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Definition: angelica from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Any of a group of tall, perennial herbs with divided leaves and clusters of white or greenish flowers, belonging to the carrot family. Most are found in Europe and Asia. The roots and fruits have long been used in cooking and in medicine. (Genus Angelica, family Umbelliferae.)

Angelica archangelica is a culinary herb, the stems of which are preserved in sugar and used for cake decoration. A. sylvestris, the species found in Britain, has wedge-shaped leaves and clusters of white, pale violet, or pinkish flowers. Angelica oil is used in perfume and liqueurs.



Summary Article: ANGELICA
From Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients: Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics

Source: Angelica archangelica L. (syn. Archangelica archangelica Hoffm.) (Family Apiaceae or Umbelliferae).

Common/vernacular names: Angelica, archangel, European angelica, and Garden angelica.


Stout biennial or perennial herb, up to 2 m high with a large rhizome; fruit with thick corky wings; native to northern and eastern Europe and Iceland, eastward to Siberia; cultivated in Belgium, Hungary, Germany, and other countries; naturalized elsewhere. Parts used are the rhizome and roots, fruits, and stem, with the stem less extensively used; currently the roots and rhizome are the most frequently used.

Other Angelica spp. are also used, but infrequently.


Angelica is very rich in coumarins, which occur throughout the plant.

The root (root and rhizome) contains 0.3-1% volatile oil composed mainly of d-α-phellandrene, α-pinene, limonene, β-caryophyllene, linalool, borneol, acetaldehyde, and four macrocyclic lactones (ω-tridecanolide, 12-methyl-ω-tridecanolide, ω-pentadecanolide, and ω-heptadecanolide), among others (MASADA);1,2 coumarins, including osthol, angelicin, osthenol, umbelliferone, archangelicin, bergapten, ostruthol, imperatorin, umbelliprenine, xanthotoxol, xanthotoxin, oxypeucedanin, oreoselone, phellopterin, marmesin, byakangelicol, and2′-angeloyl-3′-isovaleryl vaginate, with osthol in major concentration (ca. 0.2% of root),3–7 acids (angelic, aconitic, citric, malic, oxalic, malonic, fumaric, succinic, caffeic, chlorogenic, quinic, lauric, tridecanoic, myristic, pentadecanoic, palmitic, palmitoleic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, linolenic, petroselinic, and behenic acids, etc.).4,8,9 Other constituents include resin, starch, sugars (sucrose, fructose, glucose, umbelliferose), archangelenone (a flavonone), β-sitosteryl palminate, and arachinate (KARRER)4,9,10.

The fruits (commonly known as seeds) contain about 1% volatile oil, consisting mainly of β-phellandrene and other terpenes similar to those found in the root oil (MASADA);11 coumarins, including imperatorin, bergapten, iso-imperatorin, iso-pimpinellin, δ-hydroxy-5-methoxypsoralen, 4-methoxy-7-hydroxypsoralen, phellopterin, xanthotoxol, and xanthotoxin, with imperatorin and bergapten in larger concentrations (0.5% and 0.1%, respectively) (KARRER).12,13 The seed oil of a Pakistani variety, A. archangelica L. var. himalaica (Clarke) Krishna & Badhwar, contains hexylmethylphthalate as its major component (36%).14


The root oil has shown antibacterial and anti-fungal activities.1,15

A number of Angelica species have shown calcium-antagonist-like effects in vitro. Asan activity involving relaxation of vascular smooth muscle, calcium-antagonist activity is a topic of interest in cardiovascular disease research. Calcium-antagonist activity was found from coumarinrich fractions of angelica root extracts (A. archangelica).16 The root extract has shown dose-dependent antiulcerogenic activity in rats with indomethacinin-duced gastric ulcers, an effect partly attributed to an increase in mucin secretion, a decrease in leukotrienes, and an increase in the release of prostaglandin E2.17 Orally administered, A. archangelica also ameliorated ethanol-induced hepatotoxicity in mice and inhibited malondialdehyde formation in mouse livers, in vitro and in vivo.18


Certain coumarins in the plant (e.g., bergap-ten, xanthotoxin) are known to be phototoxic (see bergamot oil). Angelica root and seed oils are obtained by steam distillation and are not expected to contain these coumarins; however, extracts (e.g., absolute, solid extract, fluid extract) may contain them. The root oil (but not seed oil) is reported to be phototoxic.1,11


