Angelica (botanical name Angelica archangelica) is generally a biennial herb that grows up to a height of anything from 3.3 feet (1 m) to 8.25 feet (2.5 m). This herb may bear flowers two times in a year or for four consecutive years provided the conditions are conducive. Angelica has a tall, purple-green stem that is hollow as well as branched.
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The leaves of this herb are slightly triangular in shape and are joined to the stem by means of an extended petiole. The flowers appear in clusters in a white-hued terminal umbel and have a sweet, pungent aroma. Angelica bears fruits that have a light yellowish complexion and which enclose seeds that are oval-shaped. The taproot of the herb is succulent - having a brown color on the exterior and white inside. The taproot also has little auxiliary roots.
This herb derives its name from the Medieval Latin 'herba angelica'("angelic herb"). It has been named so as it is believed that it possesses special attributes that cure plague and poisoning. Earlier, people thought that this herb protected them from infectious diseases, counting plague, bequeath a long life, keep enchantments and evil spirits at bay and also counteracted mad dog bites.
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Even today, people value angelica primarily because it has an invigorating action on our digestive system. Since the colonial era, people have candied the fragrant and fairly sweet stems of the herb for delicious treats as well as for using them to decorate pastry.
The leafstalks of angelica resemble that of celery and can be consumed raw or after cooking. The seeds and roots of the herb yield essential oils that are used in manufacturing perfumes and also for adding essence to vermouth, gin, as well as a variety of sweet alcoholic drinks (liqueurs), including Chartreuse.
The whole plant.
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Angelica offers a number of health benefits and, hence, is used to treat various health conditions. This herb warms up the body and also serves as a tonic. The entire angelica plant is used to provide relief from dyspepsia, stomach pain and gas. In addition, this herb may also prove to be helpful in treating poor blood circulation, as it augments flow of blood to the body's peripheral regions.
It is especially considered to useful for treating Buerger's disease, a medical condition wherein the arteries in the legs and feet are constricted. As angelica enhances the blood circulation and promotes expulsion of phlegm, its warming as well as tonic attributes provide relief to patients suffering from bronchitis and other chest conditions that make the sufferer weak.
Generally, the roots of the herb are used to treat respiratory problems. However, sometimes the stems as well as the seeds may also be used to treat such conditions.
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The stems, leaves and seeds of angelica also have culinary uses.
You may also chop the leaves of angelica and add them to rhubarb to make them sugary. In addition, the leaves of this herb are also an excellent add-on for salads, soups, herbal mixes as well as in cooking stock (bouillon) for shellfish and other fish.
You may also sweeten the tender stems of angelica and use them for garnishing desserts and cakes.
The herb can also be used to prepare a refreshing tea. Brew one teaspoonful (5 ml) of dried up herb or about three teaspoons (15 ml) of the crushed leaves of the herb in one cup (250 ml) of boiling water. Set it aside to infuse and then add lemon or honey to it for taste.
The seeds of angelica have a flavour akin to that of juniper and are occasionally used in place of actual juniper berries while making gin.
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The eye-catching seed heads of the angelica are used in floral arrangements.
Angelica is native to Europe where it is found growing in damp, mountainous areas that have somewhat temperate climatic conditions. In the United States and Canada, angelica is found growing besides shaded streams as well as inside damp ditches. Often people mistake sweet flag (botanical name Acore calamus) or water hemlock (botanical name Cicuta maculata) to be angelica. However, these two species belong to different plant families.
Angelica naturally grows in damp areas. Hence, if you are cultivating this herb, ensure that the soil remains wet all through the growing season. It has a preference for a somewhat acidic soil and the suggested pH range is anything between 4.5 and 7.0. While angelica has a preference for partial shade, it can thrive in sunlight too, subject to the ground being properly mulched.
Angelica is propagated by means of its seeds, directly sown outdoors in spring immediately when the ground is prepared. In order to ensure proper germination, you should only use fresh seeds. Angelica dislikes being transplanted and, hence, you need to sow the seeds in their permanent positions outdoors.
If you are using purchased seeds, it may be necessary to refrigerate them for about four to five weeks before you sow them. In fact, seed suppliers having a good reputation will usually have seeds stored in refrigerators, so you do not need to refrigerate them again. If you are sowing the seeds during the fall, they would require the basic cold treatment throughout the winter months.
In order to germinate properly, angelica seeds need to be exposed to sunlight and, hence, cover them with a thin soil layer.
Alternately, you may also propagate angelica using its root cuttings. However, plants propagated from the seeds are regarded as superior. Maintain a space of about 0.6 m to 1 m (2 feet to 3 feet) between two plants to enable them to grow freely.
