ANGELICA ~ Plant & Oil

Introduction ~ An old-time herb that was much used therapeutically but often now forgotten except for the uses of its musky, herbaceous fragrant root, and oil, used for perfumery.

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Photo of Angelica leaf with an insert of Angelica root oil
Angelica ~ Plant & Root essential oil

ANGELICA ~ Plant & Oil

By Jeanne Rose

 Name of Oil:  Angelica (root) (leaf) (seed)

COMMON NAME/LATIN BINOMIAL/BOTANICAL Angelica archangelica, L. The essential oil is extracted from both the root, seed, leaf. Other species are also used such as A. sinensis which is called Dong Quai, which is indigenous to China,  and the root used for herbal Chinese medicine ‘to enrich the blood, promote blood circulation and modulate the immune system. It is also used to treat chronic constipation of the elderly and debilitated as well as menstrual disorders.’5

         Family  ~ Apiaceae(Umbelliferae)

OTHER NAMES AND BACKGROUND ~ Angelica was supposedly revealed to the 14th Century physician, Matthaeus Silvaticus, by the archangel Raphael (he who heals) as a medicinal plant, hence the common name of the archangel and subsequent specific epithet archangelica given by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus.1  In the 17th Century the herbalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote ‘…some called this an herb of the Holy Ghost; others more moderate called it Angelica, because of its angelical virtues…’

COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN ~  Native to Europe and Siberia naturalized worldwide.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT, HABITAT & GROWTH of Angelica ~ A large, biennial herb with large fernlike leaves and flowers borne on compound umbels, cultivated since ancient times. All parts of the plant, root, stem, leaves, fruit, and seed have been used therapeutically and in foods.

ENDANGERED ~ Due to the erosion of its natural environments and over-harvesting as well as the fragmenting of the natural distribution of A. archangelica, Angelica is now considered an endangered species. 

PORTION OF PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS & YIELD ~ Angelica root and seed are usually steam distilled and sometimes carbon dioxide extracted.     “The essential oils of angelica roots grown in the Auvergne region of France differ from those studied to date in their a-pinene, β-phellandrene, and d-3-carene contents. Extractions performed with the plant out of or in water gave oils with similar compositions irrespective of how the roots had been dried or for how long. The optimal conditions necessary to obtain maximal yields of essential oil were obtained when the reactor was 40% full of plant material in water with a plant: water ratio of 1:4…”2

            Thick and thin roots were found to contain more than 200% oil compared to rhizomes. Thinner roots were measured to have the highest oil content (1.28%), followed by larger roots (1.03%). Stems were found to have the lowest oil content (0.07%). With the grinding intensity of the roots, it was possible to obtain more oil through distillation.3

            The yield of oil from the CO2  of the root obtained by supercritical CO2 extraction at various pressures ranged from 0.13–0.55%. 

A chart showing the organoleptic qualities of Angelica oil from two plant parts.
sensory aspects of the oils

Odor Description ~ The root oil has a predominating vegetative note, with subsidiary notes of herbaceous, fatty, and back notes of fruity, green, woody, mossy, aldehydes, and musk. Inhaling the scent of this essential oil is a revelation as it has such a sensory connection to the scent of some samples of musk deer (Moschus spp.).

[Musk is a heavy base note scent that is usually compared with woodsy and earthy smells. It was originally the name of the odor coming from a male musk deer, Moschus moschiferus, from which it was harvested. – wiki]

These charts showing the scent of the oil in 28 different words is called a "odor snapshot".
Snapshot of the Odor Profile of Angelica

CHEMICAL COMPONENTS:  Angelica archangelica L. (Apiaceae) is one of the important perennial medicinal and aromatic plants.

The root oil contains Lactones, Terpenes, mainly Phellandrene, Pinene, and others.  The essential oil composition of the rhizomes of Angelica archangelica from three different altitudes changes dependent on altitude. In one study it was found that the major compounds identified by GC–MS was α-pinene (21.3%), δ-3-carene (16.5%), limonene (16.4%), and α-phellandrene (8.7%).

         The seed oil contains more terpenes, such as Phellandrene, and others, and is otherwise similar to the root oil. “Seeds (fruits) of Angelica archangelica L. were collected in three habitats of Lithuania. The oils were analyzed by GC and GC/MS. β-Phellandrene (33.6–63.4%) was the dominant constituent in all seed essential oils. α-Pinene (4.2–12.8%) was the second major compound.”

            The leaf oil contained “γ-terpinene (59.2% and 44.3% in the Japanese leaf and flower oils; 68.3% and 62.3% in the North Korean oils), and (Z)-ligustilide (11.9% and 33.6%, 6.4% and 13.6%, respectively”.4

HISTORICAL USES: To stimulate appetite and relieve stomach pains.

