Garden Angelica

Garden Angelica

Garden angelica (Angelica archangelica) has traditionally been an important vitamin C source to the people in Lapland as the plant was cooked into jam. Garden Angelica’s stalk was eaten raw, boiled in reindeer milk, with salmon or with butter. In ancient medicine the plant was used to drain fluids, for neuralgia and for rheumatic conditions.

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Angelica archangelica
Apiaceae family (Umbelliferous plants)

Garden angelica belongs to the same family as wild angelica (Angelica Sylvestris), but has lighter leaves, which have a stronger scent. Angelica is either a biennial or a perennial umbelliferous plant. Leaf stalks are terete, flowers greenish white.

The scientific name of garden angelica refers to the arch angel, who is said in a legend to have brought the plant from heaven and taught people to use it.

The angelicas in Finland are divided into two subspecies. The so-called taxonomic subspecies growing commonly in Lapland and Northern Finland is especially frequent in fell areas, shrubberies and ditch banks. The plant is under protection south of the Oulu province. The subspecies of angelica growing on the cobbly and stony coasts of the Gulf of Finland and the Bothnian Bay is again known as Angelica archangelica ssp. litoralis.

Medical use

Garden angelica has traditionally been an important source of vitamin C for the Lappish people, who have preserved the plant by making angelica jam. The Laplanders in Finland have used, but not cultivated garden angelica. Plant stalks have been used as such, boiled in reindeer milk or eaten together with salmon, fish fat or butter. Decoction made of the plant root, but also the leaves, stalk, seeds and essential oil are used for medication.

In traditional medication garden angelica has been used as a diaphoretic and diuretic drug. Seeds have been used against stomach troubles and flatulence, to remove fluids, and against nervous and rheumatic pains when applied externally. The Laplanders had a habit of chewing the stalkless root of a first-year angelica as a substitute for tobacco, since it ‘helped to stay in good health and to live to an old age’.

Active substances

The active substances of garden angelica are: essential oil (0.4-1.0%, 15-oxypentadecene lactone), resins 6%, coumarin derivatives (angelicine, xantoxin, arkicin, archangelin), angelic acid, p-cymol, wax, tanning agents and acrid substances, vitamin C, sucrose, flavonoids (isoquercitrin, rutin and diosmin) and phenol carbonic acids.

Gas chromatography has made it possible to identify almost 200 different compounds in the essential oil. The rootstalk contains essential oils, among which alpha-pinene, sabinene, 3-karene and beta-phellandrene are the major components. Seeds contain volatile oil, fixed oil, the same coumarins as the root, phellopterine, beta-sitosterine, angelic acid, copaene and flavonoids (isoquercitrin, rutin, diosmin).

Current use

Garden angelica continues to be an important commercial plant, used as a flavouring agent in liqueur industry, cosmetic preparations and natural cure products. A hot drink made of seeds, roots or dried leaves is an excellent medicinal herb against inflammatory diseases. In Lapland, angelica cultivation has been under development, to use the plant as a herb and also as a raw material of various jams, marmelades, thickened fruit juices and pies.

Garden angelica has been included in the list of medicines since 01.01.2000. Preparations which contain angelica and are considered as medicines, may not be sold in Finland without permission of the Finnish National Agency for Medicines.

Source: Sankelo, Terhi – Siivari, Jari 2001–2003:Special plants in Lapland suitable for biotechnology. Literary and database survey. Project – From Nature to Industrial Production, MTT-Rovaniemi Research Station.