Angelica root is nowadays specifically used for the potential to help support symptoms of appetite loss, stomach cramps and flatulence. Dried roots and root extracts are of commercial importance in alcoholic beverages (e.g. benedictine) and in the flavour industry.
Description: Angelica is a robust biennial herb with large, compound leaves, sheathing leaf bases and thick, ridged, hollow flowering stems. Small, greenish white flowers are borne in rounded clusters and the fruits (mericarps) are relatively large, flattened and winged.
Origin: Eurasia. It is commonly cultivated.
Parts Used: Mainly the roots (Angelicae radix), sometimes the whole herb (Angelicae herba), fruits or essential oil (Oleum angelicae).
Active Ingredients: The plant is rich in furanocoumarins, including xanthotoxin, imperatorin, angelicin, archangelin and coumarins such as umbelliferone, osthol, osthenol, and others. Osthol is the major compound in roots, imperatorin in fruit. The essential oil of the roots and fruits have alpha-phellandrene, beta-phellandrene and alpha-pinene as main ingredients.
Health Effects: The plantology appears to be poorly known but the plant stimulates the flow of gastric juices and has definite antispasmodic and cholagogue activities.
Notes: The roots of Angelica polymorpha var. sinensis (= A. sinensis) (dang gui; Chinese angelica) and A. dahurica (bai zhi) are very important traditionally by the Chinese. Chinese angelica is considered to be second only to ginseng in terms of its value as a tonic. It can be used to help support some types of anaemia, constipation, irregular menstruation, pain and numerous other ailments.
Status: Pharm.; Comm. E+ (root only); WHO 2 (Chinese angelica).
Angelica species have diaphoretic, expectorant, nervine, carminative, stimulant, and emmenagogue qualities. In Europe, angelica can be used to help support supporting colds, coughs, bronchial troubles, urinary disorders, and indigestion.
In China, at least ten species of angelica are used, the most common being Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels., commonly called dang-qui. It was listed in the earliest Chinese materia medica, Shen-nang's pen-tsao Ching (ca. A.D. 200). Dang-qui means "proper order". Dr. Shiu Ying Hu states, "The root stock of Chinese angelica is by far the foremost drug consumed in China. It is used more frequently and in larger amounts than the generally recognized commonest drugs in China; licorice and ginseng."! It can be used to help support menstrual irregularity, dysmenorrhea, joint pain, boils, ulcers, anemia, and other ailments. Water extracts cause the smooth uterine muscles to contract and alcohol extracts cause them to relax. It tranquilizes the cerebral nerves and serves as a cardiotonic.
Both the seeds and roots contain about 1 percent of an essential oil. The root oil consists mainly of phellandrene, alpha-pinene, and limonene. The seed oil is similar to that of the root. The oils are rich in coumarins including osthol, angelicin, umbelliferone, and bergapten. The seed oil contains imperatorin, a coumarin. Next to juniper berries, angelica is the main flavor in gin. It can also be used in liqueurs such as benedictine and chartreuse.
The young stalks of angelica can be peeled and eaten sparingly in salads or cooked in two waters as a vegetable. Honey added to the second boiling creates a delightful sweetmeat. The Laplanders preserve the main stalks as seasoning for food. The dried leaves make a delicate tea substitute. Norwegians use the powdered root as a flour for bread baking. The Laps preserve fish by wrapping them in angelica leaves. As vindication of this bit of folklore, researchers have found angelica root oil to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
General Herb Information
The genus Angelica is represented by about 100 species. A. arrhangelica, a European species, and A. atropurpurea, a North species, are bold, stout biennials or short-lived perennials (lasting three to five years) which die after forming seed. These stately plants are useful as a focal point in an herb garden.
Before producing flower stalks, the immature stems are about a foot high. After maturing, the average height is around six feet. The stalks of A. archangelica are large, ribbed, smooth, hollow, and often have a light purple cast. A. attrpuipweth stalk is usually dark purple. When backlit by the sun, the leaves are a pleasing chartreuse color. Each leaf consists of numerous leaflets divided into two or three main groups which are again divided into smaller groups. The edges are finely toothed. The leaf stalks flatten horizontally as they clasp the main stem.
The flower head is a spherical umbel, often as large as a softball, with numerous tiny greenish-white flowers. The seeds are about one-fourth inch long, flattened on one side and convex on the other with three ribs. They have thin paper-like winged sides. About twenty-five to thirty oil tubes (vittae) adhere to the seeds in each fruit. The taproots are short, thick, and fleshy, with numerous intertwining rootlets.
The taste of the fresh leaves is warm and pungent, sweet at first, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. A. ativpurpurea has a lovage-like odor while the fragrance of A. archangeiwa can be likened to musk. (Lovage is a close relative of Angelica in the carrot family.)
Angelica is propagated from seeds or by dividing offshoots from old roots, possibly a better method since angelica seed has limited viability. Angelica seed generally remains viable for about six months. It is best to plant seeds in late summer or early autunm soon after the seeds have ripened. The seed can also be refrigerated for planting the following spring. Kent Taylor has frozen angelica seed and kept it viable for two years. Be patient. Angelica may take a month or more to germinate. Occasionally self-sown seedlings appear and can be transplanted to a permanent location in the spring. Sow seed in the fall or spring one-half inch deep in well-prepared seed beds. Give the plants two feet of space in each direction. Angelica enjoys a fairly rich, light, well-drained, but moist loam. It loves partial shade and being close to running water, yet is adaptive to most garden soils. It prefers a slightly acid soil with a pH of 5 to 7. If you dig the plant without disturbing the roots, angelica transplants with ease and in hospitable habitats will grow eight feet high. An acre will produce eight to eleven pounds of seed and 800 to 1,300 pounds of dried root. Large roots may weigh up to three pounds.
Planted as a companion with angelica, stinging nettles reportedly increase angelica's oil content by 80 percent. Angelica is subject to aphid attacks. Spray infested flower heads with a cup of water that has had six crushed cloves of garlic soaked in it. All parts of the plant are useful. The leaves should be harvested carefully in the fall of the first year so that the main stem is not damaged. The root is harvested in the fall of the first or second year, or in the spring of the second year. Two-year-old roots are most desirable. The globe-shaped umbels are harvested as the seeds ripen and dry in shade at 80°F. Roots should be carefully cleaned before drying, and larger roots should be sliced into smaller pieces. Dried angelica is subject to insect infestations and should be stored in sealed containers. The root must be harvested soon after the seeds ripen as it will quickly rot in the ground after the plant has matured.
Preparation and Dosage: Infusions or extracts of the dried root are taken. The daily dose is 4.5 g of dry root (or an equivalent dose), or 10 - 20 drops of the essential oil. Root extracts are used as ingredients of various commercial preparations to help support digestive ailments.
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Take 1 capsule, 3 times daily, with meals.
Avoid prolonged exposure to sunglight.
Not to be used during pregnancy.
Furanocoumarins are phototoxic (they form DNA adducts) and may cause skin irritation and allergic reactions when taken in large amounts. As a result, the levels of these compounds in skin tan lotions are controlled.
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