Common Names
Garden Angelica, Holy Ghost, Wild Celery.
Botanical Name
Angelica archangelica
APIACEAE ~ Carrot family

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What is it?

In herbal medicine, we primarily use the roots of Angelica; a large plant that lives for two years and thrives near water. Angelica only grows leaves in its first year but in its second its stem can reach up to two meters. The whole plant has an unusually strong but pleasant odour.




How has it been used?

Angelica has been known since ancient times as a ‘friend of the aged’. It has a warming, tonic effect that supports and strengthens the heart and stomach and has been seen to improve appetite and assist digestion; all these actions can be no small part of restoring health.

Angelica has also historically been much used in so called ‘cold’ conditions in children and adults. These include such problems as fatigue, failure to thrive, slow healing wounds and simply feeling the cold too acutely.

M Grieve writes 'Angelica's virtues are praised by old writers and the name itself testifies to the great antiquity of belief in its merits as a protection against contagion, for purifying the blood, and for curing every conceivable malady. Angelica is a good remedy for colds, coughs, pleurisy, wind, colic, rheumatism and diseases of the urinary organs. It is generally used as a stimulating expectorant the action of which is to a large extent diffused through the whole of the pulmonary (lung) region. It is also a useful agent for feverish conditions, acting as a diaphoretic. It is used much on the Continent for indigestion, general debility and chronic bronchitis'

Rudolph Weiss writes that 'from a clinical and practical point of view, it would be more correct to classify it as an aromatic tonic, because this is the most important part of its medicinal action'.

Thomas Bartram says, ' Angelica is for cold conditions where increase in body temperature is required... as a circulatory stimulant and to sustain the heart, stomach and bowel'.


Science on Angelica

~ Angelica has had little modern research and even its tradition as a tonic has been largely superseded by the more famous and much better investigated tonics from Eastern and Oriental medicine.

~ However, some laboratory experiments have been published that support its traditional use for respiratory complaints. One showed that it selectively relaxed muscles in the trachea (wind-pipe) compared to muscles of the ileum (digestive tract). (Reiter M, et al. Relaxant effects from Angelica Archangelica on tracheal and ileal smooth muscles. Arzneimittelforschung . 1985;35:408-414).

~ The oil of Angelica, which will be present in a tea or tincture so long as its characteristic smell is still obvious, has been shown to have significant antibacterial and antifungal actions. (Opdyke D. Angelica root oil. Food Cosmet Toxicol . 1975;13:713.)

~ The authors, titles and the 'where-and-when' published of nearly 20 further studies and articles on Angelica are listed in a PDF found here

Safety of Angelica

Angelica is an extremely safe herb that may be taken by the young and old, in pregnancy and breastfeeding. You will find cautions in some of the online literature about its use in pregnancy etc. this comes about from its reputed action to stimulate a delayed menstruation which if often misconstrued to mean it will interfere with a healthy pregnancy - it won't.

Likewise, a determined investigator will find that, as it contains furocoumarins, Angelica may be cited as an agent that might promote photo-sensitivity (excessive sensitivity to UV sunlight) or even to potentially be carcinogenic! The levels you would need to consume of this herb, that is only best taken in low doses in any case, to get a dangerous level of furocoumarins, or even more than you would get from your everyday diet, are so much higher than we would ever use in practice that this is a case of looking for a victim when there has been no crime.

As noted below it is better suited to those of a cool temperament and I would suggest that more will be achieved with a small dose that the body is able to feel in a subtle way than a large dose that overwhelms the senses...

General safety note on herbs

Therapeutic substances, and this certainly all includes all medicinal herbs, can do good and, therefore, also have the potential to do harm. The maxim that 'the poison is in the dose' precisely describes how too much of anything can be bad for us and the ancient rule to 'firstly, do no harm is, to this day, held as the core directive by all practitioners of traditional herbal medicine. So, not only are we careful to do our best to use the right herbs but, equally, we take care to not give too much of them or use them overlong.

For some years now, against this old, proven and safe way of herbalism, there has been a rising tide of excessive caution and scare-mongering in many parts of the world. The same authorities and medical publications that no so long ago decried herbal medicines as ineffectual have now taken up a different kind of adversarial position. That they are dangerous substances that should not be taken for a long list of reasons and really should only be prescribed by Doctors, who of course have zero training in them.

Lists of '10 popular herbs and why you should avoid them' include things like Garlic and Ginger that might 'thin your blood'. It is absurd to the point of the ridiculous, but fear is a universal driver, and fear has also been long proven to be effective when used to manipulate and control others.

I realise that the reader who comes to a page like this is unlikely to be swayed by such misinformation, but I nevertheless want to remind you that the reason that herbs cannot be patented or owned by any individual or corporation is that they are the people's medicine. They belong to us all and it is my great hope that you will learn how to use them safely and wisely for yourself and the people you care for. Be safe but do not be afraid.


Personal experiences

Angelica is one of the many herbs that really need to be taken by the right person to get the right response. It is not a herb that will suit someone with an already hot constitution but give it to someone with a cool temperament and its benefits can be remarkable.

This is because the 'warmth' of Angelica is extraordinarily penetrating; it seems to travel through the body to exactly where it needs to go. Angelica has none of the punch of Cayenne, Ginger or even Prickly Ash and yet in some ways its effects seem to be able to travel even deeper than these famously heating herbs.

I have found that when it is the right herb for a person that they always seem to feel significantly better after quite a short time frame and I think this 'true tonic' effect is the root of how it developed its great reputation in the past.

I am generally happy to rely on just as little as 1 or 2 mls of the tincture in a day being ample for most people to accrue the benefit from Angelica. In my view, this is not a herb to use in high doses unless only for a very short while. Likewise, I don't think Angelica is best used in isolation but rather it blends its action very willingly with other herbs, augmenting their strength and providing its own.

Especially if you who are reading this are studying herbal medicine or have a keen interest in learning more about these great health allies for yourself or your family then I encourage you to get to know Angelica personally by taking a cup of its tea or some drops of its tincture and feeling for yourself what then happens. I think you will find that it reliably produces a rather distinctive 'action' that will give you an appreciation of the herb beyond the limit that an academic understanding can bring you to.

Of course, what you feel will be something that only you can know for yourself but the kinds of words that typically get used to describe this feeling are 'Warming, penetrating, stimulating, cleansing... these words symbolise the action that our ancestors equally 'felt' and so revered this great herb's ability to drive out cold, damp, lingering illness.

Further to this, if you would like to learn more about the ancient art of pulse testing, a simple but powerful way to ask the intuitive intelligence of the body for its responses to a herb by feeling the pulse whilst giving a tiny dose by mouth, read here

Angelica combines perfectly with Hawthorn for weakened circulation, with Ginseng for fatigue or depletion, with Fennel for poor digestion and with Licorice to help nourish and heal a weakened system in general.


Constitutional note

Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Angelica is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another -- why is this?

Part of the reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are either hotter or cooler and, at the same time, either dryer or damper. This useful and rather fascinating subject is introduced further here

Another big part of using the right herb when it is most needed comes from understanding the need to treat what is going wrong for the person that had led up to their getting a health condition. In this light, Angelica shows itself as a warming, stimulating herb that can particularly offer its benefits when activation is needed in the 'cycle of healing' - more about that here

Please understand that I cannot advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in person in my clinic but for ideas on how you might find a good herbalist in your area read here

This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd