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The angelica (Angelica archangelica) is also called medicinal angelica, which indicates its importance as a medicinal plant. According to the earlier popular belief, it should ward off plague, spells and poisons - it is itself weakly toxic. Medical experts of old times praised them highly, modern studies show a potential against breast cancer, aging of the skin and bacterial infections. The umbellifer is often found in the cooler parts of the temperate latitudes up to the subarctic of Scandinavia and Russia.
- Scientific name: Angelica archangelica
- Family: Umbelliferae (Apiaceae)
- Common names: Archangel, Arminklewurzel, Geilwurzel, Arteklewurzel, Choleraroot, Engelbrustwurz, Breastworm, Breastroot, Poisonwurz, Ledepipenkraut, Lidtpfeiffenkraut, Luftwurzel, Theriaowurz, Gartenangelik, Trinity root, Heiliggeistwurzel, Heiligthurzwurzel, Glüththurz root, Glüththurz root, Glüthth root, Glue
- Distribution: cool temperate northern Eurasia to the subarctic.
- Plant parts used: Fruits, seeds, herbs, fresh rhizome and dried roots.
- Application areas: Stomach colic, intestinal colic, feeling of fullness, flatulence, loss of appetite, in folk medicine especially against sleep problems, rheumatic complaints and neuralgia.
Medicinal angelica contains oxypentadecene lactone as the main component. There are also essential oils, in which 15-oxypentadecentactone is the main substance. Angelika also has various coumarins: Angelicin, Bergapten, Imperator Osthol, Osthenol, Xanthotoxin, Xanthotoxol and Umbelliprenin.
The essential oils consist especially of monoterpenes, phellandrene and pinene, altogether from more than 60 components identified so far. Sesquiterpenes are also contained in the oils. There are also angelica and caffeic acids, fumaric and chlorogenic acids, flavanones and resins.
The angelica seeds contain essential oil, coumarins and furanocoumarins such as angelicin, apterin, bergapten and xanthotoxin, the oil terpenoid compounds distilled from the seeds with steam and coumarin derivatives. The above-ground parts of the plant offer essential oil with the main components myreen, alpha-phellandrene and alpha-pinene, as well as coumarins and furanocoumarins such as osthol, osthenol, umbelliferone and angelicin.
Angelica - overview
- Angelica, Angelica archangelica, is an ancient medicinal plant - both in folk medicine and among scholarly doctors in Europe.
- Many hypothesized effects cannot be proven, but others have been clearly confirmed, and medicinal angelica has great potential for skin aging, certain viruses, inflammation and maybe even cancer.
- Angelica is also used in food, for example in baked goods and in drinks such as syrup and liqueur.
- Although the plant is also used for food, it is slightly toxic.
- Processing and collecting angelica itself must be done with great care, because the plant is very easy to mistake for deadly poison hemlock.
Angelica in medical history
Angelica has been an outstanding medicinal plant since ancient times, with pharmacological effects and magical attributions often overlapping. However, it did not appear among the medical luminaries of ancient Egypt, Persia and Greece, because it was hardly known as the plant of the north south of the Alps.
In the Middle Ages, it was supposed to stimulate digestion (which has been scientifically proven), heal the bites of rabid dogs (no medicinal plant helps against the rabies virus), clean the chest (whatever was meant by it) and ward off magic as well as poisons. Hieronymus Bruschwig mentioned Angelica in 1500 in his "Little Distillery" and made a distinction between the wild form and the cultivated medicinal plant. Finally, Paracelsus saw the root oil as a remedy for tuberculosis, to prevent infectious diseases, to alleviate flatulence and as a pain reliever.
Historical doctors prescribed angelica extracts for weakness symptoms of various diseases (Hufeland), for paralysis (Clarus), for the symptoms of dysentery such as cholera (Kneipp). Folk medicine used angelica especially against loss of appetite and to stimulate digestion, to strengthen the stomach and relieve cramps - effects that evidence-based medicine confirms. Angelica was also found in the "Theriak", a collective term for healing ointments, porridges and potions, to which opium was often added, as well as in other healing potions, which also served to get intoxicated. The line between medicine and herbal liqueur can rarely be drawn sharply.
What does today's medicine know?
Angelica root is recognized as a remedy for loss of appetite and digestive problems with a dose of 10 to 20 drops of the essential oil per day. The furanocoumarins sensitize the skin to UV rays, which means they promote sunburn when the sun is strong, but conversely they can improve the absorption of the rays when the sun is low and prevent vitamin D deficiency.
Angelica acts against bacteria and antibiotics, it stimulates the production of gastric juice and the pancreas. The active ingredients contained in angelica are suitable for loosening mucus and are therefore suitable as a remedy for cough, bronchitis and pleurisy.
Effect against breast cancer?
A new study examined possible antitumor effects of angelica extract in breast cancer. In vitro and in vivo it was shown that angelicin contained in angelica roots has the potential to fight breast cancer cells. Further research is needed to potentially use this pharmacological tendency for cancer therapy.
Angelica oil counteracts inflammation
Another study investigated the effects of angelica oil against inflammation in in-vitro models. The result was that high-dose oil acted against the (inflammatory) cytokine interleukin-6 level. This finding could be a basis for developing new drugs that prevent inflammation, as well as corresponding new foods or nutritional supplements.
Effect against viruses
Antibacterial effects of ingredients in angelica have long been known. In 2017, a new study by the Medical University of Lublin in Poland specifically researched how a dichloromethane extract from the fruits of the plant affects herpes simplex virus-1 and infections with the Coxsackievirus B 3.