INTERESTING FACTS:  The root and seed oils of Angelica are used as a flavoring and contained in liqueurs especially used in Benedictine, and Chartreuse to give that rich characteristic taste, and also used in liquors such as gin as a flavorant. The long green stems are candied and used as sweetmeat.   The oil is called “The Root of the Holy Ghost”.

A. archangelica has long been associated to the magic of protection and healing when tried as a remedy against the Black Plague epidemics (Alonso, 1998). Tea made from roots of A. archangelica has been used as a folk remedy for stomach cancer (Duke, 1987). This plant used as a carminative, a gastric stimulant, rheumatic, and skin disorders (Louis, 2002), treat respiratory problems as well as a tonic to improve disease recovery (Hutchens, 1992).

A picture containing text, plant, vegetable

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Angelica leaf and root oil
Angelica leaf and oil

PROPERTIES & USES OF ANGELICA OIL & PLANT

Angelica is a plant. The root, seed, and fruit are used to make medicine. Angelica root tea is used as a blood tonic, to regulate menstruation, pain reliever, and to relax the bowel for better movements. The essential oil is used to relax the nervous system.

Properties (by IG=ingestion or IN=inhalation or AP=application):      
By Application: Stomachic
By Ingestion: Carminative, and stomachic.
By Inhalation: Nervous system sedative, insect attractant, and digestive stimulant.

Angelica roots
Angelica roots

PHYSICAL USES of Angelica & HOW USED (IG OR AP):   

         Application:    Angelica oil has great use as a blender oil in perfumery, used in the bath for fragrance and to stimulate the circulation to ‘remove toxins’, for stomachache, and in lotions for skincare.

           Some people apply Angelica oil directly to the skin for nerve pain (neuralgia), rub on a knee or elbow for joint pain (rheumatism), and apply for skin disorders.6

         Ingestion:   Take for spasms in the gut, stomach ulcers, and anorexia. Root infusion given 3 x/day to create distaste for alcohol.

         Inhalation:   The oil is inhaled for anorexia, asthma, and for detoxifying alcoholics.

EMOTIONAL USES (AP OR IN)

         Inhalation:   Anxiety and nervous fatigue.  

CULINARY USES ~ Besides the described therapeutic uses, all parts of A. archangelica have been extensively employed as food flavorings, spices, and condiments. Some species are grown as flavoring agents or for their medicinal properties. Fresh stalks and leaves can be eaten raw in fruit salads or used as a garnish. A. lucida or Seacoast Angelica has been eaten as a wild version of celery. In parts of Japan, the shoots and leaves of A. keiskei called ashitaba are eaten as tempura, particularly in the spring.
                  The essential oil from the root is also an ingredient in liquors and in high-grade perfumery, notably to impart a musky note as well as a fixative (Stanchev et al., 1993).

ANGELICA LIQUEUR for Digestion ~ Chop, very small, 1 oz. of the fresh Angelica stems (before the plant flowers), and steep them in 2-3 cups of brandy or cognac for 5-10 days.  Strain through a fine strainer like a muslin or better yet a fine silk cloth.  Make a supersaturated sugar-water mixture by boiling water gently and adding sugar to it until the sugar will no longer dissolve. Cool this sugar water and add about 1 cup or more of it to the Angelica flavored brandy liqueur.  Add a drop of Bitter Almond essence if you like.  Put away in a fine crystal jar and use 1 teaspoon at a time for digestive upset.

Angelica leaf
Angelica leaf


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HERBAL USES ~ Angelica (part not mentioned) is used for heartburn, intestinal gas (flatulence), loss of appetite (anorexia), arthritis, circulation problems, “runny nose” (respiratory catarrh), nervousness, plague, and trouble sleeping (insomnia).6  The root in a tea with other herbs has been used to treat anorexia and asthma.
            Some women use Angelica tea to start their menstrual periods. In combination with other herbs, Angelica herb tea is used for treating premature ejaculation. (can’t find source) “Angelica is also used to increase urine production, improve sex drive, stimulate the production and secretion of phlegm, and kill germs.”6 The boiled roots of Angelica were applied internally and externally to wounds by the Aleut people in Alaska to speed healing.

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OTHER USES ~ Two sesquiterpene hydrocarbons, β-copaene, and β-ylangene, were isolated from bioactive fractions of angelica seed oil and were shown by field bioassays to be attractive to the male Mediterranean fruit fly. I also read somewhere that the Sami people of Lapland use the plant to make a traditional reed-type musical instrument called the fadno. A. dawsonii was used by several first nations in North America for ritual purposes. Some species have been smoked by First Nation peoples.


KEY USE:  Digestive stimulant.  

