Known as Dong Quai in Chinese medicine, and as Chorak in Indian ayurvedic medicine. Angelica belongs to the Umbelliferae group of plants, and has a special interaction with the air, the quality of which is incorporated into the quality of the plant as reflected in its hollow stem. The roots are long and spindly. The leaves belie the roots being stout, but fluted like blades. The flowers burst into life being small and numerous in groups of umbrella-like structures, with colors that range from yellow – green. It likes humid soil conditions and cool climates growing wild by streams, and irrigation canals. The oil has an earthy, but fresh smell. The wild angelica, Angelica Sylvestris, have hairy stalks, and furrowed stems with flowers that range from white to purple in color.
Angelica is produced from the roots and sometimes the seeds through a traditional process of steam distillation, and thus has a very grounding effect. It takes 340 pounds of plant material to produce one pound of Angelica Root Oil. Popular during the Renaissance amongst physicians, the stems were chewed during the 1660 plague to prevent infection. In Chinese herbal medicine, many varieties of Angelica are used to promote fertility, and for the treatment and female disorders.
Like all plants, the quality of Angelica reflects the character of the plant, and the conditions of its growth. Whilst grounding, it is a plant of elimination, eliminating toxins, purifying the body, through the digestive system. The oil is a good stimulant and tonic for general wellbeing.
Angelica oil contains a large amount of monoterpene hydrocarbons , which has the following medicinal effect:
- Phytohormone (growth regulator)
The chemical constituents include:
- Alpha pinene
- Beta pinene
- Alpha phellandrene
- Bornyl aceta
- Beta phellandrene
- Beta bisabolene
- Cis ocimene
- Humulene oxide
- Para cymene
- Rho cymenol
- Trans ocimene
– Nervous related problems to the digestive system: cramps, spasms, weak stomach
– Asthenia, anemia, anorexia
– Lungs (bronchitis, flu, pneumonia, pleurisy
Due to its properties as a tonic, Angelica Oil is good for convalescence, and recuperation, especially when one’s immunity has been low. The impact on the digestive system is as a purifying tonic used in the treatment of dyspepsia, anorexia, stomach ulcers, chronic enteritis, and gastritis. As a depurative, Angelica Oil detoxifies the body, and as an analeptic the oil balances the central nervous system, as well as heals skin diseases like psoriasis.
As a spasmolytic , it eases cramps, coughs, aches, and diarrhea when related to a convulsion. By relieving the spasm, there is also relief from and related pain. In a study by Dr. Shalini Pathak and team of Bundelkhand University, India, Angelica Oil i.e. Angelica archangelica was explored in terms of its spasmolytic properties, and was compared to the drugs phenytoin and diazepam. It was found that the oil did indeed prevent seizures/convulsions, and did bring about recovery, while at the same time delaying future attacks. In ayurvedic medicine, oil of Angelica archangelica is used in the treatment of epilepsy. In fact the same study (carried out on mice) proven the use of monoterpene hydrocarbons to be effective against induced convulsions, and limonene-pinene content prevented audio based convulsions.
As a carminative, it helps to drive out any gas from the intestines, causing relaxation of the intestinal and abdominal muscles.
As a diuretic it speeds up elimination of uric acid, excess salt and water, fat, bile from the body by means of sweat, and urine – natural means of detoxifying the body. By doing so, one lowers the potassium content in the body, thus reducing blood pressure, fat content, and relief from rheumatism and arthritis.
Angelica Oil helps to protect the liver from infection, and triggers menstruation where there has been an obstruction.
Angelica Oil helps to maintain a proper balance of acids and bile, and strengthens the immune system.
In the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Angelia is indicated for bronchitis related to vascular insufficiency, poor circulation (lower extremities), and respiratory conditions.
The main producers of the oil are Belgium, China, France, and Poland, but it grows abundantly in Iceland, Lapland, Scotland, South England (common in the fields near London, and the parks in London, U.K), Central Europe,. There are 2 main types: Angelica Sylvestris, which is from the wild, and Angelica Archangelica/Officinalis, (of Syrian origin) which despite its name is domesticated/cultured. Angelica Archangelica/Officinalis is the one most commonly used, which has many varieties. The oil is colorless, and therefore sometimes referred to white angelica, but turns yellowy brown with age.
In vapor therapy (using a burner/vaporizer), angelica oil can be used for respiratory problems
By putting a couple of drops in a bath and then running the bath water, this will assist respiratory problems, detoxification, and the digestive/menstrual/CNS system
Angelica Oil is fine in low doses, and in general is non-toxic, and does not irritate, but it can be phototoxic due to having a high content of bergapten, thus should not be applied to the skin for at least 24 hours before exposure to light. In high doses the oil over-stimulates the nervous system, and can cause insomnia. It should be avoided by pregnant women, those with high blood pressure, diabetics, and women who are lactating.
Lavabre, M. “Aromatherapy Workbook.” Healing Arts Press, Canada. 1990.
Pathak S, Wanjari MM, Jain SK, Tripathi M. Evaluation of Antiseizure Activity of Essential Oil from Roots of Angelica archangelica Linn. in mice. Indian J Pharm Sci 2010;72:371-5