there is only one Angelica-species in Denmark it is often named
Skov-Angelik (skov=forest). The plant is up to 2 m high. The stem is
coarse, tunular and violet at the bottom, with broad leaf shafts. At the
top the stem has fine hairs.The white or pale pink flowers are found in
compact round heads at the top of densely hairy leaf stalks. This is a
plant of damp grassland, marshes and wet open woods. In the garden, it
is an excellent addition to the back of a border or by a pond or stream.
is unusual for its special aroma which is quite unlike that of other
umbellifers like fennel, parsley, anise, caraway or chervil. Some garden
writers liken it to musk, others to juniper. The seeds of angelica,
which are bitter to taste, are used to produce a distillate employed in
the flavouring of alcoholic beverages such as Vermouth, and of liqueurs,
like Chartreuse. Angelica contains many vitamins, various essential
oils and other biologically active substances - therefore it is used in
folk medicins and as vegetable plant. It is eaten by cattle.
Medicine and Magic:
a surprising number of plants, Angelica was unknown to the ancients.
Although found in the northern and temperate regions of Europe and
eastward all the way to the Himalayas, it does not seem to have
attracted attention until the 15th century and first appeared in
European herbals in the early 1500's. Its name reflects the legend that
an angel revealed its special virtues to a monk during a time of plague.
Angelica wasn't believed to cure the plague but protect against it; a
piece of root was held in the mouth as an antiseptic. In Germany, it was
known as the root of the holy ghost and was believed to eliminate the
effects of intoxication and also to render witchcraft and the evil eye
harmless. In England, where it was also known as bellyache root, dried
angelica roots were made into powder and mixed into wine to "abate the
rage of lust in young persons." The plant was also given symbolic
qualities: angelica stands for magic and poetic inspiration.
(Read the warning below).
This herb is excellent in diseases of the lungs, gout, stomach
troubles, heartburn, colic,dyspepsia and stomach upsets, sciatica and
the heart. It is useful for skin lice, relieves itching, swelling, and
pain. Regular users of Angelica root develop a distaste for alcoholic
beverages. Chewing the root is recommended for people suffering from a
hangover after excessive alcohol consumption. An infusion should be made
from the leaves and chopped stems. This will also provide an excellent
gargle for the treatment of sore tonsils and throats.
to one legend Angelica (European Angelica) was revealed in a dream by
an angel to cure the plague. All parts of the plant were believed
effective against evil spirits and witchcraft. It was held in such
esteem that it was called 'The Root of the Holy Ghost.' In America it
was used by the Iroquois and other tribes as Witchcraft Medicine, and
infusion of smashed roots was used as wash to remove ghosts from the
With blossoms scheduled to appear annually on
the 8th of May, the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel, angelica is
said to possess mystical powers against disease and evil. One reference
claims this herb was named after the Archangel Raphael, who according to
a 10th century French legend, revealed the secrets of this herb to a
monk for use during a plague epidemic. In old-world Latvia, peasants
would march into town with armloads off the fragrant herb and suddenly
burst into song in languages that no one, not even the singers,
Food: (Read the warning below)
is said that the plant is useless for food, however it is known that it
was used as a vegetable until the 20th century. The plant prevents
scurvy and it can be stored. The stem was eaten fresh, and the leaves
could be boiled to a stew for storage. It could later be cooked up with
milk into a tasty dish. In dire times Wild Angelica has been an
important source of nutrition. Angelica raw stalks are delicious when
eaten with a little cream cheese, and the washed roots are also quite
tasty. This plant is used to flavor many alcoholic drinks and its
candied stem has long been used in confectionery.
The flowers of the plant were used for dyeing wool yellow.
roots and fruits yield angelica oil, which is used in perfume,
confectionery, medicine (especially Asian medicine), in salads, as teas,
as a flavoring for liqueurs, and as the source of yellow dye. This
robust and sweet-tasting plant is best known for decoration of cakes and
puddings. Angelica lessens the need for sweetener when making pies or
sauces. It can also be cooked and eaten as a fresh herb, used for
seasoning fish, or made into syrup for pudding and ice cream toppings.
The Norwegians make a bread of the roots. In the Lapland region, the
stalks are regarded as a delicacy. A popular tea, tasting much like
China tea, is infused from fresh or dried leaves.
Wasps and Queen Wasp upon Angelica
Warning: All members of this genus contain furocoumarins which increase sensitivity to sunlight and may cause dermatitis.
Do Not take angelica if you are pregnant or have severe diabetes.
Angelica has a tendency to increase the sugar in the urine. Angelica
archangelica has been identified as a suspected carcinogen in recent
years. This drug will render you sensitive to light. Use of angelica for
a fairly long time, will cause contraindicate ultraviolet or tanning
salon treatments as well as strong sunlight for the duration. Large
doses can affect blood pressure, heart action, and respiration. To avoid
these problems, do not exceed recommended dose.
Angelica belongs to the Apiaceae Umbelliferae, a family with many
poisonous members that can be mistaken for this medicinal plant. Wild
angelica (Angelica Sylvestris) can be confused with European Water Hemlock,
which is extremely poisonous. Do Not collect angelica yourself under
any circumstances! It is recommended that angelica not be harvested
unless positively identified by a trained botanist, habitat being the
same as for the poisonous varieties.
Brøndegaard, "folk og flora", Dansk Etnobotanik, Rosenkilde og Bagger
1980; Danmarks fugle og natur, Felthåndbogen 2012.
photo ⓒ Høstemark Skov, Lille Vildmose, North Jutland september 2007: grethe bachmann.