Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), Angelica archangelica

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Angelica, Angelica archangelica L., is a herbaceous, aromatic herb native to Eurasia and commercially cultivated in Belgium, Germany, France, and several other countries. Also known as archangel, European angelica, garden angelica, and wild parsnip, the species has sometimes been classified as Angelica officinalis Moench or Angelica officinalis (Moench) Hoffm. (Reaching a height of 2 meters, the plant has compound leaves, a hollow stem, a long, thick, fleshy root, and a compound umbel with greenish-white flowers.

The reported life zone of angelica is 5 to 19°C with an annual precipitation of 0.5 to 1.3 meters and a soil pH of 4.5 to 7.3 (4.1-31). The hardy plant thrives best on rich, well drained loam soils. Considered a biennial or short-lived perennial, the plant dies after flowering. Cross-pollination is by bees.

Roots intended for flavoring agents are often harvested in fall of the first year. Leaves and stalks are generally harvested in the spring of the second year. Seeds are harvested when ripe. Under cultivation, tops are usually pruned to prevent bloom and thus allow root growth to continue.

The essential oils obtained from the seeds and roots by steam distillation are known to contain d--phellandrene, -pinene, osthenole, osthole, angelicin, -thujene, camphene, and numerous other compounds (1.1-242, 1.2-112). The fruits of angelica contain a higher percentage of oil and are rich in coumarins (1.2-113, 8 14.1-35). Root oil is considered superior to the oils obtained from other parts of the plant.

As flavoring agents, roots and seeds of angelica are widely used in alcoholic liqueurs such as benedictine and chartreuse, and in gin and vermouth. The fruit is used in herbal teas. The leaves are sometimes blanched, boiled, and eaten in salads or as a garnish with vegetables and meats. Leaf stalks may be candied and used in cakes and desserts. The essential oil of angelica is used in perfumes, soaps, salves, oils, shampoos, and cigarettes.

As a medicinal plant, angelica was considered to have 'angelic' healing powers. It was used as a carminative, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. The plant has been used as a remedy for nervous headaches, fever, skin rashes, wounds, rheumatism, and toothaches. Seeds have been used as a diaphoretic and diuretic. Angelica has exhibited antimicrobial activity (8.2-80).

Several other Angelica species have traditional medicinal uses The roots and rhizomes of Angelica pubescens are employed in Chinese herbal preparations for arthritis, rheumatism, headache, toothache, abscesses, and carminative activity (11.1-10). Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels is used in treatment of such acute abdominal conditions as appendicitis and against psoriasis (7.7-6, 11.1-97). This plant has been shown to induce uterine contractions and relaxation, act as a sedative, and overcome symptoms induced by vitamin-E deficiency (11.1-96, 11.1-97). Toki, the root of Angelica acutiloba (Siebold and Zucc.) Kitag, has been shown to be an effective analgesic and to have anti-inflammatory effects (7.6-206). Lahnophyllum lactone and osthol isolated from Angelica klusiana have been shown to repel sea snails (1.8-115).

Wild angelica is the common name for Angelica sylvestris L., a small plant native to Bulgaria. The angelica tree is Aralia spinosa L., grown primarily for its ornamental value. The Japanese angelica tree, Aralia eleta Miq. is native to northwest Asia. The Chinese angelica tree, Aralia chinensis L. (Aralia sinensis Hort.), is native to China.

The Angelica species are generally recognized as safe for human consumption as natural seasonings/flavorings, and Angelica archangelica L. is also safe as a natural extractive/essential oil (21 CFR sections 182.10, 182.20 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997