Angelica, a Plant of The Family Apiaceae

Angelica archangelica was once considered as a cure for the bubonic plague. It belongs to Apiaceae, the same family as carrots and celery. The plant grows as far north as Greenland and Lapland.

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     The botanical family Apiaceae, also known as Umbelliferae, includes the species Angelica archangelica. The name “Angelica” not only designates the genus to which the plant belongs, but also serves as the common name of the plant.

     The genus Angelica includes other species with characteristics similar to Angelica archangelica. For example, Angelica sylvestris is wild angelica, and Angelica atropurpurea is purplestem angelica.

     Ideally, every species of plant is supposed to have only one scientific name; but usually several different names, known as synonyms, are applied to the same plant in scientific literature.

     The name “Angelica archangelica” was assigned to this plant by Carolus Linnaeus, a prestigious eighteenth century botanist; and it is still the accepted scientific name today. However, an important synonym of this species is Angelica officinalis. This term “officinalis” shows us that angelica was a medicinal plant likely to be found in the offices of apothecaries.

     Angelica has received its celestial name because of its presumed association with angels. According to the Royal Botanical Garden website, an archangel (undoubtedly Michael) supposedly intervened in the affairs of men by showing the virtues of  this plant to Mattheus Salvaticus, a fourteenth century physician. Witches were supposedly afraid of this holy plant. A lady accused of witchcraft could prove her innocence if she could show that she kept this herb in her pantry.

     Marvelous healing powers were attributed to angelica. In seventeenth century England, it became part of a concoction designed to treat people afflicted with the plague. It was also used as a remedy for rabies. More realistically, it brought relief to people who suffered digestive disorders. The root of angelica does indeed contain various chemicals that aid digestion.

     Angelica prefers a moist habitat. It likes to grow near rivers and streams. It thrives in cold regions, such as Greenland and Lapland. According to the USDA, the range of Angelica archangelica does not include any part of Canada or the United States. However, other species of Angelica occur in our hemisphere. For example, Angelica arguta grows in western Canada and the northwestern section of the United States, and Angelica atropurpurea grows in eastern Canada and the northeastern part of the United States.

     Angelica is a biennial herb. It does not bear fruit the first year, and the above-ground vegetation does off during the winter. It sprouts again during the following spring, and it may bear fruit during the second growing season. However, if it fails to produce fruit during the second growing season, it completes its cycle the third year, according to the Botanical website.

    Angelica is a tall plant. Some specimens may grow as tall as a full-grown man. The outside surface of the stem is fluted, like the Doric column; and the inside of the stem is hollow. The leaves are pinnately compound and the flowers are arranged in clusters called umbels. The photograph above shows their general appearance. The fruit is a schizocarp, which means that it eventually splits into two sections called merocarps.

     Angelica is edible. It may be eaten raw or cooked, converted into confection, or used as flavoring. It is popular in Greenland and Scandinavia, especially Lapland. The confection is popular in France.

     All parts of the plant are edible. Even the flower heads have been incorporated into omelets and eaten.

     However, angelica has furocoumarins, also called furanocoumarins, in its tissues. These substances make the skin sensitive to light, and the result may be a type of dermatitis called phytophotodermatitis.

Wikipedia: Angelica

Wikipedia: Angelica archangelica

Plants for a Future: Angelica archangelica L.

Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew: Angelica archangelica (angelica)

Essential Oils: Angelica Essential Oil Information

Botanical: Angelica

USDA: Angelica archangelica L. Norwegian Angelica

Wikipedia: Furanocoumarin

Telemedicine: Phytophotodermatitis

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