Medicinal, Pharmaceutical, and Cosmetic. Now rarely used in pharmaceutical preparations. Its major current use is as a fragrance ingredient in soaps, detergent, creams, lotions, and perfumes. Reported maximum use levels for both root and seed oils are usually very low, the highest for either being about 0.1% in the perfume category.1,11

Food. Leaves used as vegetable (MABBERLY); dried seeds and cut and sifted or powdered root occasionally used as tea flavoring (FOSTER); also used as a flavor ingredient in most major categories of food products, including alcoholic (bitters, liqueurs, vermouths) and nonalcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, and gelatins and puddings. The seed and root oils and the root extract are more commonly used; average maximum use levels are low, usually below 0.01%, except for the seed extract, which is reported to be 0.2% in alcoholic beverages.

Dietary Supplements/Health Foods. The dried seeds and root powder are used in tinctures or oral formulations, primarily for menstrual regulation and as an expectorant (FOSTER).

Traditional Medicine. Angelica has a long history of use in Europe in the treatment of bronchial ailments, colds, coughs, and stomach troubles caused by indigestion; also used in cosmetics for its allegedly quieting and soothing effect on the nerves of the skin (DE NAVARRE). The roots and seeds have been used in the treatment of arthritic disease, nervous conditions, insomnia, hyperacidity, and intestinal disturbances, as well as for anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and diaphoretic effects.16

In Chinese medicine, at least 10 Angelica species are used, including A. dahurica (Fisch.) Benth. et Hook., A. anomala Lalem., A. formosana Boiss., and A. sinensis (Oliv.) Diels; the latter, known as danggui or dong quai (see following), is widely used in treating female ailments in China (FARNSWORTH 1-4; FOGARTY; JIANGSU; NANJING).


Crude, extracts, and oils. Root and seed were both formerly official in U.S.P. and N.F.; both root oil and seed oil are official in F.C.C.

Regulatory Status. Regulated as a dietary supplement in the United States; extract, essential oil, and solvent-free oleoresin of the root, seed, or stem are GRAS for use in foods (§182.20); root and seed are GRAS for use in foods as a spice or natural flavoring (§182.10). In Germany, the fruit and roots are subjects of official monographs. The crude root at a daily dose of 4.5 g and galenical preparations are indicated for internal use for appetite loss and digestive ailments, including mild gastrointestinal tract spasms and flatulence. Crude fruit (seed) and preparations are not recommended for use as diuretics and diaphoretics because efficacy and safety have not been established (BLUMENTHAL 1; WICHTL).



  • 1. Opdyke, D. L. J., Food Cosmet. Toxicol., 13(Suppl.), 713 (1975).
  • 2. Taskinen, J., Acta Chem. Scand., Ser. B, 29, 637 (1975).
  • 3. Steck, W. and Bailey, B. K., Can. J. Chem., 47, 2425 (1969).
  • 4. Svendsen, A. B., Blyttia, 11, 96 (1953).
  • 5. Chatterjee, A. and Dutta, S., Indian J. Chem., 6, 415 (1968).
  • 6. Harmala, P. et al., Planta Med., 58, 288 (1992).
  • 7. Carbonnier, J. and Molho, D., Planta Med., 44, 162 (1982).
  • 8. Kas'yanov, G. I. et al., Khim. Prir. Soedin., 1, 108 (1977).
  • 9. Nielsen, B. E. and Kofod, H., Acta Chem. Scand., 17, 1161 (1963).
  • 10. Basa, S. C. et al., Chem. Ind. (London), 13, 355 (1971).
  • 11. Opdyke, D. L. J., Food Cosmet. Toxicol., 12(Suppl.), 821 (1974).
  • 12. Patra, A. et al., Indian J. Chem., 14B, 816 (1976).
  • 13. Beyrich, T., Arch. Pharm., 298, 672 (1965).
  • 14. Ashraf, M. et al., Pak. J. Sci. Ind. Res., 23, 73 (1980).
  • 15. Saksena, N. and Tripathi, H. H. S., Fitoterapia, 56, 243 (1985).
  • 16. Harmala, P. et al., Planta Med., 58, 176 (1992).
  • 17. Khayyal, M. T. et al., Arzneim.-Forsch., 51, 545 (2001).
  • 18. Yeh, M. L. et al., Pharmacology, 68, 70 (2003).
Copyright © 2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.

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