It is believed Angelica originated in northern Europe and was not used until the fifteenth century. It was associated with early Nordic magic as protection against plagues and evil. It was used in many pagan and Christian festivals. According to folklore, Its efficacy as a cure for the plague was revealed to a monk in a dream. Another legend explains the name; Angelica blooms on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel and so offers protection against evil. In medieval times European mothers made necklaces from the Angelica leaves to protect their children from illness and witchcraft. Fresh or preserved roots have been added to snuff used by Laplanders and North American Indians as tobacco. There is an account of angelica in an 1687 letter by Reverend John Clayton. He wrote that Virginian Indians would come upon rare wild growing angelica and dig up the root, cut off the top and replant the root. The root was rubbed between his hands to attract deer.
Angelica is an impressive looking plant. It can reach an ultimate height of 6 feet or higher with a 2 foot width. It has fragrant greenery at ground level with indented leaves. Its hollow leafstalks resemble those of celery, they branch out and support the umbels (heads of small flowers which are followed by aromatic seeds.) It is of the same family as fennel, parsley, chervil, carrots, parsnips caraway, Queen’s Anne Lace, lovage. and asafoetida.
It can takes 2 to 3 years to flower, with greenish white flowers in midsummer. It often dies off after flowering so it is rather short lived perennial. It does well in damp woodlands, meadows and riverbanks. Its leaves resembles water hemlock which can be very poisonous.
All parts of Angelica are used, roots, seeds stems and leaves. The roots and stems contain an essential oil that has a licorice flavour used to flavour Benedictine, Chartreuse and Vermouth. The oil is also used in perfumery. The leafstalks which resemble celery are sometimes used as a vegetable. The seeds are used in cookies and sweets. The stems can be candied and used as in cookie and cake decorating. Young leaves can be added to fruit or leaf salads. The small flowers which should be picked early in the spring taste as good as they smell and are good in fruit salads and cream cheese. Because it reduces acidity, it can be used as a flavouring for rhubarb, orange marmalade, sorbets and fruit syrups. Availability is limited, you have to grow your own to use fresh leaves or stems. It is a great addition to the garden and bees love it.
Attributed Medicinal Properties
Angelica is supposed to promote perspiration and stimulate the appetite
It is used to treat ailments of the chest and digestion
A tea made from leaves can calm nerves and is good for digestion
Angelica should be avoided by pregnant women and diabetics
Handling without gloves could make your skin sensitive to sunlight or could cause contact dermatitis
Small amounts of seeds and stem are safe but large amounts of fresh root are poisonous
Wild celery, masterwort and dang gui (China).