Properties and uses of angelica

właściwości arcydzięgla

Angelica has been known in folk and traditional medicine for a thousand of years. Its medicinal properties were recognized as early as in the Middle Ages, whence its common names: angel’s herb, archangel’s root. Moreover, in addition to its numerous medicinal properties, angelica is sometimes used in the production of liqueurs and perfumes. What are the effects and uses of angelica?

What does angelica look like?

Garden angelica or great angelica (litvora), wild celery or just angelica (Angelica archangelica L.) is a herb belonging, like carrot, fennel or Persian cumin, to the umbelliferous family (Apiaceae). In appearance, it may also resemble Sosnowski’s hogweed – that is why caution should be exercised unless one is completely sure of the species identification.

Like related species, it has a distinctive and characteristic appearance. The stem of angelica is hollow and practically naked, growing up to 1.5-2.5 m in height. At the top of the shoot, it is terminated by an inflorescence – a strongly convex baldachin with globular umbels. However, for medicinal application it is primarily the underground parts of angelica that are used – its root and rootstock. These parts are short, and white and spongy inside. Besides preparations made from angelica root, the plant’s underground parts and also the seeds can be used to obtain essential oil.

Angelica – medicinal properties

Angelica root has a complex chemical composition and very broad medicinal properties. It is most widely used for its positive effect on the digestive system. Angelica enhances the secretion of gastric juice and saliva, and stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes, while having a relaxant effect on the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract and bile ducts.

In addition to aiding digestion, the herb also has a detoxifying effect through its diuretic and antimicrobial properties, and – unlike cranberry – it does not lead to urine acidification. However, the plant also affects other bodily systems.

Angelica oil has anti-anxiety, sedative, anticonvulsant and neuroprotective properties, as well as shows anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic effects.

Besides internal use, there are also benefits in applying oils or poultices with archangel root extract to the skin. Angelica oil shows properties that accelerate wound healing and antimicrobial action.

Angelica – applications

Thanks to its numerous medicinal properties, angelica is widely used in traditional medicine. You can use it in case of problems such as:

  • Indigestion, bloating, heartburn
  • No appetite
  • Dementia diseases
  • States of increased nervous tension, problems with falling asleep
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Joint pain, rheumatic diseases.

As mentioned above, angelica can be used not only in healing, but also in other areas of life. It is an edible plant, used for making meads and spirits (liqueurs and tinctures), decorating cakes and pies, and preparing jams. Angelica extracts are also used in cosmetics. The oil, with its musky fragrance, is sometimes used in making perfumes.

Angelica – side effects

Although natural products are often believed to be very safe to use, this is not always true. This also applies to angelica and its side effects. Similarly to, for example, vitamin A or St. John’s wort, angelica root preparations can have photosensitizing properties. . It means that when angelica is used, the skin may be particularly sensitive to sunlight and may be more easily burned or discolored. This property is due to the presence of biologically active substances from the furanocoumarin group, which, however, also carry the medicinal properties of angel’s herb.

Angelica – contraindications

Due to the aforementioned photosensitizing effect, the use of angelica is contraindicated for persons with high sensitivity to UV radiation and who are taking other photo-allergenic medicines. Moreover, it should not be used by pregnant women, as it can stimulate uterine contractions and lead to premature labor. Other contraindications to the medicinal properties of angelica are related to its mechanism of action and include glomerulonephritis, peptic ulcer disease, gastroenteritis, as well as ongoing anticoagulant treatment.

Where can you buy angelica?

Until 2014, great angelica was a strictly protected plant. At present, it remains under partial protection. Picking angelica from natural sites is therefore allowed only in certain cases and requires a permit. However, this does not mean that it cannot be used in home-made therapies. The easiest option is to purchase dried angelica root or ready-made products based on its extract, such as the angelica root extract available for purchase here. As a frost-resistant plant that requires no special care, angelica can also be grown in the home garden. Its seeds can be bought in herbal and gardening stores.


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