The scientists examined both the dichloromethane extract and five individual substances of angelica: xanthotoxin, bergapten, imperator, phellopterin and isoimperator, plus a mixture of imperator and phellopterine. Cytotoxicity was measured using the MTT method.
It was shown that the isolated individual components had no significant effects. Only the extract showed a decrease in the titre of virus in relation to the virus control. According to Rajtar, it follows that real angelica may be a candidate to develop alternative remedies for herpes simplex-1.
Positive effect on skin aging
A medical study in Korea in 2016 examined the effects of angelica on the skin. Specifically, it was about the photoprotective effects on collagen breakdown in normal skin structures of people who are exposed to UVB rays. The result was: Angelica is a promising plant to slow down the aging of the skin by the sun's rays.
Harmful effects of angelica
The furocoumarins are phototoxic and, like the meadow hogweed and the herbaceous perennial, they can ignite the skin - the symptoms include pain, redness, general weakness and a feeling of illness. The juice of the fresh plant can cause hypersensitivity to sunlight on sensitive skin, which then triggers angelicadermitis, and this means a high risk of sunburn. Angelica is weakly poisonous. If larger amounts of the root and especially the concentrated oils are consumed, poisoning can occur.
Risk of confusion
Confusion with toxic plants is far more dangerous than poisoning by angelica itself. Angelica grows on moist meadows, in forests and on bank embankments. The habitat overlaps with that of the water hemlock, which is fatally poisonous. Just as you should never collect mushrooms without knowing exactly the differences to the white tuber agaric, you should never collect angelica without being able to distinguish it 100 percent from the water hemlock. Both plants look very similar. Angelica is best recognized by its smell. The hemlock smells of mildew from rotting plants, Angelica sweetly of celery.
Angelica as a home remedy
Angelica is firstly weakly poisonous and secondly easily mistaken for the deadly hemlock. That is why there is one caveat for angelica as a home remedy: use only in small quantities and only consume if confusion with hemlock is absolutely impossible. Then angelica can be used in many ways, in juices, in syrup, liqueur, tea or oils.
For a tea, crush some roots, put them in cold water, let everything boil briefly and steep for ten minutes. You each drink a small cup about 30 minutes before meals. This tea helps against digestion problems, bloating and lack of appetite.
A classic recipe is angelica wine. Put about 50 grams of finely chopped roots in a liter of white wine. You let the roots steep in the wine for two days, then add two grams of aniseed and let everything steep for another two days. Then strain the roots. Drink a tablespoon of the root wine every other day to stabilize digestion.
Angelica balm is available in pharmacies. This consists of vegetable oils from angelica, marjoram and thyme, as well as beeswax and St. John's wort oil. It is a recognized remedy for colds. It is said to be particularly well tolerated and is therefore also used in infants and young children to treat and prevent colds and to relieve the inflamed nasal mucous membranes.
A sacred plant
Angelica is just one of the Christian names for this umbellifer. In St. Gallen it is known as the Holy Spirit Root or Holy Root. Other names refer to the old tradition of using Angelica as a medicinal plant. So it was called in Middle High German breast or cholera root, elsewhere Theriakwurz. The Silesian term Lidtpfeiffenkraut refers to the fact that people made flutes from their stems.
Where does angelica occur?
Angelica archangelica is naturally widespread in Northern and Eastern Europe, as far as North America, Greenland, Siberia and into the Himalayas. It is as native to the Netherlands and Germany as it is to Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, the Baltic States, Belarus, Ukraine and the Caucasus countries. It populates Serbia and Croatia in the Balkans, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in Central Eastern Europe. She loves nutrient-rich clay soils that are sometimes flooded and was a typical inhabitant of the riparian forests that are now only found in remnants.
Angelica was not only important in folk medicine. Antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects are proven by modern studies. When collecting and preparing your own, you should make sure to use only small amounts, since Angelica itself is slightly toxic. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Peter Keil: Ecology of the Agriophytes Angelica archangelica ssp. litoralis, Bidens frondosa and Rorippa austriaca in the Ruhr area, Borntraeger Verlag, 1999
- Petra Lehrnbecher: Engelwurz and Teufelsdreck: On the lexicography of medicinal plants in dictionaries from the 16th to 18th centuries. Century, Peter Lang GmbH, International Publishing House of Sciences, 1995
- D. Fraternale et al .: The In Vitro Activity of Angelica archangelica L. Essential Oil on Inflammation. In: Med Food. 2018 Aug 29. doi: 10.1089 / jmf.2018.0017, PubMed
- C. R. Oliveira et al .: Medicinal properties of Angelica archangelica root extract: Cytotoxicity in breast cancer cells and its protective effects against in vivo tumor development, in J Integr Med. 2019 Mar; 17 (2): 132-140. doi: 10.1016 / j.joim.2019.02.001. Epub 2019 Feb 8, PubMed
- B. Rajtar et al .: Antiviral effect of compounds derived from Angelica archangelica L. on Herpes simplex virus-1 and Coxsackievirus B3 infections, in Food Chem Toxicol. 2017 Nov; 109 (Pt 2): 1026-1031. doi: 10.1016 / j.fct.2017.05.011. Epub 2017 May 6, PubMed
- Z. Sun et al .: Angelica archangelia Prevented Collagen Degradation by Blocking Production of Matrix Metalloproteinases in UVB-exposed Dermal Fibroblasts, in Photochem Photobiol. 2016 Jul; 92 (4): 604-10. doi: 10.1111 / php.12595. Epub 2016 Jun 3, PubMed