Herb Profile: Wild & Garden Angelica

Wild & Garden Angelica

Botanical Name: Angelica sylvestris, A. archangelica

Common Names:  A.sylvestris – Wild Angelica, A. archangelica – Garden Angelica

Family:  Apiaceae

Parts Used:  Roots, rhizomes, leaves, fruits, fresh young stems.

Angelica archangelica’s leaves

Botany & Identification: 

A.sylvestris is a tall, statuesque biennial wild species with hollow stems up to 2m high. The stems are often purplish and not hairy. The inflorescence is in umbels and flowers are white or pink. The fruits are oval, flattened and winged. Wild Angelica is commonly found in damp, grassy places and open woods, fens throughout Northwestern Europe except in Arctic uplands.

A. archangelica is the cultivated garden species which contrasts with Wild Angelica with its green stems, greenish flowers and which is usually stouter and taller. It is also a herbaceous perennial

Angelica archangelica’s complex umbel flowerheads

as opposed to a biennial like the wild species. Garden Angelica can grow up to 3.2m and is native in Denmark & Germany.

Growing & Harvesting:  Both species can be cultivated in Scotland. Because of their large size they will need sufficient space. A.archangelica seeds have very short periods of viability and will fail to germinate if sown later than December/January after fruiting. They are best sown directly in the autumn.

Edibility & Nutrition:

Both of these Angelicas are edible, and have a long history of use as foods, candies and flavourings for different liqueurs and spirits.  The leaf stalks of Wild Angelica can be eaten in savoury dishes as a celery substitute and also be combined with rhubarb in desserts. The

Angelica sylvestris leaves

young, unfurled flower heads can be eaten like Hogweed (Heracleum sphondyllium).

Famous permacutluralists Graham  & Nancy Bell have Garden Angelica planted in a perennial vegetable patch as a year round cut & come again salad crop with a strong, bitter & aromatic flavour. Candied Angelica flower stems were used in cakes & confectionery historically, which doubled as a tonic medicine.

Constituents: (A archangelica) – Volatile oils containing phellandrine and limonene, furanocoumarins,

Angelica sylvestris compound umbels

angelicine, angelic acid, resins, bitters

Energetics & Qualities: Warming, Drying, Oily, Stimulating

Tastes: Aromatic/Pungent, Bitter, Sweet, Salty

Medicinal Actions:  Aromatic, Anti-Microbial, Anti-Spasmodic, Bitter, Carminative, Circulatory Stimulant, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Emmenagogue, Expectorant, Gastric Stimulant, Nervine

Uses:  

     Encourages active movement of fluids through the body, normalises function

Both species have similar actions & constituents and can be used interchangeably. The Garden Angelica has a higher volatile oil content, making it a more potent medicine, and the Wild Angelica gentler and more suitable for children.

Circulatory Stimulant; Normaliser of Function

  • The Angelicas are moving, warming aromatic herbs with great powers of normalising function. By encouraging efficient and active movement of bodily fluids: blood, water, lymph, mucous, they aid the function of many regulatory systems of the body increasing longevity, and having remarkable effects on cardiovascular health & immune function.
  • Matthew Wood writes that Angelica is suitable for pale, thin, dry and nervous constitutions to help restore function, but also for heavy, stout and stagnant constitutions where breaking up concentrations of fluids is beneficial.
  • Bartram calls Angelica a ‘friend of the aged’ as a circulatory stimulant which brings heat to cold conditions, and which sustain function of the heart, stomach & bowel.
  • Their warming, aromatic principles provide an uplifting, mood elevating quality which brings mental clarity
  • Wild & Garden Angelica also act on the lymphatic system, moving lymph through the body and aiding stuck, catarrhal infections, swellings, inflammations, and enlarged glands especially in the head & neck.
Our Wild Things 2017 group admiring some statuesque Angelica in Roslin Glen

Digestive Stimulant

  • As an aromatic bitter, the Angelicas are excellent carminatives and stomachics, used for conditions where the digestion is weak such as low stomach acid, wind, loss of appetite or chronic indigestion. Angelica will improve appetite, metabolism and absorption.
  • The oils stimulate release of cortisol from the adrenals which raises blood sugar
  • Angelica is also used to aid quitting smoking and alcohol use, as it temporarily alters the taste buds, making them unpalatable.

Breaks Up & Clears Catarrh;  Opens Airways  

  • A warming, expectorant to break up catarrh and encourage it to be expelled. Angelica can be used to open airways and decongest in asthma, coughs, bronchitis, and other stuck respiratory conditions.

Relieves congestion in the uterus

  • Angelica is indicated in conditions of low oestrogen and/or blood congestion in the uterus. It regulates menstruation and can help bring on delayed or scanty periods, and relieve cramping and blood clots.
  • It is contraindicated during pregnancy as it is a uterine stimulant, but can be used during labour that is failing to progress, and to encourage the placenta to be passed
  • It is not held in as high esteem as its cousin Angelica sinensis for hormone balancing properties, but this may be from a lack of empirical knowledge rather than a lack of usefulness.

External Use:

  • Can be used topically to relieve joint stiffness & muscle pain
  • Wild Angelica seeds were historically crushed up and used for nit removal and preventative treatment for children

History & Folklore:

  • There are many conflicting tales of how came to be named after an archangel. Its powers of protection in epidemics such as the plague were supposedly revealed to a monk during the Great Plague and it became one of the most highly revered medicines of that time for outbreaks and epidemics of contagious disease.
  • Garden Angelica was and is considered an important plant of the Lapps or Saami of the Far North, and the American species was burned in Sweat Lodges by indigenous first nations people.
  • Both species are still used as ingredients in many liqueurs such as gin, vodka, the slovakian Tatratea, vermouth & Chartreuse.

Preparations & Dosages:

Different preparation methods will bring out different constituents & properties of Angelica: boiling the root produces an aromatic bitter, infusing the root an anaesthetic astringent for the stomach lining, and alcohol brings out its relaxing & antispasmodic properties (Michael Moore).  Small doses have a central nervous system (CNS) relaxing quality; while excessive doses cause depression of the CNS.

Tincture of all parts 1:5 in 45% alcohol.

Does is 0.5-2ml three times a day for the root, and 1ml to 5ml three times a day for the leaf.

Cold infusion 6-12g per day.

Cautions & Contraindications:  

Angelica archangelica is a stimulating bitter, so be cautious in conditions of digestive excess: hyperacidity, inflamed mucous membranes, peptic ulcers and reflux. Excessive doses of Angelica tincture eventually lead to CNS paralysis, if taken in full doses it requires breaks of four days every two weeks.

Angelica is contraindicated in pregnancy & diabetes, and also contains furanocoumarins which can cause photosensitivity – limit sunbathing.

References:

Thomas Bartram (1998) Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine

Julian Barker (2001) The Medicinal Flora of Britain and Northwest Europe

Anne McIntyre (2010) The Complete Herbal Tutor

Matthew Wood (2008) The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants

Robin Hartford: https://www.eatweeds.co.uk/wild-angelica-angelica-sylvestris

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