Angelica truly is a plant of the angels and has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. The name Angelica archangelica is said to have come from the archangel Gabriel, who appeared to a monk to introduce medicine to the world and to fight the plague. It was said that people would keep a piece of angelica root in their mouths all day to preserve themselves from the plague.1
While we know angelica as being named for a Christian angel, many other cultures around the world use and celebrate angelica as well. Chinese angelica has been used for traditional medicinal purposes for over 4000 years! It has also been reported that when European settlers came to North America, they discovered Native Americans using an American variety of angelica as a remedy in the same ways as Europeans had been. The Sami culture of Scandinavia has been using angelica medicinally since the 12th century, and it continues to be popular there today.1 Lapland poets used to be ceremonially crowned with angelica, believing that it sparked creative inspiration.2
Angelica has traditionally had many uses, from a spice and flavoring, to a candied confection, to warding off evil spirits. It has been used extensively for indigestion, bronchitis, nervous diseases, respiratory infection. Europeans have been known to use angelica to treat tuberculosis. The Aleuts of Alaska boiled the roots of angelica to treat both internal and external symptoms of venereal disease.3 It has even been used in America to combat nicotine addiction.2
Therapeutic Properties Described in The Aromatherapy Literature
From The Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy4:
- Antispasmodic, Bactericidal, Carminative, Diuretic, Expectorant, Stimulant, Stomachic, Tonic
- Warming and stimulating odor effect
From The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy5:
- A warming and comforting purifying agent
- “Angelica aids people…who urgently need to rebuild body and soul. The oil helps soothe all kinds of weakness…will help you rediscover your own inner strength and stamina.”
- “Angelica is particularly suited to people who need solid grounding or who search for reality.”
Angelica in Research
Research suggests that angelica root has significant antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, insecticidal and anti-inflammatory properties.6 Furthermore, recent studies suggest that angelica may have anti-seizure7 and memory-improving activity8. Angelica, along with a number of other essential oils, have also been shown to increase skin permeability for better absorption of topically applied drugs, with low skin irritation potential.9 Also, angelica has exhibited anti-anxiety effects, above and beyond those associated with aromatherapy.10
Summary of Research Studies
- Angelica found to have significant antimicrobial activity against various bacteria that cause a range of infections in humans, from food poisoning, to urinary tract infections, to inflammation of the colon6
- Essential oil from angelica root exhibited strong anti-seizure activity in mice7
- Angelica improved memory deficits and prevented hippocampal cell death in mice8
- Angelica exhibited effects similar to diazepam for anxiety-reducing effects in mice10
- Mice treated with angelica oil exhibited decreased aggression and prolonged social interaction11
Angelica essential oil is non-toxic and non-irritating, though should not be used during pregnancy or by diabetics. The oil can be phototoxic, and should not be applied to skin that will be exposed to direct sunlight.
1 Kumar, Dinesh, et al. “Angelica Archangelica Linn. is an Angel on Earth for the Treatment of Diseases.” International Journal of Nutrition, Pharmacology, Neurological Diseases, vol. 1, no. 1, 2011, pp. 36–50., doi:10.4103/2231-0738.77531.
2 Small, Ernest. Culinary Herbs. NRC Research Press, 2006, pp. 160-168.
3 Fortuine, Robert. Chills and Fever: Health and Disease in the Early History of Alaska. University of Alaska Press, 1992.
4 Wildwood, Christine. Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy. Healing Arts Press, 2000.
5 Battaglia, Salvatore. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. International Centre of Holysitc Aromatherapy, 2003.
6 Sowndhararajan, Kandasamy, et al. “A Review of the Composition of the Essential Oils and Biological Activities of Angelica Species.” Scientia Pharmaceutica, vol. 85, no. 3, 2017, p. 33., doi:10.3390/scipharm85030033.
7 Jain, Sk, et al. “Evaluation of Antiseizure Activity of Essential Oil from Roots of Angelica Archangelica Linn. in Mice.” Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, vol. 72, no. 3, 2010, p. 371., doi:10.4103/0250-474x.70487.
8 Nogami-Hara, Ai, et al. “The Japanese Angelica Acutiloba Root and Yokukansan Increase Hippocampal Acetylcholine Level, Prevent Apoptosis and Improve Memory in a Rat Model of Repeated Cerebral Ischemia.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 214, 2018, pp. 190–196., doi:10.1016/j.jep.2017.12.025.
9 Jiang, Qiudong. “Development of Essential Oils as Skin Permeation Enhancers: Penetration Enhancement Effect and Mechanism of Action.” Pharmaceutical Biology, vol. 55, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1592–1600.
10 Chen, Si Wei, et al. “The Effects of Angelica Essential Oil in Three Murine Tests of Anxiety.”Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, vol. 79, no. 2, 2004, pp. 377–382., doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2004.08.017.
11 Min, Li, et al. “The Effects of Angelica Essential Oil in Social Interaction and Hole-Board Tests.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, vol. 81, no. 4, 2005, pp. 838–842., doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2005.05.015.