fjällkvanne (Swedish), chien-tu (Chinese), angélique (French), Engelwurz (German).
Habitat: Angelica grows wild in Scandinavia, Greenland, Iceland, central Europe and some parts in North Asia. It will only grow in damp soil.
Plant Description: Angelica is a biennial or short lived perennial plant that belongs to the Apiaceae family, better know as celery, carrot or parsley family.
It can grow up to six feet tall or around 180 cm. The root is thick, fleshy and branched with several small rootlets. The leaves are green, consisting of three parts. Each part produces three serrated and lobed leaflets.
The flowers are yellow with a hint of green and blossom from July to August. Angelica is self-fertile as the flowers have both male and email organs which are pollinated by insects.
Plant Parts Used: All parts of the plant have been used as food, spice, and medicine.
Therapeutic Benefits, Application and Claims of Angelica
A volatile oil is found in all parts of the plant. The root contains phellandrene, terpenes, coumarin and coumarin derivatives (a total of 26 derivatives have been identified) such as osthol, angelicin and archangelicin.
The root also contains bitter substances, glucose, sucrose, saccharine and some organic acids like aconitic acid, fumaric acid, and oxalic acid. The seeds are rich in fatty oils and the leaves contain tannin and bitter substances.
Angelica has for centuries been an important medicinal plant and food source, especially to the Sami or Lapps in northern Finland, Norway and Sweden and the Inuits in Greenland.
The plant was well known among the Vikings and according to the Icelandic sagas, the plant was protected by law from over harvesting until the year 1000’s. In Norway, the plant was cultivated in special gardens and it was probably the first medicinal plant that was exported from the Nordic countries to the rest of Europe.
In the 14th century, angelica had become well known as a medicinal herb throughout Europe. During the middle ages the root of the plant was believed to be effective as a treatment for the plague and in the 17th and 18th century the herb was widely used against intestinal infections such as dysentery and cholera.
Among modern day herbalists angelica is considered a bitter, warming and invigorating herb that can be used as a remedy for a wide variety of diseases and disorders. Because the herb is bitter, it is primarily used for ailments associated with the digestive system.
The herb has been used to stimulate appetite, improve digestion and soothe colic and lessen intestinal gas production.
The herb has a bactericidal effect on the gastrointestinal tract and increases the production of stomach acid. Both of these factors can contribute to weaken or get rid of the bacteria that often causes various gastric ailments and discomforts.
Angelica can also be useful for poor blood circulation and it has been used as a treatment for Buerger’s disease, a condition that causes the arteries of the hands and feet to become narrow.
The plant is know for its expectorant properties and has been used traditionally as an herbal remedy for bronchitis, asthma and other ailments of the respiratory system. It is the roots that are commonly used in this regard but the stems and seeds may also be used.
Based on recent studies angelica has demonstrated anti cancer effects by counteracting cell changes that can develop into cancer but more studies are needed to confirm the potential of the herb as a treatment for cancer. In addition, the plant has antioxidative properties that could make it useful in preventing and treating atherosclerosis.
The German Commission E, the German equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), approves of the use of Angelica archangelica as a remedy for high fever, symptoms of the common cold, urinary tract infection and dyspeptic complaints.
The stems of angelica are edible. They are very rich in nutrients and can be eaten in the same manner as celery. The outer layer of the stems is usually removed and only the green and juicy inner parts are eaten. They have a strong taste, but if cooked the flavor becomes milder.
The plant has been used as a flavoring agent in liqueurs for centuries and is still the main flavor ingredient in the French liqueurs Bénédictine and Chartreuse.
Dosage and Administration
As a tea: 1 teaspoon of the dried and finely chopped root in one cup of boiling water and then letting it steep for a few minutes before the tea is strained.
As a tincture: The recommended dosage is usually 20-40 drops taken three times daily.
Side Effects and Possible Interactions of Angelica
Side effects from normal use of angelica in recommended doses are not common. Large doses of the root or the essential oil can, however, be highly toxic. The root is considered somewhat poisonous when fresh and should be thoroughly dried before it is used.
Angelica should not be used by pregnant women or nursing mothers and it should not be given to children under two years. The herb should not be used internally by people with stomach/intestinal ulcers and diabetes. Skin contact with the fresh plant may cause hypersensitivity (allergy) in some people.
When harvesting angelica from the wild is is very important to be sure that the right species is harvested. There are in fact some species in the same plant family that are very poisonous and can be easily be confused with Angelica archangelica.
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