Synonyms—Garden Angelica. Archangelica officinalis.
Parts Used—root, leaves, seeds.
Habitat—By some botanists, this species of Angelica is believed to be a native of Syria from whence it has spread to many cool European climates, where it has become naturalized. It is occasionally found native in cold and moist places in Scotland, but is more abundant in countries further north, as in Lapland and Iceland. It is supposed to have come to this country from northern latitudes about 1568, There are about thirty varieties of Angelica, but this one is the only one officially employed in medicine.
Botanical: Angelica Archangelica (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae
Medicinal Actions and Uses
—Synonyms—Garden Angelica. Archangelica officinalis.
—Parts Used—root, leaves, seeds.
—Habitat—By some botanists, this species of Angelica is believed to be a native of Syria from whence it has spread to many cool European climates, where it has become naturalized. It is occasionally found native in cold and moist places in Scotland, but is more abundant in countries further north, as in Lapland and Iceland. It is supposed to have come to this country from northern latitudes about 1568, There are about thirty varieties of Angelica, but this one is the only one officially employed in medicine.
Parkinson, in his Paradise in Sole, 1629, puts Angelica in the forefront of all medicinal plants, and it holds almost as high a place among village herbalists to-day, though it is not the native species of Angelica that is of such value medicinally and commercially. but an allied form, found wild in most places in the northern parts of Europe. This large variety, Angelica Archangelica (Linn.), also known as Archangelica officinalis, is grown abundantly near London in moist fields, for the use of its candied stems. It is largely cultivated for medicinal purposes in Thuringia, and the roots are also imported from Spain.
—History—Its virtues are praised by old writers, and the name itself, as well as the folk-lore of all North European countries and nations, testify to the great antiquity of a belief in its merits as a protection against contagion, for purifying the blood, and for curing every conceivable malady: it was held a sovereign remedy for poisons agues and all infectious maladies. In Couriand, Livonia and the low lakelands of Pomerania and East Prussia, wild-growing Angelica abounds; there, in early summer-time, it has been the custom among the peasants to march into the towns carrying the Angelica flower-stems and to offer them for sale, chanting some ancient ditty in Lettish words, so antiquated as to be unintelligible even to the singers themselves. The chanted words and the tune are learnt in childhood, and may be attributed to a survival of some Pagan festival with which the plant was originally associated. After the introduction of Christianity, the plant became linked in the popular mind with some archangelic patronage, and associated with the spring-time festival of the Annunciation. According to one legend, Angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel to cure the plague. Another explanation of the name of this plant is that it blooms on the day of Michael the Archangel (May 8, old style), and is on that account a preservative against evil spirits and witchcraft: all parts of the plant were believed efficacious against spells and enchantment. It was held in such esteem that it was called ‘The Root of the Holy Ghost.’
Angelica may be termed a perennial herbaceous plant. It is biennial only in the botanical sense of that term, that is to say, it is neither annual, nor naturally perennial: the seedlings make but little advance towards maturity within twelve months, whilst old plants die off after seeding once, which event may be at a much more remote period than in the second year of growth. Only very advanced seedlings flower in their second year, and the third year of growth commonly completes the full period of life. There is another species, Angelica heterocarpa, a native of Spain, which is credited as truly perennial; it flowers a few weeks later than the biennial species, and is not so ornamental in its foliage.
—Description—The roots of the Common Angelica are long and spindle-shaped, thick and fleshy – large specimens weighing sometimes as much as three pounds – and are beset with many long, descending rootlets. The stems are stout fluted, 4 to 6 feet high and hollow. The foliage is bold and pleasing, the leaves are on long stout, hollow footstalks, often 3 feet in length, reddish purple at the much dilated, clasping bases; the blades, of a bright green colour, are much cut into, being composed of numerous small leaflets, divided into three principal groups, each of which is again subdivided into three lesser groups. The edges of the leaflets are finely toothed or serrated. The flowers, small and numerous, yellowish or greenish in colour, are grouped into large, globular umbels. They blossom in July and are succeeded by pale yellow, oblong fruits, 1/6 to a 1/4 inch in length when ripe, with membraneous edges, flattened on one side and convex on the other, which bears three prominent ribs. Both the odour and taste of the fruits are pleasantly aromatic.
