6 Benefits of Angelica Root + How to Use It
Angelica is a powerful herb that hails from the northeastern part of the world. The roots of the plant are highly aromatic and have been used to flavor liquor and sweet confections for centuries.
Angelica has also been used medicinally for many centuries, particularly in the regions of northern Europe where it grows natively. Here's more about its fascinating history and the top benefits of angelica root for health.
What is Angelica Root?
Native to northeastern parts of Europe like Russia, Lapland, and Siberia, angelica is now naturalized in other areas of the world, including Asia, England, and the U.S.
Legend has it that the healing properties of angelica were once revealed to a medieval monk by the angel Michael, which inspired its botanical name: Angelica archangelica.
Angelica belongs to the Apiaceae plant family, which also includes plants like carrots, celery, dill, fennel, anise, and osha. Angelica is closely related to dong quai (Angelica sinensis), a powerful herb for hormone imbalance in women.
Though the entire plant-- leaves, stalks, seeds-- is edible and can be used medicinally, the roots are typically considered the strongest part of the plant. They are full of volatile oils, bitter compounds, flavonoids, and phytosterols.
If you wanted to try your hand at growing angelica to harvest the roots fresh, this plant is adaptable to a wide range of climates and growing conditions and does well in many gardens.
Note: There are some angelica species, most notably A. atropurpurea, that are native to North America and can be used somewhat interchangeably with A. archangelica. However, there are also some related plants that may look similar to angelica but are toxic (including poison hemlock and water hemlock). Do not wild harvest angelica for this reason unless you are an expert at identification.
Benefits of Angelica Root
Supports and Stimulates Digestion
Energetically, angelica root is warming and stimulating for digestion. The bitter compounds found in the root help to get digestive enzymes and secretions going, while the slight spiciness boosts circulation to the stomach.
Angelica is indicated for both a lack of appetite (that may or may not go along with undernourishment) as well signs of a stagnant digestion: gas, dyspepsia, bloating, "sour stomach", heartburn, etc.
In fact, angelica root is a frequent addition to herbal bitters formulas because of its bitterness. And whether taken as bitters or a tea, angelica is usually most effective for digestion or appetite when taken before a meal.
Supports the Respiratory System
The warming, stimulating benefits of angelica root can be beneficial to the lungs as well as to the digestive system. In general, angelica helps with congestion and to clear out mucus.
According to herbalist Matthew Wood, angelica root dries and warms the lungs and is especially indicated in old bronchitis cases "where there is exhaustion and the mucus is thin and difficult to expectorate." (1)
While it can be used on its own, angelica is also often used as part of an herbal formula made up of several herbs for respiratory support.
Angelica can be a helpful herb for cold and flu season, although it kind of flies under the radar when compared with other immune-boosting herbs like elderberry and echinacea.
Once again, the warming and stimulating nature of angelica root is what supports the body during sickness. It especially helps when illness is accompanied by chills and dampness and also possesses antimicrobial/antiviral properties. (2)
For chills, drinking a warm tea made from the root is usually the best way to go, and it may even help to relieve a headache, too.
Boosts Circulation and is a Mild Diaphoretic
One of the top overall benefits of angelica root is its ability to improve circulation throughout the body. This is partly why it has warming, stimulating properties that help to relieve different types of congestion.
Along with boosting circulation to the lungs and digestive tract, angelica also supports lymphatic circulation and can improve blood flow to the skin. By doing this, the pores of the skin are able to open up, letting out toxins and waste.
Because it helps to open pores, angelica has seen use as a mild diaphoretic for fever support. This makes it even more useful when you come down with a cold or the flu.
Helps Ease Menstrual Cramps
One of the most supportive herbs for PMS and the menstrual cycle as a whole is dong quai, which is a close relative of angelica root. While angelica doesn't have the same effect on hormones that dong quai does, it can specifically help with cramps.
This is thought to occur because angelica stimulates blood flow to the pelvic area (just like it does throughout the rest of the body), which can ease cramping and congestion in the uterus.
There is also some documentation that angelica root can help with both excessive bleeding during menstruation and amenorrhea. (1)
Relaxes the Mind
One often overlooked aspect of angelica root is an ability to relax and open the mind. It has traditionally been used for this purpose in ceremonial sweat lodges where the scent helps open the imagination while the vapors open the pores.
Angelica has seen use for nervousness and fatigue as well and is indicated in conditions involving mental dullness and emotional emptiness. It is also thought to have a calming effect on the nervous system as a whole. (1)
How to Use Angelica Root
The benefits of angelica root are best gained by using it to make an infusion or tincture.
For an infusion, you can simply steep 1 tsp. of the dried root in 1 cup of hot water overnight. Strain out the root in the morning and be sure to warm up the tea before drinking (try 1/3 cup at a time to start).
If you feel comfortable making tinctures yourself, you can make one by infusing angelica root into alcohol. Or you can buy a premade angelica extract and take it according to the directions on the label.
Angelica root should not be taken during pregnancy, and it may be contraindicated while breastfeeding. Consult with a qualified herbalist about your specific situation to get tailored advice.
Angelica plants contain compounds known as furanocoumarins that can cause photosensitivity (sun sensitivity), especially when they come into contact with your skin. This shouldn't be a problem if taking angelica as a tea, but use caution when spending long amounts of time in the sun.
According to Matthew Wood, small doses of angelica are relaxing, but excessive amounts can cause depression of the nervous system. Start with small amounts and don't overdo it. (1)
Could You Use Angelica Root?
Despite its very ethereal sounding name, angelica root is a very potent herb that can have a significantly positive effect on the body. Its greatest ability is to improve circulation and warm the body to aid a number of issues.
Give it a try or look for it in an herbal bitter formula to support your digestion and more!
(1) Matthew Wood. The Earthwise Herbal: Volume 1.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.
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