Latin Names: Angelica archangelica, Angelica atropurpurea, Angelica spp.

Other Names: Tang kuei (Angelica sinensis); Du Huo (Angelica duhuo); Bai Zhi (Angelica dahurica) – Chinese; Garden Angelica, Norwegian Angelica, Wild Celery – English; Laba ursului (Romanian); Angelique (French). 

Taxonomy: Vegetable Kingdom; Apiaceae (Parsley) family

Part Used: The Rootstock; the seeds

Basic Qualities: Hot 3, Dry 3

Other Qualities: Opening and loosening; tonic and restorative; aromatic; resisting or neutralizing toxins

Taste: Pungent, aromatic; slightly bitter and slightly sweet. The particular taste and aroma can vary considerably from one species or variety of Angelica to another.

Humoral Dynamics: Sanguine – Vitalizes / invigorates the blood and improves its circulation; attenuates the blood and disperses clotting.  Phlegmatic – Mildly concocts phlegm due to its heating and drying qualities; cleanses and purifies the lymph and interstitial fluids.  Choleric, Melancholic – Mildly stimulates the flow and production of bile; dredges the liver; stimulates the appetite and digestion.

Tropism: The heart, blood and cardiovascular system; the liver and hepatobiliary system; the stomach and digestive sytem; the lymphatic system; the female reproductive system.

Constituents and Pharmacology: Angelica root, being aromatic, has many aromatic constituents, which include high levels of terpenes, including a- pinene and b-phellandrine; there are upwards of eighty different aromatic compounds to be found in many samples.  The constituent that gives Angelica root its distinctive musky aroma is said to be cyclopenta-decanolide.  The seeds have a similar composition of aromatic constituents as the root, which includes a-pinene, b-pinene, pyricene, camphene, b-phellandrine, limonene, caryophylline, borneol, carvone and others.  Both the seeds and root are very rich in coumarins and furo-coumarins, upon which their blood vitalizing and attenuating properties depend.  Some species of Angelica root, such as Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis) have vitamin B12 as well, making them a good blood tonic.  The particular balance and ratio of chemical constituents varies considerably from one species of Angelica to another, and gives each its distinctive therapeutic profile and uses.

Medicinal Properties: Alterative, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, blood tonic, cardiotonic, carminative, choleretic / cholaogogue, emmenagogue, hemolytic, hepatic, stomachic, tonic

Cautions and Contraindications: Since they dissolve blood clots and stimulate blood circulation, many, if not most, species of Angelica are contraindicated in pregnancy, especially in large doses; for this reason as well, Angelica is generally contraindicated by those who are taking prescription blood thinners - consult with your physician before taking. Many species of Angelica are very heating in nature, and so, should not be taken, or should be used with caution, by those with signs and symptoms of excess heat in their bodies.

Medicinal Uses: Angelica root as well as the seeds are highly esteemed as a tonic herb, and are used in herbal powders, electuaries, decoctions and tinctures for their tonic and restorative effects on multiple bodily systems – the blood, the liver, the stomach and digestion, the smooth muscles and the female reproductive organs. The roots are most often decocted; the seeds, being lighter and more volatile, are usually prepared in other ways, like in powders, electuaries, alcoholic tinctures, etc… Angelica, in its many species and varieties, has been used to treat low energy and fatigue, anemia, poor blood circulation, weak digestion and loss of appetite, arthritis and rheumatism, cramps and spasms, as well as irregular menstruation, menstrual cramps and dysmenorrhea. Because of its great versatility, Angelica root and seeds are important ingredients in many herbal formulas.

Preparation and Dosage: Although it can be a quite powerful and effective herb, Angelica is nevertheless mild enough to use in standard doses – a rounded tablespoon per cup of water in herbal decoctions, or mixed in in equal parts in an herbal formula. It can also be used, either by itself or in combination with other ingredients, in equal parts, in alcoholic tinctures, in standard doses – two to three rounded tablespoons of the herb or herb mixture per cup of alcohol, soaked and shaken for two weeks to one month in a closed, stopped jar. Angelica root and/or seeds also work well in powdered herbal formulas, in equal parts, which can then be put into capsules or mixed with honey and other ingredients to form an electuary, or herbal paste. Many herbalists prefer using a powder made from equal parts of Angelica seeds and Angelica root. Like Ginger root, Angelica stems can also be candied in sugar syrup and eaten as a sweet delicacy. The pungent, aromatic flavor of Angelica enhances most any herbal formula of which it is a part.

Herbal Formulation: Angelica root is a welcome addition to many different tonic herb formulas because of its versatility and valuable restorative properties as a tonic herb. Angelica is one of the most valuable herbs in an herbalist’s therapeutic arsenal, and the ways that it can be advantageously combined and formulated with other herbs, mainly of a tonic or restorative nature, are virtually endless.