Our native form, A. sylvestris (Linn.), is hairy in stalk and stem to a degree which makes a well-marked difference. Its flowers differ, also, in being white, tinged with purple. The stem is purple and furrowed. This species is said to yield a good, yellow dye.
Angelica is unique amongst the Umbelliferae for its pervading aromatic odour, a pleasant perfume, entirely differing from Fennel, Parsley, Anise, Caraway or Chervil. One old writer compares it to Musk, others liken it to Juniper. Even the roots are fragrant, and form one of the principal aromatics of European growth- the other parts of the plant have the same flavour, but their active principles are considered more perishable.
In several London squares and parks, Angelica has continued to grow, self-sown, for several generations as a garden escape; in some cases it is appreciated as a useful foliage plant, in others, it is treated rather as an intruding weed. Before the building of the London Law Courts and the clearing of much slum property between Holywell Street and Seven Dials, the foreign population of that district fully appreciated its value, and were always anxious to get it from Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where it abounded and where it still grows. Until very recent years, it was exceedingly common on the slopes bordering the Tower of London on the north and west sides; there, also, the inhabitants held the plant in high repute, both for its culinary and medicinal use.
—Cultivation—Cultivate in ordinary deep, moist loam, in a shady position, as the plant thrives best in a damp soil and loves to grow near running water. Although the natural habitat is in damp soil and in open quarters, yet it can withstand adverse environment wonderfully well, and even endure severe winter frost without harm. Seedlings will even successfully develop and flower under trees, whose shelter creates an area of summer dryness in the surface soil, but, of course, though such conditions may be allowable when Angelica is grown merely as an ornamental plant, it must be given the best treatment as regards suitable soil and situation when grown for its use commercially. Insects and garden pests do not attack the plant with much avidity: its worst enemy is a small twowinged fly, of which the maggots are leafminers, resembling those of the celery plant and of the spinach leaf.
—Propagation—should not be attempted otherwise than by the sowing of ripe, fresh seed, though division of old roots is sometimes recommended, and also propagation by offshoots, which are thrown out by a two-yearold plant when cut down in June for the sake of the stems, and which transplanted to 2 feet or more apart, will provide a quick method of propagation, considered inferior, however, to that of raising by seed. Since the germinating capacity of the seeds rapidly deteriorates, they should be sown as soon as ripe in August or early September. If kept till March, especially if stored in paper packets, their vitality is likely to be seriously impaired. In the autumn, the seeds may be sown where the plants are to remain, or preferably in a nursery bed, which as a rule will not need protection during the winter. A very slight covering of earth is best. Young seedlings, but not the old plants, are amenable to transplantation. The seedlings should be transplanted when still small, for their first summer’s growth, to a distance of about 18 inches apart. In the autumn they can be removed to permanent quarters, the plants being then set 3 feet apart.
—Parts Used—The roots and leaves for medicinal purposes, also the seeds.
The stems and seeds for use in confectionery and flavouring and the preparation of liqueurs.
The dried leaves, on account of their aromatic qualities, are used in the preparation of hop bitters.
The whole plant is aromatic, but the root only is official in the Swiss, Austrian and German Pharmacopoeias.
Angelica roots should be dried rapidly and placed in air-tight receptacles. They will then retain their medicinal virtues for many years.
The root should be dug up in the autumn of the first year, as it is then least liable to become mouldy and worm-eaten: it is very apt to be attacked by insects. Where very thick, the roots should be sliced longitudinally to quicken the drying process.
The fresh root has a yellowish-grey epidermis, and yields when bruised a honeycoloured juice, having all the aromatic properties of the plant. If an incision is made in the bark of the stems and the crown of the root at the commencement of spring, this resinous gum will exude. It has a special aromatic flavour of musk benzoin, for either of which it can be substituted.
The dried root, as it appears in commerce, is greyish brown and much wrinkled externally, whitish and spongy within and breaks with a starchy fracture, exhibiting shining, resinous spots. The odour is strong and fragrant, and the taste at first sweetish, afterwards warm, aromatic, bitterish and somewhat musky. These properties are extracted by alcohol and less perfectly by water.
If the plants are well grown, the leaves may be cut for use the summer after transplanting. Ordinarily, it is the third or fourth year that the plant develops its tall flowering stem, of which the gathering for culinary or confectionery use prolongs the lifetime of the plant for many seasons. Unless it is desired to collect seed, the tops should be cut at or before flowering time. After producing seed, the plants generally die, but by cutting down the tops when the flower-heads first appear and thus preventing the formation of seed, the plants may continue for several years longer, by cutting down the stems right at their base, the plants practically become perennial, by the development of side shoots around the stool head.
The whole herb, if for medicinal use, should be collected in June and cut shortly above the root.
If the stems are already too thick, the leaves may be stripped off separately and dried on wire or netting trays.
The stem, which is in great demand when trimmed and candied, should be cut about June or early July.
If the seeds are required, they should be gathered when ripe and dried. The seedheads should be harvested on a fine day, after the sun has dried off the dew, and spread thinly on sailcloth in a warm spot or open shed, where the air circulates freely. In a few days the tops will have become dry enough to be beaten out with a light flail or rod, care being taken not to injure the seed. After threshing, the seeds (or fruits) should be sieved to remove portions of the stalks and allowed to remain for several days longer spread out in a very thin layer in the sun, or in a warm and sunny room, being turned every day to remove the last vestige of moisture. In a week to ten days they will be dry. Small quantities of the fruits can be shaken out of the heads when they have been cut a few days and finished ripening, so that the fruits divide naturally into the half-fruits or mericarps which shake off readily when quite ripe, especially if rubbed out of the heads between the palms of the hands. It is imperative that the seeds be dry before being put into storage packages or tins.
—Constituents—The chief constituents of Angelica are about 1 per cent. of volatile oil, valeric acid, angelic acid, sugar, a bitter principle, and a peculiar resin called Angelicin, which is stimulating to the lungs and to the skin. The essential oil of the roots contains terebangelene and other terpenes; the oil of the ‘seeds’ contains in addition methyl-ethylacetic acid and hydroxymyristic acid.
Angelica balsam is obtained by extracting the roots with alcohol, evaporating and extracting the residue with ether. It is of a dark brown colour and contains Angelica oil Angelica wax and Angelicin.
—Uses—Angelica is largely used in the grocery trade, as well as for medicine, and is a popular flavouring for confectionery and liqueurs. The appreciation of its unique flavour was established in ancient times when saccharin matter was extremely rare. The use of the sweetmeat may probably have originated from the belief that the plant possessed the power of averting or expelling pestilence.
The preparation of Angelica is a small but important industry in the south of France, its cultivation being centralized in ClermontFerrand. Fairly large quantities are purchased by confectioners and high prices are easily obtainable. The flavour of Angelica suggests that of Juniper berries, and it is largely used in combination with Juniper berries, or in partial substitution for them by gin distillers. The stem is largely used in the preparation of preserved fruits and ‘confitures’ generally, and is also used as an aromatic garnish by confectioners. The seeds especially, which are aromatic and bitterish in taste, are employed also in alcoholic distillates, especially in the preparation of Vermouth and similar preparations, as well as in other liqueurs, notably Chartreuse. From ancient times, Angelica has been one of the chief flavouring ingredients of beverages and liqueurs, but it is not a matter of general knowledge that the Muscatel grape-like flavour of some wines, made on both sides of theRhine, is (or is suspected to be) due to the secret use of Angelica. An Oil of Angelica, which is very expensive, was prepared in Germany some years ago: it is obtained from the seeds by distillation with steam, the vapour being condensed and the oil separated by gravity. One hundred kilograms of Angelica seeds yield one kilolitre of oil, and the fresh leaves a little less, the roots yielding only 0.15 to 0.3 kilograms. Like the seeds themselves, the oil is used for flavouring. Besides being employed as a flavouring for beverages and medicinally, Angelica seeds are also used to a limited extent in perfumery.