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ANGELICA TOMATO TALE

with Rock n’ Roll notes

Years ago, when I lived in Big Sur, in early November or December, I would make Christmas fruit cake for the holidays. But first I had to find and collect all the dried fruits and ingredients.  I quickly found out that I would have to grow some of the plants and candy them myself. The candied fruits were easily obtained.    And yes, I love fruitcake but not the unpleasant lead-heavy kind from the supermarket … but the fruit-filled cake that quality cakemakers bake (such as those in the English Royal family). I learned a lot from growing the biennial Angelica and making crystallized strips of young Angelica stems and midribs. They are green in color and are usually sold as decorative and flavorful cake decoration materials and may also be enjoyed on their own as a sort of candy. The addition of your own home-grown plants that you have candied yourselves makes a big difference in the taste of a fruitcake. Now (2022) the recipes, as well as the specialized ingredients, are very easy to find online.

            In late 1967 or 1968, I invited the rock and roll band, “Country Joe and the Fish”  to my home at the Sun Gallery which was located a few miles south of Gorda on Highway 1.  The members who came set up their equipment on a large sheet of plywood on a gently sloping hillside outside the Gallery. It was misting and raining. The music was loud and fun, and they played for a long time, and then we all, exhausted from the long drive as well as the dancing and the laughing, went to sleep in various parts of the Gallery or in the cars. In the morning, the rain had subsided, and the sun was out, and they all helped me chop the fruits and prepare the ingredients for the cakes.  It was a very special time. I don’t remember what we did after the cakes went into the oven, but I know some of us remember that glorious cool bright day very vividly.

candied Angelica stems

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This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.

Science article: ·  Essential oil from Angelica seed, %: 0.5–1.3

·  Components: α-Pinene, β-pinene, camphene, myrcene, ocimene, humulene, α-phellandrene, β-phellandrene, limonene, cineol, γ-terpinene, n-cymol, β-caryophyllene, borneol, carvacrol, and others

·  Oil, %: 18.9–28.4 — ink.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-0-85729-323-7_17

References:

  1. Kew  Royal Botanic Gardens • Angelica
  1. Jean-Claude Chalchat & Raymond-Philippe Garry (1997) Essential Oil of Angelica Roots (Angelica archangelica L.): Optimization of Distillation, Location in Plant and Chemical Composition, Journal of Essential Oil Research, 9:3, 311-319, DOI: 10.1080/10412905.1997.10554250
  2. W. Letchamo, A. Gosselin & J. Hölzl (1995) Growth and Essential Oil Content of Angelica archangelica as Influenced by Light Intensity and Growing Media, Journal of Essential Oil Research, 7:5, 497-504, DOI: 10.1080/10412905.1995.9698573
  3. Nguyêñ Xuân Dũng, Luu Dàm Cu, Lâ Dình Mõi & Piet A. Leclercq (1996) Composition of the Leaf and Flower Oils from Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels Cultivated in Vietnam, Journal of Essential Oil Research, 8:5, 503-506, DOI: 10.1080/10412905.1996.9700676
  4. Pharmacological effects of Radix Angelica Sinensis (Danggui) on cerebral infarction • Yi-Chian Wu1 and Ching-Liang HsiehChin Med. 2011; 6: 32.
  5. https://www.rxlist.com/angelica/supplements.htm

Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999.

Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California:

         Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1992.

Rose, Jeanne. Herbs & Things, Jeanne Rose’s Herbal. San Francisco, CA. 1972

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Safety Precautions

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botanical illustration of Angelica
botanical illustration of Angelica

DISCLAIMER:  This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor.  The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies  – Jeanne Rose

a kitchen tile
my kitchen tile

3 thoughts on “ANGELICA ~ Plant & Oil

  1. I have never been a fruitcake fan but I have also never made one. Did you follow a specific recipe? I suspect that I might try my hand at it within the year. I love this Tomato Tale and am trying to conjure up the scene from your lovely description. Your life I imagine as an exquisite tapestry full of fascinating details. Thank you for sharing!
    Angelica appeared a couple of years ago in my garden, right in a pathway rather than a bed, of course. I’m curious if it will return. I’m cautious with umbell flowered plants that pop up around home lest it be Poison Hemlock or Water Hemlock I have inadvertently tracked into the garden after some of my rambles.

  2. The fruitcake recipe that I used is in my book, “Herbal Guide to Food” or “Herbal Guide to Inner Health” – they are the same book. I will check the recipe later and see if I would change anything. Of course you have to grow the Angelica and then cut and candy the stems. I am sure that would be easy for you.

  3. Dong guai herb has often been used in ancient Chinese herbal medicine & beauty text to make masks to improve circulation and hence minimize pigmentation.

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