Angelica Angelica archangelica or Archangelica officinalis is an umbelliferous plant and member of the Apiaceae family.
From December to April the fresh young leaves of Angelica are at their best. Angelica is a lovely herb that self-seeds and establishes itself easily. It is a fascinating and useful herb that has been in use since ancient times, for both medicine and food.
The name is said (1) to come from medieval Latin herba angelica, which means angelic herb, a name given to it because it was believed that the herb could protect against evil and cure all ills. Other sources (5) suggest the name comes from the Greek angelos meaning messenger because, according to legend, an angel visited a monk and told him the herb would cure his plague stricken village. Another source (6) claims it is named for the old saints day of Michael the Archangel, when it comes into flower. In older times the herb appears to have featured in pagan festivals and was dedicated to heathen gods. Whatever its folkloric or linguistic roots angelica was growing in a large clump in front of our house, perhaps to ward off evil spirits, when we first arrived here. Since then I have used Angelica’s self-seeding capacity to spread it to choice spots around the place so we now have a healthy and plentiful supply.
The plant is a robust, aromatic biennial if left to self-seed or a short-lived perennial if the flower stalks are kept cut back. Plants are tall, the flower stalks reach 6ft, and need plenty of space. It has thick, hollow, ridged stems and long-stalked, deeply divided green leaves. Umbels of tiny green-white flowers appear in summer followed by ovate, dark, ridged seeds in late summer/autumn.
Growing Angelica Propagate from seed; collect seeds in autumn and sow directly where you want them to grow. You can also sow in modules to plant out later or wait until spring to sow direct. (NB I’ve read that angelica seeds (5) have a short life and that viability can start to decrease after about 3 months, I am not sure about that, I am not convinced that is so). Plants do need plenty of water and space, a deep rich soil and some shade in order to grow happily in the summer months. They self-seed easily so If you want to prevent spreading cut down the flower stalks before they set seed. Left to self-seed the new shoots appear in late winter.
Harvesting Harvest leaves before the plant flowers and use fresh or dry for use later. Here on our land the young leaves are at their best from late autumn to early spring. Harvest stems while they are young and still bright green and before the flowers appear. The seeds are best collected in the autumn when the weather is dry.
Culinary Use The fresh young leaves can be eaten raw in salads or lightly cooked as you would spinach, while the stems are traditionally candied and used in confectionary. Its aromatic flavours makes it a useful pot herb in late winter and early spring when not much in the way of fresh greens are available. The leaves are often stewed with tart fruits such as gooseberries and rhubarb, to counteract and sweeten the acidity of the fruit. Angelica is also used in the preparation of a number of liqueurs such as; Chartreuse and Bénédictine and sometimes in absinthe. Last spring I tried making Candied Angelica using a recipe from (5) but it really didn’t work. It was too sugary and the colour and flavour was lost in the lengthy cooking process required so if anyone has any tips on making Candied Angelica PLEASE do post your comments.
Garden Use An excellent variety to add to a perennial & self-sowing wild-life and edible hedgerow, along with Alexanders, Chervil, Korean Mint, Mustards, Chicories, Kales and Fennel.
I’ve been looking into the medicinal uses for Angelica because I had an awful cough that just would not shift, 3 months and counting, so I’ve been drinking Angelica tea as a remedy, it certainly has reduced the symptoms and is pleasant to drink. I thought it might be useful to post up the information I’ve gathered.
This information comes from a combination of the sources listed. I’ve included information only when two or more sources agree that Angelica is a good remedy for the specific properties and ailments listed.
Angelica has a soothing, warming, stimulating action on the digestion, lungs and circulation and is often counted as one of the bitter herbs used to make the gastric tonics often called bitters. Angelica contains chemical compounds that can relax and sooth the muscles of the windpipe and intestines and is said to be able to loosen phlegm in the lungs.
In particular Angelica can be used as a remedy for:
- respiratory complaints such as; bronchitis, asthma, pleurisy,catarrh
- colds, flu & chills
- digestive problems such as; indigestion, wind and heartburn
- poor circulation
- exhaustion and rheumatic pains (external)
- swellings, itching and rheumatism. (external)
leaves, stems dried roots and seeds are used.
Infusion (tea) The fresh or dried leaves can be steeped in hot water to make Angelica tea.
Infusion (root tea) 1 tsp dried Angelica root is added to 1 cup boiling water and steeped 15 to 20 min. Take 1 spoonful 3-4 times a day
Decoction The dried roots or stems are mashed and boiled for 8-10 minutes then strained.
External use – add crushed leaves to a bath to relieve exhaustion and rheumatic pains.
Poultice – fresh leaves can be crushed and rubbed on skin areas for swellings, itching and rheumatism.
1. A-Z of Natural Remedies by Amanda Sandeman
2. Off-The-Shelf Natural Health How to use Herbs and Nutrients to Stay Well by Mark Mayell
3. Herbs and Health Nicola Peterson
4. Encyclopedia of Herbs and their uses, by Deni Bown The Royal Horticultural society
5. The complete Book of Vegetables Herbs & Fruit Mathew Biggs, Jekka McVicar and Bow Flowerdew
6. The Country Diary Herbal Sarah Hollis
I think this is a herb to approach with caution because several sources provide a warning (4) that the fresh roots are poisonous, (5) large doses can paralyse or depress the central nervous system and Angelica tea is not recommended for those with diabetes as it can cause an increase of sugar in the urine. At one time large doses of Angelica were used to induce miscarriages so it is obviously a herb to use in moderation and with caution.