Classic Combinations: With Ginseng (Panax ginseng) for fatigue and low energy; the most commonly used variety of Angelica for this purpose is Dong Quai, or Chinese Angelica root (Angelica sinensis), but other varieties of Angelica may also be used, as well as other varieties of Ginseng, like Siberian Ginseng, or Eleuthero root.  With Lovage (Levisticumm, Ligusticum spp.) root or seeds to stimulate the heart and circulation, to dissolve blood clots, and relax spasmodic or painful menstruation.  With Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) as a tonic for a weak or nervous heart, as well as to relax menstrual cramps and muscle spasms.  Angelica seeds combine well with Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) and/or Dill (Anethum graveolens) seeds as a stomachic, carminative and digestive stimulant.  With Aloe (Aloe vera, Aloe ferox) as an attenuant to dissolve blood clots, and in premenstrual syndrome.  With Peony root (Paeonia officinalis, Paeonia spp.) for premenstrual syndrome with cramping and mood swings.


In my herbal travels and adventures around the world, it seems like I have encountered some species or variety of Angelica in virtually every country or corner of the globe.  Whichever one of its species or varieties I am using, it is an herb that I would not be without.  In Western herbal medicine, the two most common varieties of Angelica that are used are European Angelica (Angelica archangelica, Angelica officinalis) and American Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea, Angelica spp.).  How do you differentiate between the two?  European Angelica has a pungent, musky, full-bodied aroma, and a taste that is pungent, aromatic and slightly bitter; its roots tend to be of a woody texture and color.  American Angelica, on the other hand, has a tart, tangy taste and aroma, and a white, fleshy texture with veins or specks of brown or purple.  Once you learn the difference between the two, you will never confuse them.  And it seems like many, if not most, miscellaneous varieties of Angelica that I have encountered take after one or the other in their taste, aroma and other properties.

If one looks back at traditional European herbal medicine, one finds Angelica mentioned in Culpeper’s herbal, where it is under the celestial dominion of the Sun, and the sign Leo.  Since the Sun and its sign, Leo, rule the heart, Angelica had a reputation as a heart tonic.  Although not considered to be a heart tonic, strictly speaking, the high coumarin content of Angelica does indeed have beneficial effects on the blood and its circulation, vitalizing the blood and dissolving congealed blood.  Culpeper calls Angelica as good a restorative as anything that grows against the diseases of Saturn, which include arthritis, rheumatism, and poor circulation; furthermore, he says that it resists poison by comforting the heart, blood and spirits.  Culpeper also says that it is useful against epidemical diseases, and by this I assume that he means plagues and pestilences.  He also says that taking powdered Angelica root will warm and comfort a cold stomach, which indicates its usefulness in promoting appetite, digestion and stomach function.

In traditional European herbal medicine, Angelica occupies a central place.  In seventeenth century England, it was so common in home herb gardens that Culpeper doesn’t even bother to give a description of it.  Just suffice it to say that a large Angelica plant, which can grow almost to the size and stature of a small tree, is an unforgettable sight, and one of Mother Nature’s crowning creations.  When I was studying herbal medicine with Michael Tierra, I went up to his clinic in Santa Cruz, California to visit him, and growing in an herb garden right behind his clinic was a large and majestic Angelica plant; the next morning, I woke up and, to my great horror and dismay, the Angelica plant, and the whole herb garden for that matter, had been plowed under by a developer to plant condominiums – to think that anyone could be so callous and insensitive to the beauties of Nature to do anything like that is way beyond my ability to fathom. 

Another person who paid scant regard to Angelica was Avicenna; in Volume Two of his Canon of Medicine, which concerns an herbal Materia Medica, he fails to even give Angelica its own entry, but instead lumps it together with Celery and other similar plants, calling it Wild Celery.  In his scattered descriptions of the therapeutic applications of Wild Celery, Avicenna seems to be focused on the resisting poison or detoxification aspect of the herb, saying that a poultice of Angelica will ripen boils, treat vitiligo, and the like.  So, from this treatment of Angelica, I can surmise that Angelica root is not very commonly used in Unani herbal medicine, even though the seeds are available in many Middle Eastern supermarkets.  I suppose that there is a difference between the popular herbs and remedies of the Middle East and the “high medicine” of Avicenna.       

Although the two main varieties of Angelica, the American and the European, can be used almost interchangeably, there are subtle differences between the two regarding their therapeutic properties and profiles.  European Angelica is best for menstrual disorders, tonifying and vitalizing the blood, and to ease arthritic and rheumatic aches and pains as an antispasmodic and antirheumatic; it also does a good job of dredging the liver, and stimulating its metabolism, circulation and patency.  European Angelica also does very well in treating menstrual complaints and disorders.  American Angelica, on the other hand, does better as an energy tonic, to stimulate the stomach, appetite and digestion, and as an alterative to cleanse and purify the blood and lymph.  Another variety of Angelica that has been getting a lot of attention lately is Dong Quai, or Chinese Angelica (Angelica sinensis), which has an incredibly rich and powerful aroma, even stronger than European Angelica; being one of Chinese herbal medicine’s premier blood tonics, it is famous as the “Women’s Ginseng”.

