Angelica Root has a penetrating, spicy aroma and a spicy, then bitter flavor. It is often an ingredient in bitters as well as flavoring in a variety of before- and after-dinner beverages.
Common name: Angelica
Synonyms: Angelica officinalis, European angelica, garden angelica, raiz de angelica (Spanish)
The Plant: Angelica is a 5- to 6-foot tall biennial of the same family as celery, parsley, fennel, caraway and dong quai. All parts of the plant have a distinct aroma and flavor, but the large fibrous root is the official herb. The thick stalks are hollow, the leaves are deeply divided, and the tiny green-white flowers are arranged in umbels, typical of all the members of this family. Angelica species are found growing in rich, moist soils in temperate climates in Europe, Asia, Northern Africa and North America.
Constituents of Significance: The essential oil, an important constituent of angelica root, has many components, with up to 70% monoterpenes. The group of components furocoumarins, present in the oil at low levels, is responsible for the photosensitizing effect of the herb.
Quality: Angelica roots should be dug in the fall of the first year as they are at their most potent at that time. Once second-year growth starts, the nutrients move into the above-ground foliage, and the roots lose much of their value. The dried roots have an intense, spicy, earthy aroma and a slightly sweet, spicy, bitter, celery-like flavor. The root bark is brown and the interior of the root is a cream color. Above-ground leaf and stalk parts should not be present at levels greater than 2% in angelic root herb.
Regulatory Status: GRAS for food use as a natural flavoring, dietary supplement
Did you know? The wild American species, Angelica atropurpurea (purple angelica) has purplish stems and is often grown in the U.S. as a substitute for Angelica archangelica. The aromatic root of angelica was used by various Native American peoples as a purification herb. It was burned as incense during healing and spiritual rituals and used in smoking mixtures.
Directions: To use as a tea, pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 tsp. of herb, cover and steep 3-5 minutes.
Suggested Uses: The aromatic and bitter properties of the root have made it a popular flavoring in wines and elixirs such as Benedictine, Chartreuse and vermouth – both as a before-dinner apéritif to promote the appetite and afterwards to comfort the gastrointestinal tract from the excesses of overeating. Angelica is also used in some bitters. The root is considered warming and tonifying.
Caution/Safety: The Botanical Safety Handbook* classifies angelica root as:
Class:2b not to be used during pregnancy
Class 2d avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight
Per the German Commission E Monograph** for angelica root, there are no known contraindications or drug interactions. However a possible side effect is inflammation of the skin upon exposure after use, to UV radiation.
*Michael McGuffin, ed., American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook, (New York: CRC Press, 1997)
**Mark Blumenthal, ed., The Complete German Commission E Monographs, (Austin TX: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998
Origins: Our angelica root is sourced from several European countries such as Poland, Bulgaria and the Netherlands, where it is native.