“Contagious air engendering pestilence,
Infects not those who in their mouth have taken
Angelica, that happy Counterbane.
Sent down from heaven by some Celestial scout
As well the name and nature both avowed''.”
Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas: French Epic Poet- 1544 to 1590
Synonyms for Angelica
Angelica is also called Angelique in French and Angelica Archangelica in Latin.
Origin and Varieties
The herb Angelica has as many as fifty varieties. Angelica Archangelica is most commonly used for the purpose of food and medicine.
The plant Angelica is fragrant and aromatic. It is a member of the plant family Umbelliferae. Other members of this large and well known group include parsley, chervil, carrots, anise, fennel, and caraway.The plants are characterised by their feathery round flower heads and their upright stems. They all also have feathery leaves.
It is the opinion of several botanists that the origins of the plant lie in Syria. It is now grown across Europe and very prolifically in the Scandinavian countries.
Its introduction into France where modern processing of Angelica is now centred, is said to be courtesy the Vikings, though it was subsequently naturalised and cultivated, in large part for its medicinal properties by several monastic orders.
After the advent of Christianity, the plant became linked with archangelic (a chief or principal angel; in medieval angelology one of the nine orders of celestial attendants on God) qualities. The name is a result of this and probably given to commend is medicinal nature.
The origin of the plant is the subject of several legends and folk tales. One such fable recounts that angelica was revealed in a dream (we are not sure to whom) by an angel to cure the plague. Another explanation of the name of this plant is that it blooms on May 8th (the day of Michael the Archangel).Its association with Micheal deems it a counter against evil spirits and witchcraft.
All parts of the Angelica plant have medicinal value. While the roots, leaves and seeds are all used in medicine, only the root is official in the Swiss, Austrian and German Pharmacopoeias.
Constituents of Angelica include volatile oil, valeric acid, angelic acid, sugar, a bitter principle, and a peculiar resin called Angelicin, which is stimulating to the lungs and to the skin. The medicinal properties of angelica are strongest in the fruit, though the whole plant has the same properties.
Ailments like colds, coughs, wind, colic, rheumatism and diseases of the urinary organs are often treated with Angelica. Angelica may also be used as an expectorant and in the treatment of fevers.
Infusion of Angelica may be used as an antiflatulent, a bronchial tonic, and a promoter of menstrual discharge. It is also an effective general tonic.
The fresh leaves of the plant are traditionally crushed and applied as poultices or hot-packs in lung and chest diseases. Extracts of the roots were used to treat typhoid and the dried yellow juice from the stem and root is an effective medicine for chronic rheumatism and gout.
Angelica is also said to cause an antipathy to alcohol and therefore may help to cure addictions.
Caution must be exercised while administering it to patients with diabetes since it is known to increase blood sugar and urine sugar levels.
Fresh Angelica root is inedible and even poisonous. It is contraindicated in pregnancies and while breastfeeding.
The preparation of Angelica is a small but important industry in the south of France, its cultivation being centralized in ClermontFerrand.
The green stalks of angelica are candied in sugar and used in cakes, gingerbread, puddings and soufflés. This candy is a specialty of the town of Niort in France, and Austin de Croze ( a French occultist and writer notable for his publication in 1895 of the work “Calendriere Magique”) has described lyrically what he considers the best way to enjoy it.
''“have a dozen choice brioches, kept hot, a fruit dish filled with sticks of candied Angelica, a bottle of angelica liqueur,a carafe of iced water, and a box of Egyptian cigarettes.
Light a cigarette, take a draught of iced water, crunch a piece of Niort angelica with a mouthful of very hot brioche, inhale, draw in and distil a few drops of angelica liqueur in the mouth, then start again.
Domestically small amounts of the chopped leaves of the plant can be added as a flavouring to fruit salads, fish dishes and cottage cheese. Since the leaves are alkaline in nature, they may be added to sour fruit such as rhubarb to make them less acidic.The stems can be boiled with jams as a flavouring. The stems should be removed before canning or freezing. Young angelica stems can also be cooked like celery.
Candying Angelica at home
Instead of using synthetically coloured, possibly toxic confectionary sugar decorations, use your home candied angelica to decorate cupcakes, icing, marzipan stuffed prunes and dates. It will lend interest, elegance and a bit of the exotic to your culinary adventures.
It is also employed in a limited fashion is perfumery.
Preservation and Storage
Angelica roots should be dried rapidly and placed in air-tight receptacles. They will then retain their medicinal virtues for many years.
Angelica should be planted in the coolest part of the garden. The plant requires a deep, highly manured, moist and slightly acid soil. It does however need to be well drained as a waterlogged soil will kill the plants. The seedlings can be transplanted when they sprout about four to six leaves but since the root is long, the transplanting should be done in time.
The plant will only last about four years and it flowers every alternate year or so.
- Larousse Gastronomique
- The Book of Ingredients: Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993
All websites below consulted on 20/6/2007
- Mary Magdalene's Flower: Agapanthus
- Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
- Encyclopædia Britannica Online
- Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 21 June 2007