Archangelica officinalis (Angelica)
Strandkvan, Archangelica ssp. litoralis; Hals Færgehavn (Ferry harbour) North Jutland
Angelica is a very large and tall umbellifer with a strong spicy scent and green flowers in a round umbel, exists in many forms.
Denmark are only the species Vandkvan or Strandkvan,( Archangelica
litoralis), found at water streams and brooks mostly close to the coast.
Common English names: Garden Angelica, Holy Ghost, Wild Celery, Norwegian Angelica.
The two sub-species Strand-Kvan (Angelica archangelica ssp. litoralis)= (England: beach-Angelica) and Fjeld-Kvan (Angelica archangelica ssp. archangelica officinalis
) have various habitats. Strand-Kvan is found in moist beach meadows in
the North and in Greenland, while Fjeld-Kvan is mostly known from
cultivation. Strand-Kvan grows in sand at i.e. Ebeltoft Færgehavn
(Ferry-harbour) where it is found together with chichory, parsnip,
orpine, sea wormwood, reed and groundsel.
Norway, Iceland, on the Faroe Islands and in Greenland the contents of
C-vitamin were used to counteract scurvy. In the Middle Ages the plant
was possibly the most used means against the plague. The root was
considered especially active. Angelica breaks down the oxal -acid in
rhubarbs. Diabetics should not eat the plant. Wild-growing angelica
should only be collected by experienced herbalists since some similar
looking umbellifers are poisonous. The stalks can be blanched and cooked
as a vegetable, they can be crushed and cooked together with fruit for
marmalades. Candied stalks are delicious. The seeds are used as a
flavouring in vermouth, chartreuse and gin. Angelica leaves added to
aquavite for a well-tasting snaps. Angelica is the characteristic
flavour in Benedictine-liqueur.
In Denmark the Skov- og Naturstyrelsen recommends
to replace Giant Hogweed with Angelica archangelica officinalis
(Fjeld-Kvan) - which is an ancient Nordic cultural plant with a similar
The real kvan with the eatable stalks is the sub-species ,
which is not found in the Danish flora, but is growing wild (also
cultivated) in the northern Scandinavia, at the Faroe islands, Iceland
and Greenland; it is mentioned the first time (as Angelica ) in the
physician Henrik Harpestræng's transcripts from ab. 1300 and was
cultivated in Denmark in the late Middle Ages.
The name Kvan is old Norse hvonn /hvannir and of uncertain origin.
Denmark in 1546: Kvan was known overall in the country; everyone wants
it in their garden. In 1750 is mentioned "The Angelik -plantation as a
part of Vistoft vicarage-garden where the plant probably grew wild after
earlier cultivation. In 1802 Angelica grows in some gardens in Thy.
At the Faroe Islands:
The pale shots were eaten like celery and used as a spice in salads. At
the Faroes was angelica cultivated in almost all kitchen gardens. In
1670 the plant was found in large numbers in the gardens and at church
yards. One century later angelica was cultivated in small fenced places
at the houses, somewhere the stalks were eaten with whipped cream, or in
junket with sweet cream and sugar. In 1880: a household was no good if
it hadn't got a "hvanngård", besides they found wild kvan/angelica if
it was growing nearby.
was very sought after by the Greenlanders, who were eating the young
stalks raw, they often went on long tours by land or by sea to gather
the plant. The stalks gave a very important C-vitamin supplement to the
Greenlanders' food. The stalks were preserved with seal-blubber and kept
during winter in skin-bags. The dried leaves were smoked as tobacco.
Folk Medicine: 1400s:
eaten in the morning the root helps against poisoning caused by food
or drinks; water-decoct cleanse the breast,; upon a bite from a mad dog
is put the crushed root boiled with honey.
Henrik Smid 1546: drives
out poison, warm the blood, this goes for water destilled from the
root and not from the leaves. Against the plague: crushed angelica mixed
with teriak in angelica water - also helps against malaria,; in times
of plague people were protected against infection, if they sniffed to
the softened root in vinegar and mixed it in their drink. Angelica water
and the powder from the root was good for all internal diseases - and
against the same diseases wine or honey water-decoct from the root. The
juice put in a hollow aching tooth, and in the ear for ear ache, in the
eyes to make them clear - destilled water and the juice and powder from
the plant to heal old deep wounds, make the flesh grow - the
destillate was used as a painkilling means against podagra.
Simon Paulli 1648:
Especially the root was used as an antidote, "there is no better advice
or a better herb against the plague than angelica"; the pulverized root
was strewn in the clothes against infection; in times of plague people
rubbed the temples, wrists and the breast at the heart with
angelica-balm. The root held in the mouth counteracts bad breath and
Root and seeds were stated in the pharmacopoiea in 1772. The best
quality roots and most of the roots were bought abroad by the
pharmacists . The root was a part of a universal means for diseases of
unknown nature and in a incense. It was a part of "Tycho Brahe's"
prescriptions against the plague (1500s); and in a profylactic
plague-aquavite (1700s). Wine-essence from angelica, alant and kalmus
root as a drink against angst and giddiness; the root pulled on a red
silken band and worn around the neck protected against both angst and
giddiness. The root was in a tea against consumption and in a cake
against jaundice, in snaps for internal pain. The root was considered
good for the stomach, angelica was in a medicine " A Wise Man's Stomach
root was worn against exorcism, (1400s) ; it was used in incense or
wine essence as a protection in diseases caused by witchcraft; it was a
part of a magic means against witchcraft in the cattle; it was given in
the fodder to bewitched chickens and put in the churn to get butter from
At the Faroe Islands:
When an infectuous disease came to the village, people eat angelica or
had some in the pocket; this was especially for those, who brought the
bodies to the church yard; in 1915 a garland of angelica was bound
around the neck of bad-smelling corpses; people also placed stalks and
leaves in the door-opening or in the front-room as a protection against
infection, they planted it by the outhouses and at the church yards. If
people had warts, they should one evening grib around a dewy angelica
upon a church yard. The root was placed under the pillow against
insomnia, but the root had to be removed as soon as the sleep had come
or else would the person never wake again.
Source: V. J. Brøndegaard, Folk og Flora, Dansk Etnobotanik 3, 1979
Angelica floating in the inland water stream
photo ⓒ Hals Færgehavn 2008: grethe bachmann