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Herb : Angelica

(Botanical name: Angelica archangelica)


Angelica is also known as Garden Angelica, Holy Ghost, Wild Parsnip, Wild Celery, and Norwegian angelica. Archangelica comes from the Greek word "arkhangelos" (=arch-angel), due to the myth that it was the angel Gabriel who told of its use as medicine.


From the 10th century on, angelica was cultivated as a vegetable and medicinal plant, and achieved great popularity in Scandinavia in the 12th century and is still used today, especially in Samic culture.

In 1602, angelica was introduced in Niort, which had just been ravaged by the plague, and it has been popular there ever since. In Couriand, Livonia and the low lakelands of Pomerania and East Prussia, wild-growing Angelica abounds. It was held in such esteem that it was called 'The Root of the Holy Ghost.'

Angelica archangelica grows wild in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland, mostly in the northern parts of the countries. It is cultivated in France, mainly in the Marais Poitevin

Plant Description

Angelica is a biennial plant from the umbelliferous family Apiaceae. During its first year it only grows leaves, but during its second year its fluted stem can reach a height of two metres high and hollow. Its leaves are composed of numerous small leaflets, the edges of the leaflets are finely toothed or serrated. The flowers, are small and numerous, yellowish or greenish in colour, are grouped into large, globular umbels, which bear pale yellow, oblong fruits. Angelica only grows in damp soil, preferably near rivers or deposits of water. They blossom in July and are succeeded by pale yellow, oblong fruits, 1/6 to a 1/4 inch in length when ripe, with membranous edges, flattened on one side and convex on the other, which bears three prominent ribs. Both the odour and taste of the fruits are pleasantly aromatic.


Cultivate in ordinary deep, moist loam, in a shady position, as the plant thrives best in a damp soil and loves to grow near running water. Although the natural habitat is in damp soil and in open quarters, yet it can withstand adverse environment wonderfully well, and even endure severe winter frost without harm.

Plant angelica in the coolest part of the garden. The soil should be deep, rich, moist and slightly acid. Start from seeds directly sown or begin seeds indoors. Seeds should be sown as soon as possible after removing them from the plant. If they must be stored, seal them in a plastic container, and store the container in the refrigerator.

Insects and garden pests do not attack the plant with much avidity. Since the germinating capacity of the seeds rapidly deteriorates, they should be sown as soon as ripe in August or early September. If kept till March, especially if stored in paper packets, their vitality is likely to be seriously impaired.

Once the plant flowers, it will not come back the next year. You can cut the flowering stem the first two or three years, but the fourth year will probably be it's last, so let it flower.

Parts Used

The parts used are roots, leaves and seeds. The stems and seeds for use in confectionery and flavouring and the preparation of liqueurs.

The dried leaves, on account of their aromatic qualities, are used in the preparation of hop bitters. The whole plant is aromatic. The fresh root has a yellowish-grey epidermis, and yields when bruised a honeycoloured juice, having all the aromatic properties of the plant. If an incision is made in the bark of the stems and the crown of the root at the commencement of spring, this resinous gum will exude. It has a special aromatic flavour of musk benzoin, for either of which it can be substituted.

Angelica roots should be dried rapidly and placed in air-tight receptacles. They will then retain their medicinal virtues for many years.

The whole herb, if for medicinal use, should be collected in June and cut shortly above the root. The stem, which is in great demand when trimmed and candied, should be cut about June or early July.

If the seeds are required, they should be gathered when ripe and dried. The seedheads should be harvested on a fine day, after the sun has dried off the dew, and spread thinly on sailcloth in a warm spot or open shed, where the air circulates freely.


The chief constituents of Angelica are about 1 per cent. of volatile oil, valeric acid, angelic acid, sugar, a bitter principle, and a peculiar resin called Angelicin, which is stimulating to the lungs and to the skin. The essential oil of the roots contains terebangelene and other terpenes; the oil of the 'seeds' contains in addition methyl-ethylacetic acid and hydroxymyristic acid.


Angelica should not be used medicinally during pregnancy. Avoid excessive sun after using angelica oil. Be careful not to confuse this herb with Angelica pachycarpa, which is a purely ornamental plant with no medicinal or culinary value.

Other names

Finnish : väinönputki
Sami : fádnu, boska and rássi
German : arznei-engelwurz
Dutch : grote engelwortel
Swedish : kvanne
Norwegian : kvann
Icelandic : hvönn