Thursday, 25 July 2019

Medicinal Plant Angelica archangelica

Medicinal Plant Angelica archangelica

Medicinal Plant

In this family which is plentiful in all parts of the temperate world but not in the tropics. Many of our common vegetables belong to this family e.g. carrot, parsnip, celery and many of the seed spices e.g. dill, cumin and anise.
The general characteristics of the Apiaceae are:

  • The flowers are very small, in umbels.
  • The sepals are tiny or lacking.
  • There are 5 free petals, each curved at the tip.
  • The 5 stamens are attached to a disc around the base of the styles.
  • The pistil has 2 styles and stigmas. Its ovary is inferior with 2 carpels.
  • The fruit is distinctive. The 2 dry carpels split apart. They separate at the base, but hang by their tops from a slender stalk. Each contains 1 seed.
  • On their surfaces are the oil ducts which give the flavour and distinctive Odour.
  • The leaf stalks often have sheaths which wrap around the plant stems.
  • Usually the leaves are much divided, even fern-like.
  • Outer florets are often enlarged and sterile serving only as banners to guide pollinating insects.
  • Nearly all members of the family are herbaceous annuals or
  • biennials but Foeniculum vulgare is perennial.

There are three sub-families:

  1. Apioideae which contains, among others, the following genera—Ammi, Angelica, Anthriscus, Apium, Conium, Coriandrum, Daucus, Foeniculum, Petroselinum
  2. Hydrocotyloideae which contains the genus Centella
  3. Saniculoideae

Angelica archangelica

Angelica archangelica is a robust biennial with a stout taproot grown from seed. In the first year it forms a clump of large, matt green leaves borne on round, hollow, green stems 0.5–1 m long, depending on the season and distance from the equator. It dies back in winter and in the second year grows larger and sends up one or more flowering stems. It blooms in early spring and dies after seeding. Basal leaves large, 30–60 cm, 2–3 times pinnate, lobes oval lance-shaped and toothed. Stalk leaves smaller or reduced to inflated sheaths enclosing flower buds. Flower stems stout, grooved, round and hollow, 1–2 m high with branches topped by green or greenish-white flowers in globular umbels. Fruits 5–6 mm with ribs which become corky. All parts are aromatic.

Odour—intensely spicy; taste—at first aromatic then acrid, bitter and lastingly pungent.

Habitat and cultivation

Angelica is native to parts of Europe and Asia and is naturalised in damp situations, blooming in spring/summer of its second year. Cultivated from fresh seed in cooler climates, in sun with well drained soil. Frost and drought resistant.

Parts used

Leaves—harvested at the end of the first year and as the plant comes in to flower.

Roots and rhizomes—harvested in the autumn of the first year or early spring of second year before flowering. The oil content is highest in roots greater than 5 mm in diameter.

Seeds—harvested when ripe (use of the seeds appears to be a modern adaptation).

Culpeper favoured the root over the leaves.

Active constituents

1) Volatile oil including α- and β-phellandrene, pinene, linalool, borneol, β-bisabolene, β-caryophyllene, limonene

2) Coumarins (at least 15 have been identified) including

a) furanocoumarins—bergapten (5-methoxypsoralen), oxypeucedanin, isopimpinellin, xanthotoxin, imperatorin, marmesin and apterin

b) simple coumarins—osthol and umbelliferone

3) Phenylpropanoids including angelic and valerianic acids. Also amino-acid amides of N-phenylpropenoyl

4) Flavonoids including archangelenone

In addition the root has resin, tannins and sterols.

Nutritional constituents

Vitamins: E
Minerals: Calcium


1) Expectorant
2) Diaphoretic
3) Carminative
4) Bitter (root)
5) Spasmolytic
6) Diuretic
7) Anti-inflammatory

Scientific information

Roots, rhizomes and seeds have been officially used as expectorants in a number of countries. German Commission E has approved use of the root to treat loss of appetite, gastro-intestinal spasms, feeling of fullness and flatulence.
The mode of action of A. archangelica is largely unexplained. The furanocoumarins, psoralen and its derivatives, are like those now used in treating psoriasis and vitiligo in orthodox medicine. Psoralen is the most phototoxic of the furanocomarins found in the Apiaceae followed by bergapten then xanthotoxin.
In vitro—the seeds inhibit acetylcholinesterase and whole extract, furanocoumarins and essential oil are cytotoxic to cancer cells from the pancreas.
Several of the main constituents and the herb itself have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and the root oil is antibacterial.
The N-phenylpropenoyl-L-amino acid amides stimulate proliferation of hepatocytes and keratino cytes and reduce adhesion of H. pylori to stomach tissue.

In vivo—a herbal combination which included Angelica was effective in the treatment of functional dyspepsia with equivalent efficacy to cisapride.

Witchl states Angelica is contraindicated in peptic ulceration due to its stimulation of gastric and pancreatic secretions. However this warning is not found elsewhere and Angelica was used in combination with 7 other herbs that proved to be anti-ulcerogenic in animal-based studies.

Medicinal uses

Cardiovascular system

  • fever
  • peripheral vascular disease

Respiratory tract

Used for treating a variety of respiratory problems of varying origin including nervous respiratory conditions, infections and chronic mucus problems:

  • coughs
  • colds
  • pleurisy
  • bronchitis
  • respiratory catarrh
  • psychogenic asthma

Gastro-intestinal tract

The volatile oil aids the digestive process, stops cramping and eases gas build-up. The herb is ideal for treating:

  • flatulent dyspepsia 
  • indigestion
  • anorexia
  • nervous dyspepsia
  • colic
  • Externally
    Angelica oil has been used as a rub in the treatment of:
    • rheumatic conditions (Weiss)


    Three times daily
    Infusion of dried herb –   2–5 g
    Tincture 1:5 (45%) –   2–5 ml
    Fluid Extract (25%) –   2–5 ml
    Decoction of dried root –   1–2 g
    Tincture 1:5 (50%) –   0.5–2 ml
    Fluid Extract (25%) –   0.5–2 ml

    Precautions and/or safety

    The furanocoumarins in Angelica can cause photosensitivity if taken in large doses. (This same light-induced sensitivity gives the herb use as an insecticide as this process is fatal to insects).

    Historical uses

    Internally for epidemic diseases like the plague; an antidote to poison; for “cold stomachs”; strangury; urinary obstruction; an aid to menstruation and to expelling the afterbirth; overeating; typhoid fever. Externally for poor sight or hearing (drops); toothache; bites of mad dogs or venomous creatures; old filthy ulcers; gout; sciatica; lung and chest complaints (poultice). Used in liqueurs and cordials e.g. Bénédictine and Chartreuse and in Eau de Mélisse de Carmes.

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