—Medicinal Action and Uses—The root stalks, leaves and fruit possess carminative, stimulant, diaphoretic, stomachic, tonic and expectorant properties, which are strongest in the fruit, though the whole plant has the same virtues.
Angelica is a good remedy for colds, coughs, pleurisy, wind, colic, rheumatism and diseases of the urinary organs, though it should not be given to patients who have a tendency towards diabetes, as it causes an increase of sugar in the urine.
It is generally used as a stimulating expectorant, combined with other expectorants the action of which is facilitated, and to a large extent diffused, through the whole of the pulmonary region.
It is a useful agent for feverish conditions, acting as a diaphoretic.
An infusion may be made by pouring a pint of boiling water on an ounce of the bruised root, and two tablespoonsful of this should be given three or four times a day, or the powdered root administered in doses of 1O to 30 grains. The infusion will relieve flatulence, and is also of use as a stimulating bronchial tonic, and as an emmenagogue. It is used much on the Continent for indigestion, general debility and chronic bronchitis. For external use, the fresh leaves of the plant are crushed and applied as poultices in lung and chest diseases.
The following is extracted from an old family book of herbal remedies:
‘Boil down gently for three hours a handful of Angelica root in a quart of water; then strain it off and add liquid Narbonne honey or best virgin honey sufficient to make it into a balsam or syrup and take two tablespoonsful every night and morning, as well as several times in the day. If there be hoarseness or sore throat, add a few nitre drops.’
A somewhat similar drink, much in use on the Continent in the treatment of typhus fever, is thus prepared:
‘Pour a quart of boiling water upon 6 oz. of Angelica root cut up in thin slices, 4 oz. of honey, the juice of 2 lemons and 1/2 gill of brandy. Infuse for half an hour.’
Formerly a preparation of the roots was much used as a specific for typhoid.
Angelica stems are also grateful to a feeble stomach, and will relieve flatulence promptly when chewed. An infusion of Angelica leaves is a very healthful, strengthening tonic and aromatic stimulant, the beneficial effect of which is felt after a few days’ use.
The yellow juice yielded by the stem and root becomes, when dry, a valuable medicine in chronic rheumatism and gout.
Taken in medicinal form, Angelica is said to cause a disgust for spirituous liquors.
It is a good vehicle for nauseous medicines and forms one of the ingredients in compound spirit of Aniseed.
Gerard, among its many virtues that he extols, says ‘it cureth the bitings of mad dogs and all other venomous beasts.’
—Preparations—Fluid extract, herb: dose, 1 drachm. Fluid extract, root: dose, 1/4 to 1 drachm.
To Preserve Angelica. Cut in pieces 4 inches long. Steep for 12 hours in salt and water. Put a layer of cabbage or cauliflower leaves in a clean brass pan, then a layer of Angelica, then another layer of leaves and so on, finishing with a layer of leaves on the top. Cover with water and vinegar. Boil slowly till the Angelica becomes quite green, then strain and weigh the stems. Allow 1 lb. loaf sugar to each pound of stems. Put the sugar in a clean pan with water to cover; boil 10 minutes and pour this syrup over the Angelica. Stand for 12 hours. Pour off the syrup, boil it up for 5 minutes and pour it again over the Angelica. Repeat the process, and after the Angelica has stood in the syrup 12 hours, put all on the fire in the brass pan and boil till tender. Then take out the pieces of Angelica, put them in a jar and pour the syrup over them, or dry them on a sieve and sprinkle them with sugar: they then form candy.
Another recipe (from Francatelli’s Cook’s Guide):
‘Cut the tubes or stalks of Angelica into sixinch lengths; wash them, then put them into a copper preserving-pan with hot syrup; cover the surface with vine-leaves, and set the whole to stand in the larder till next day. The Angelica must then be drained on a sieve, the vine-leaves thrown away, half a pint of water added to the syrup, in which, after it has been boiled, skimmed, and strained into another pan, and the copper-pan has been scoured clean, both the Angelica and the boiling syrup are to be replaced and the surface covered with fresh vine-leaves, and again left to stand in this state till the next day- this process must be repeated 3 or 4 days running: at the end of which time the Angelica will be sufficiently green and done through, and should be put in jars without breaking the tubes. After the syrup has been boiled and skimmed, fill up the jars, and when they are become cold, cover them over with bladder and paper, and let them be kept in a very cool temperature.’
