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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Angelica, an ancient herb, is also used in aromatherapy; one of the lesser known essential oils, angelica has a number of uses and properties in aromatherapy.

Traditional Use of Angelica

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is a member of the Apiaceae plant family; it is a powerful aromatic herb that has been used medicinally since ancient times. In Europe, angelica was used to treat colds, indigestion, coughs, bronchial complaints and to stimulate the appetite; the Chinese used many species of angelica to treat female disorders and fertility problems.

Angelica as a Herb

Angelica is a biennial herb with ferny leaves and a large rhizome root; the leaves have a fresh aroma and the root has an earthy fragrance.  Angelica produces umbels of white flowers, which are also fragrant, in early summer; the plant grows to a height of eight feet and can spread three feet in width.

Distribution and Extraction of Angelica Essential Oil

Angelica originates from countries such as Russia, Iceland and Lithuania; today it is cultivated in Germany, Belgium and Hungary.  There are over thirty species of angelica but it is Angelica archangelica which is used medicinally; in Spain and France, candied angelica stalks are a common delicacy.  Angelica essential oil is extracted from the herb by steam distillation of the root, fruit or seed.

Different Varieties of Angelica

In addition to Angelica archangelica used in aromatherapy, there many other varieties of angelica; these include:

– American angelica (Angelica atropurpurea)
–Wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris)
–Chinese angelica (Angelica sinensis).

American angelica is similar to Angelica archangelica but only grows to five feet in height; wild angelica is also a small plant which is unsuitable for culinary use.  Chinese angelica is an effective tonic for women (similar to ginseng).  However, Angelica archangelica is considered to be the most common angelica species for use in aromatherapy and therefore it is important to distinguish between the different names by referring to the plant classification name.

Angelica Essential Oil in Aromatherapy

Angelica essential oil is digestive, expectorant, diuretic, stimulant, tonic, carminative and nervine; in aromatherapy, it is used in the treatment of psoriasis, irritated skin, dull and congested skin conditions, anemia, indigestion, migraine, arthritis, gout, rheumatism, bronchitis, coughs, colds, stress and nervous conditions.  An aromatic water is also made from distilled angelica leaves to treat skin problems.

Other Uses of Angelica

Angelica is used as a fragrance component in lotions, soaps and perfumes (particularly oriental fragrances and colognes); it is also used in cosmetics.  In the food industry, angelica is used as a flavoring agent and is also used in alcohol and other beverages.  The stems of angelica are candied and used to decorate cakes; the dried root is used in bread making and angelica seeds are used to flavor pastry. 

Cautions for Using Angelica Oil

It is important to distinguish between angelica root oil and angelica seed oil; angelica root oil is phototoxic, as it contains higher levels of the chemical component bergapten.  Both varieties of angelica essential oil should not be used by diabetics or in pregnancy.  As is the case when unfamiliar in the use of any essential oils, caution should be used and professional advice taken.


– Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK:Thorsons
– Lawless, Julia 2001 The Aromatherapy Garden UK: Kyle Cathie Ltd

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Angelica Essential Oil

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.

CopyrightSharonFalsetto2010 All Rights Reserved
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