Angelica archangelica, also known as Angelica officinalis, is a biennial plant, usually lasting between 2-3 years, in the Apiacea, or carrot family. It has large sets of leaflets divided twice by sets of threes, hollow stems that can range from green to purplish and 4 to 6 feet tall, and a globular cluster of pale yellow umbel flowers that bloom in the summer. The roots are long, fleshy, and spindly. As many members of the carrot family are deadly poisonous, such as water hemlock, cow parsnip, and fool’s parsley, proper identification is crucial. Collection of the leaves is best done in june, while the roots are best collected in the autumn. It is often found growing in cool, damp areas of Northern Europe in the British Isles, Scandanavia, Greenland, Denmark, and Iceland, but is also cultivated in places further south. It does best in deep, loamy, moist soils in partial shade, and seems to do best near running water. It can withstand frosts and severe winters.
The roots and leaves of the Angelica plant are used medicinally. Angelica is a carminative, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, diuretic, and diaphoretic. As an expectorant, it helps with coughs, bronchitis, pleurisy (an infection of the mucous lining of the lungs, which causes a sharp pain upon inhaling), especially when these symptoms are accompanied by fevers and colds. It combines well with white horehound and coltsfoot for respiratory issues. The leaf can also be used in a compress for chest inflammations. The essential oils found in the plant are helpful for colic and gas, and helps stimulate the appetite and calm the smooth digestive muscles, especially when combined with chamomile. It can also help with inflammation in the joints, and as a diuretic, helps with cystitis and to tone the urinary tract. The roots of angelica should be prepared as a decoction or as a tincture, and the leaves as an infusion.
The fresh shoots and young stems of the plant can be prepared in salads and vegetable dishes, and the seeds and stems are used in cooking and for confections. As a flavoring, it is used in gin and old world alcoholic apertifs such as absinthe, vermouth, chartreuse, benedictine, and dubonet. It’s sweet flavor is unique, but has similar notes as and falls somewhere between fennel, anise, carraway, juniper, and parsley. The scent of the leaves is said to prevent carsickness. During the 16th and 17th centuries angelica was combined with other herbs to make Carmelite water, which was thought to cure headaches, promote relaxation and long life, and protect against poisons and witches’ spells. A smudge made from the leaves of the plant are thought to bring joy and ease into a household, and leaves sprinkled in all corners of the house is said to bring protection from darkness.
As a decoction, a teaspoon of the cut roots per cup of water, boiled and simmered for two minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes, and take one cup three times daily. As a tincture, 2-5ml three times daily.
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