ANGELICA – Angelica Archangelica, Angelica Sinensis, Angelica Sylvestris, Angelica Atropurpurea, Angelica Polymorpha, Angelica Arguta, etc.
Also known as: Dong Quai (pronounced “tang kuei”), Root of the Holy Ghost, Masterwort, Archangel, Dead Nettle, etc.
Parts used: mostly the root, stems, seeds, leaves.
Systems/organs affected: circulatory, reproductive, liver, respiratory, blood, stomach, intestines, structural, spleen.
Properties: warming liver and uterine tonic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, culinary, antispasmodic, carminative, stimulant, emmenagogue, diaphoretic, hypotensive, aromatic, estrogenic, hepatoprotective, sedative, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, diuretic, anti-parasitic, antiviral.
ANGELICA is a member of the Umbelliferae (carrot) family. It is a tall, aromatic, stout plant with white to yellow-green flowers that grow in rounded umbels. The stems are hollow and the leaves are deeply divided into three parts that are serrated. It can get up to six feet tall and likes stream banks, moist woodlands, roadsides, thickets, etc. It is believed to be native to Syria but now can be found all over the globe. The flowers bloom from May to August (depending on location) and are replaced by 'winged' tan-colored seeds that some associate with angel's wings. It smells like parsley or celery and, with a small exception of the leaves, eerily resembles water hemlock which is deadly (1/4 tsp. of water hemlock root can kill an adult within 15 minutes). As the hemlock species and angelica are in the same family they will cross pollinate so if harvesting this herb be careful to take note of your surroundings. If you see hemlock nearby do not harvest the angelica – move on to a hemlock-free area and harvest the plants you find there. The leaves of water hemlock also are a little different than angelica in that the side veins only go to the notches or valleys of the leaf whereas angelica's go to the tip. So always look at the leaf to be able to identify the right plant. Here is a small poem to help remember how to identify the plant: “Leaf vein to the tip, all is hip. Leaf vein to the cut, pain in the gut.”
There is a lot of folklore attached to this herb. It is believed to have obtained its name from a monk who said that an angel told him it was the cure for plague. (Some references say it was the angel Raphael while others say it was Michael the Archangel). In early times it was believed that the plant would protect one against the spells of witches and/or evil spirits. Peasants would tie the leaves around their children believing it would protect them from harm. Angelica stems were used in a yearly celebration in Latvia where the participants chanted the words of a chorus that had been passed down for centuries. This ritual is so old no one actually knows what the words mean – they just know it's about angelica.
Culpeper said angelica is an herb of Leo and considered “of admirable use.” He used angelica juice as drops for the eyes and ears to help with conditions of each one. He also used it the same way for toothaches. The powdered root was mixed with pitch and used to treat poisonous animal bites as well as rabid dog bites. Parkinson said it was good for “tremblings and passions of the heart” and that if one took the powdered root in wine that it would “abate the rage of lust in young persons.” It was often employed for colic, indigestion and circulation issues and anemic conditions. Angelica contains a number of beneficial components that has made it one of the most utilized medicinal herbs. The Chinese version is referred to as Dong Quai and dates back to 200 A.D. Pinene, a part of angelica oil, is a known expectorant and is used for asthma, pleurisy, bronchitis, etc. It can induce sweating which aids in ridding the body of toxins. It is an effective diuretic, helping prevent bloating, stimulates menstruation, and eases cramping. The root oil has been found to be a preventative against both fungus and bacteria. Another phytochemical in angelica – called Fenchon – has been found to improve Alzheimer's in some patients. The Chinese variety is often used for liver and reproductive issues and is sometimes called 'women's ginseng' It is used for all kinds of female complaints. It was introduced to the West around 1899 by Merck who sold it as a liquid extract called Eumenol that was used exclusively for menstrual issues. Gerard recommended chewing the stems to prevent infection during the plague of 1660 and the roots and seeds were burned to purify the air during that time. The same was prescribed by Paracelsus in Milan about 150 years earlier during an epidemic there. Dr. LeClerc used it for anorexia and nervous and digestive disorders. It is said to also be useful as a topical agent for skin lice. Native Americans used it on horses that had what resembled canine distemper (weeping eyes, lack of appetite, runny nose). The Chinese version of angelica actually works better when combined with black cohosh.
Aside from its numerous uses as a medicinal herb it is also quite prized as a culinary plant. The stems were often eaten like asparagus. The leaves were added to soups and stews. In Norway, the roots are used to make bread and Icelanders consume the raw stems and roots with butter. The oil from the roots and seeds are used in gin, chartruese, vermouth and Benedictine. The roots are powdered and used in sachets and rose jars. The stalks are used in making candy and also are mixed with rhubarb to make jams and marmalades while the young stalks are candied and used to decorate cakes and pastries. The leaves smell like parsley and the seeds taste like a cross between cardamom and celery. The young flower heads are eaten in salads or added to stir fries.
Angelica can cause contact dermatitis so it is best to use gloves when harvesting this plant. The plant self-sows pretty easily but if starting from seed it needs 70ｺ temperatures for at least 21-28 days in a sunny location. The seeds do lose their vitality fairly quickly so it is best to sow them in July or August after harvesting the first crop of seeds. The seeds should remain viable for up to two years.
DO NOT USE: if pregnant (it can stimulate menstruation); if diabetic (it can elevate blood sugar and urine sugar content); It can make one more susceptible to sunburn; if on blood pressure medication (it can affect blood pressure). Some chemicals in the plant also are said to trigger cellular changes which may cause cancer (I am taking that with a grain of salt).
ALWAYS CONSULT A PHYSICIAN BEFORE STARTING AN HERBAL PRODUCT OR REGIMEN.
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