Angelica seeds are not used nearly as much as Angelica root, so they are generally harder to find.  I have found that many Middle Eastern supermarkets do carry powdered Angelica seed, however.  Angelica seeds taste something like Fennel seeds, but they are spicier, tangier and have more of a “kick” to them.  In addition to having stomachic and carminative effects to stimulate the appetite and improve digestion, they can also relax cramps and spasms, especially menstrual cramps.  They generally combine very well with the seeds of other plants in the Apiaceae or Parsley family, such as Cumin, Coriander, Fennel, Dill or Caraway.  Many herbalists will make an Angelica powder that is made from equal parts of the seed and the root. 

Chinese herbalists claim that the body of the Dong Quai or Chinese Angelica root is more nourishing and tonifying in nature, acting mainly as a blood tonic, whereas the tails or rootlets of the Dong Quai root work more to improve blood circulation and break up stagnant or congealed blood.  Because of its blood moving properties, Dong Quai root tails are a common ingredient in Dit Da tinctures and liniments to treat traumatic injuries.  Perhaps the same thing applies to other species of Angelica root, like the American or the European Angelica – that the body is more tonifying, whereas the root tails are more of an antispasmodic and blood thinner.  In Chinese herbal medicine, Dong Quai, or Chinese Angelica root, is famous as “the Women’s Ginseng” because it is such a good blood tonic and regulator of the female menstrual cycle.  Dong Quai is one of the most important blood tonics in Chinese herbal medicine, and is indicated for both sexes wherever there is a deficiency of blood. 

Although other blood tonics used in Chinese herbal medicine, like Rehmannia root, can be too rich and cloying for those with weak or delicate digestions, Dong Quai has none of those drawbacks.  Dong Quai just might be the ideal blood tonic because its warming and moistening properties resemble those of Blood, or the Sanguine humor.  The moistening properties of Dong Quai help to moisten and beautify the skin in women, and it is also useful to moisten and loosen up the bowels in chronic constipation, especially that caused by a deficiency of Blood in the large intestine, which is common in the elderly.  Dong Quai is also very rich in vitamin B12 as well, and is one of the few vegetarian sources of this vital nutrient.  Of the two major Western varieties of Angelica root, the one that comes closest to Dong Quai in its basic medicinal properties and uses is European Angelica. 

Another very useful species of Angelica root that is used in Chinese herbal medicine is Du Huo, or Angelica duhuo, with the name Du Huo literally meaning, “living alone”.  Du Huo root is strongly pungent and bitter, and has a strong fragrance as well, which is not so sweet and pleasing, as is the aroma of Dong Quai.  Du Huo is very heating and drying in temperament, and its chief use is to treat arthritis and rheumatism as an antirheumatic, particularly in the hips, loins and lower back.  Because it is so heating and drying in its nature and temperament, it should not be used, or should be used with caution, by those with signs and symptoms of excess heat in their bodies.  But for those who are suited for it, Du Huo can literally be a godsend.  I have found, in my travels through Mexico, certain native Mexican species of Angelica root that resemble Du Huo so closely that I am virtually sure that they could be used as a substitute for the latter.

There is yet a third variety of Angelica root that is used in Chinese herbal medicine, and that is Angelica dahurica, which the Chinese call Bai Zhi, which literally means, “White and Fragrant”.  The pungent, acrid aroma of Bai Zhi is something that is unique and distinctive; I have never found any other variety of Angelica root, nor any other herb for that matter, that smells anything quite like it.  Bai Zhi is classified as a warming diaphoretic in Chinese herbal medicine, and as such, it is used to treat colds caused by chills, or wind-cold; it is also well known as an herb to treat nasal and sinus congestion, and to detoxify the nose and sinuses, where its drying qualities dissolve and neutralize excess phlegm and toxins.  It can also be found in other Chinese herbal formulas to cleanse and detoxify the blood in boils, skin rashes and other toxic conditions, and so this particular variety of Chinese Angelica root seems to most clearly fall into the category of an herb that resists poison, as Culpeper claimed for the European Angelica.  Due to its intensely drying nature, Bai Zhi is considered to be slightly toxic, especially in excess.


Angelica archangelica  
Culpeper’s Complete Herbal by Nicholas Culpeper, pp. 11 -12.  @ by Wordsworth Editions Ltd., Hertfordshire, England 1995.
The Canon of Medicine, Vol. 2: Natural Pharmaceuticals, pp. 218 – 223.  Compiled by Laleh Bakhtiar.  @ 2012 by Laleh Bakhtiar.  Published by Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., distributed by Kazi Publications, Inc., Chicago, IL USA

DISCLAIMER:  The information in this article is for educational purposes only, for general health maintenance and prevention, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical disease or condition. The reader assumes all personal responsibility and liability for the application of the information contained in this article, and is advised to seek the services of a physician or licensed healthcare practitioner should his or her symptoms or condition persist or worsen.