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Getting to Know the Medicinal Herb, Garden Angelica

Garden Angelica (Archangelica officinalis), sometimes called wild celery, is a hardy biennial plant that has become naturalized through much of the northern hemisphere, particularly in places with colder climates. This plant has been used medicinally for centuries, though other similar species are seldom used for this purpose. Although this plant is called garden angelica, it is a wild medicinal herb. The scientific name literally means “official arch-angel”.

Angelica has an alternate name, too: Wild carrot. This is more appropriate than wild celery because the plant has a distinctly carrot-like smell and the roots are similar to those of carrots, though more slender. 

The plant stalks occasionally grow to over 6 feet (2 meters) in height. The stalks are hollow, and the leaves are very similar to parsley or to carrot tops. Angelica is an aromatic herb, with a pleasant though somewhat heady aroma. The roots are long and tend to be fleshy. Yellowish to white flowers appear in late June through July, and appear as a broad flat umbel, not unlike carrots.

The roots, seeds, and leaves are the plant parts most often used medicinally, and for this purpose, the roots should be cleaned, chopped, then quickly air dried out of direct sunlight. Leaves and seeds can be dried the same way. The dried herb can then be kept in airtight containers. If these are kept in a cool dry place, the roots will maintain their medicinal potency for over two years, while the dried leaves and seeds lose their potency more quickly. Medicinally, the roots are more powerful than the leaves or seeds.

Angelica can be easily grown from the seeds, especially in damp rich soil with good drainage, and the plant is also marketed in many places for food. This is why it is sometimes called garden angelica.

Angelica tea is made by adding a tea ball containing 1 tablespoon of dried angelica to a cup of boiling water and allowing it to sit for 15 minutes. Honey can be added for a sweetener. The tea is useful for colic, gas, indigestion, and heartburn.

This herb is sometimes added to others because of its pleasant flavor and is sometimes used for respiratory problems, liver problems, nervous headaches, and poor circulation. The leaves can also be chewed for bad breath. Angelica stimulates the appetite; it can ease the symptoms of rheumatism, can loosen phlegm, and is good for easing coughs and sore throats. This last makes it valuable for treating cold symptoms.

Sprigs hung up in rooms lend a pleasant aroma to the room as they dry.

WARNINGS: When collecting angelica, make sure that you identify the correct plant, positively. There are many plants that look similar, and some, like water hemlock, are toxic. Angelica should NOT be taken by diabetics, pregnant women, or women who are breastfeeding. People who are taking anticoagulants should not take Angelica. Also, as with anything that is consumed, some people can have a sensitivity or allergic reaction to Angelica.

For the herbalist, angelica is one of the more useful medicinal herbs, and it often grows in such profusion that it is easy to collect a lot in a short period of time.

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Written by Rex Trulove

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  1. Thank for sharing. Never heard of it before. Back in Latvia, I remember my mother-in-law had a book on all types of natural herbs and plants that grew in Latvia and it was like her Bible. She could cure most anything with those herbs and plants as long as they could be found or bought in a health store or pharmacy.

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    • I have several herbal field guides for wild medicinal plants. There are a huge number of them in the US and America is large enough that there are some that can be found in the east but not in the west, and the other way around, or in the north but not in the south and vice versa.

      For example, a plant called bitterroot is found mostly in Montana, with a few growing in areas that border Montana, including Canada. It isn’t found in most of the rest of the country. (I think I’ve written about this plant.) It is from this plant that a valley south of where I usually share pictures is named; the bitterroot valley.

      Quite a few wild medicinal plants in the US aren’t native to the US, too. They were brought here accidentally or on purpose from elsewhere and have thrived.

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  2. I thought the same thing as CarolDM. Never heard of this herb but what a lovely name. I am convinced that this world is full of so many wonderful medicinal herbs. And I’ll bet that using them won’t cause near as many side effects as the modern prescription medications. Meds that are very likely made using these herbs as key ingredients. I don’t get it! (O.o)

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    • One of the biggest problems is in meds that are manmade to copy what is provided by nature. We have aspirin, but many people suffer ill effects from it. We have willows growing all over the place and can make willow tea that can be used to treat the same things aspirin can be, without the side effects. Manmade aspirin comes from trying to recreate the substance in willow that has medicinal use. Only, man doesn’t realize that there are other substances in willow that prevent the bad effects, so they make no attempts to duplicate the other substances.

    • One of the places we lived at in Oregon had a profusion of angelica. I had to use the weed eater to contain it, and it was messy, but the upside was that there was a fresh scent of carrots for a couple of days.

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