Another way of preserving Angelica:
Choose young stems, cut them into suitable lengths, then boil until tender. When this stage is reached, remove from the water, and strip off the outer skin, then return to the water and simmer slowly until the whole has become very green. Dry the stems and weigh them, allowing one pound of white sugar to every pound of Angelica. The boiled stalks should be laid in an earthenware pan and the sugar sprinkled over them, allowing the whole to stand for a couple of days- then boil all together. When well boiling, remove from the fire and turn into a colander to drain off the superfluous syrup. Take a little more sugar and boil to a syrup again, then throw in the Angelica, and allow it to remain for a few minutes, and finally spread on plates in a cool oven to dry.
If a small quantity of the leaf-stalks of Angelica be cooked with ‘sticks’ of rhubarb, the flavour of the compound will be acceptable to many who do not relish plain rhubarb. The quantity of Angelica used may be according to circumstances, conditions and individual taste. If the stems are young and juicy, they may be treated like rhubarb and cut up small, the quantity used being in any proportion between 5 and 25 per cent. If the stalks are more or less fully developed, or even rather old and tough, they can be excellently used in economically small quantities for flavouring large quantities of stewed rhubarb, or of rhubarb jam, being added in long lengths before cooking and removed before sending to table. The confectioner’s candied Angelica may be similarly utilized, but is expensive and not so good, whilst the home-garden growth in spring-time of fresh Angelica, with thick, stout leaf-stalks, and of still stouter flowering stems, is very easy to use and cheap. If this flowering stem be cut whilst very tender, early in May, later leafstalks will be plentifully available for use with the latter part of the rhubarb crop.
A well-known jam maker and confectioner, the late Mr. Robertson, of Chelsea, won considerable reputation by reason of his judicious blending of Angelica in jam-making and its combination in other confections, including temperance beverages. A pleasant form of Hop Bitters is made by taking 1 OZ. of dried Angelica herb, combined with 1 OZ. of Holy Thistle, and 1/2 oz. of hops, infused with 3 pints of boiling water and strained off when cold, a wineglassful being taken several times a day before meals, forming a good appetiser.
A delicious liqueur which is also a digestive, preserving all the virtues of the plant, is made in this way: 1 OZ. of the freshly gathered stem of Angelica is chopped up and steeped in 2 pints of good brandy during five days 1 OZ. of skinned bitter almonds reduced to a pulp being added. The liquid is then strained through fine muslin and a pint of liquid sugar added to it.
Angelica is used in the preparation of Vermouth and Chartreuse.
Though the tender leaflets of the blades of the leaves have sometimes been recommended as a substitute for spinach, they are too bitter for the general taste, but the blanched mid-ribs of the leaf, boiled and used as celery, are delicious, and Icelanders eat both the stem and the roots raw, with butter. The taste of the juicy raw stems is at first sweetish and slightly bitter in the mouth and then gives a feeling of glowing warmth. In Lapland, the inhabitants regard the stalks of Angelica as a great delicacy. These are gathered before flowering, the leaves being stripped off and the peel removed, the remainder is eaten with much relish. The Finns eat the young stems baked in hot ashes, and an infusion of the dried herb is drunk either hot or cold: the flavour of the decoction is rather bitter, the colour is a pale greenish grey and the odour greatly resembles China Tea. It was formerly a practice in this country to put a portion of the fresh herb into the pot in which fish is boiled.
The Norwegians make bread of the roots.
Angelica may be made much use of in the garden by cutting the hollow stalks into convenient lengths and placing them amongst shrubs as traps for earwigs.
A drink much in use on the Continent for typhus fever: Pour a quart of boiling water on 6 oz. of Angelica root sliced thin, infuse for half an hour, strain and add juice of 2 lemons, 4 oz. of honey and 1/2 gill of brandy.