Generally, the flowering stalks of angelica emerge in the latter part of spring during the second year of the herb. If grown in areas having cooler climatic conditions, angelica will grow slowly and is unlikely to produce flowers until it has been in existence for three to four years.
Normally, the angelica plant dies soon after blossoming and producing seeds. However, getting rid of the flowering stalks prior to the seeding by the plant may possibly help it to live on for one or two more growing seasons. On the other hand, if the plants allowed to seed, they are likely to grow again on their own.
Angelica plants are vulnerable to crown rot (a fungal disease of plants marked by the rotting of the stem at the base) and also susceptible to invasion by aphids, earwigs, leaf miners and spider mites.
Therapeutically, angelica is used in decoction and tincture forms.
Decoction: Prepare the decoction by adding one teaspoon of chopped roots of the herb to one cup (250 ml) of water and boil it for about two minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and set it aside for about 15 minutes to infuse. For best results, take this decoction thrice daily.
Tincture: The standard dosage of angelica tincture is taking it in measures of 2 ml to 5 ml thrice daily.
Before using formulations prepared with angelica to treat your conditions, it is important to be aware of the side effects caused by the use of this herb.
A number of people are likely to suffer from dermatitis following handling angelica.
Since this herb may possibly enclose detrimental chemicals known as coumarins, it is advisable that you should also take angelica in restricted amounts. The coumarins contained by angelica actually make the blood thinner and therefore, people already taking anticoagulant medications should keep away from angelica.
There was a time when angelica was used in the form of an abortifacient and it has the potential to disrupt the menstrual cycle. Hence, women should not consume this herb during pregnancy or while breast feeding.
During the first year growth of angelica, just pick a few leaves ensuring that you do not destroy the herb. You may also pick a few stems during this time, but make sure that you pick only the longest ones, because they have a better flavour and texture, particularly for preparing angelica preserves (read recipe below).
The dried up stems and leaves may also be used to prepare an herbal tea or decoction. Add two ounces (50 grams) of the dried herb in two cups (500 ml) of water and bring it to boil. Drink this decoction or herbal tea to cure indigestion, exhaustion as well as water retention by the body.
The flowers of angelica are collected during the middle of May and they can be dried up fast in a shade and used to prepare an herbal tea. The fresh flowers can be used to prepare a mother tincture or a decoction.
The seeds of angelica are gathered sometime during mid-summer when the color of its fruits turn brownish. These seeds are also dried up in a shady place or used to make a mother tincture based on vinegar, wine or alcohol. For this, 3/4 ounce or 20 gram of seeds is added to two cups (500 ml) of water and boiled for some time.
The seeds have an intense flavour. In case you are using the seeds to prepare an herbal tea, use only five seeds in one cup (250 ml) of water. If taken in large amounts, angelica seeds make the taste buds insensitive. The seeds are also helpful in improving digestion, particularly in the stomach.
The roots of angelica enclose most of the active elements contained by the plant. Hence, it is suggested that before using the roots, you should dry them with a view to deactivate the psoralens, which have the potential to cause dermatitis.
Therefore, it is advisable that you put on gloves while dealing with the plants. In fact, it has been found that the roots of angelic are the most active part of the plant. Prepare an infusion by boiling 5 grams of the sliced roots in one cup (250 ml) of water and take it thrice every day in the form of a tonic, digestive aid or even a diuretic.
The tender stems as well as the young leaves of angelica should be collected for fresh use or dried up during the early part of the plant's growth in the second year. The plants should be harvested before they come into bloom.
When the attractive seed heads of angelica are nearly mature, put them in little paper bags to ensure that they do not disintegrate. Dangle the leaves as well as the seed heads in the air to dehydrate them. Subsequently, store them in sealed containers.
During the first year of the plant's growth, its roots are very tender and appropriate for consumption. You should harvest them during the fall.
Angelica may be used in combination with white horehound and coltsfoot for treating problems related to the bronchi. The herb may be used together with chamomile for treating loss of appetite and flatulence.
Slice the stems of angelica uniformly and steam them in some water with a view to soak them. Prior to the steaming process peel the stems and remove them from the water when their color becomes dark green. Subsequently, drain the water and allow the stems to dry.
Now, put the steamed angelica stem in the terracotta terrine. Cover the stems with 8 ounces of sugar and set it aside for three days. Next, you cook this mixture at very high temperature for some minutes. In the end, strain the stems as well as the syrup.
Cook the syrup once more using the remaining sugar. Place the angelica stems again in the sweetened liquid and boil them for some more minutes. Draw off the liquid and dry the sugary stem in a cool place that is free from flies.
Once they have dried up, store them in a glass container and keep it in a dark place. You may use these candied stems to decorate cakes, in the form of an essence in a flan or compote. Alternately, you may also use them as a delicious snack between your meals.