Angelica: Root of Angels
Angelica root is one of the most important medicinal herbs of the Middle ages, so much so that it was referred to as “Angel Root”. People during these times claimed that they had come into contact with spirit of this plant, the spirit that they called “Archangel”- who was said to reveal this root to humankind for treating the scourge of epidemic disease. It was believed that this plant stimulated the “Vital Spirit”, the force that animates the body and is found in the heart. This root has some cousins in the Angelicas of the east, the most commonly known of which is Angelica Sinensis, or Dong Quai Root. Interestingly, these two herbal cousins have many similar medicinal benefits in terms of their effects on supporting uterine function, supporting menstruation, relieving cramps and improving digestion. (1) Angelica Archangelica was used also by the Shamanic peoples of Eurasia, including the Slavic people and those of the North. It is a shamanic medicine that allows relaxation of the mind, inspiration of imagination and increases ability to flow into the “dream state” as the visionaries call it. For this purpose, the root can be burned and inhaled as an incense, in fact it has been used in Native American sweat lodges by placing on the hot stones which transform this magical plant into vapors. Theoretically ingestion of this plant in extract or tea form can have the same effects, but that is something for experimentation. Therefore, I found it useful to take a significant dose of an herbal extract I crafted from fresh angelica root, to see if there was some truth to these ancient beliefs, which I’ll share later in this article. For now, let us explore the medicinal benefits, how to use the herb and some fascinating research on the benefits of the Root of Angels. (2) Healing Uses of Angelica Root ~ Natural Rest & Digest Support
In essence, Angelica is a warming plant that supports digestion, and is especially useful for those with thin and undernourished body types characterized by poor circulation and nervous system overactivity. Shamanically it is useful for lack of spiritual connection, a feeling of being emotionally dead and feeling like life has no meaning. (2)
Nervous System: Angelica has a fascinating ability to balance out the nervous system, whether it is from either sympathetic or parasympathetic overactivity. You can think of the sympathetic nervous system as a go button to the bodily functions related to immediate survival and the parasympathetic nervous system as a slow button for resting and digestion. Most people tend towards sympathetic dominance (constantly in fight or flight, just stressed out) state of living, which interferes with relaxation and digestion. This explains, along with the fact that it contains bitter elements, why angelica has a long history of use as a digestive aid in addition to it’s psycho-spiritual effects. Angelica is specific for feelings of “brain fog” or feeling mentally dull, exhaustion, spiritual depression and all the sorts of things that manifest when one is consistently stressed out and does not get enough rest. (2) Digestion: Angelica is helpful for those who lack an appetite, or have eating disorders- potentially due to its digestive stimulating effects and ability to balance the autonomic nervous system (Sympathetic+Parasympathetic+Enteric). The enteric nervous system is essentially the “gut brain” or the nervous system branch that is directly connected to our digestive system (gastrointestinal tract). It is fascinating that the enteric nervous system can actually function separately from the main nervous system, indicating that the nervous system of the gut is in many ways an independent branch, though it is of course linked like everything in the body is. I surmise that Angelica could possibly be exerting some of its digestive benefits by its effects on the Enteric nervous system in addition to increasing the parasympathetic (which is crucial for processes of digestion such as peristalsis). (2) Preparation & Dosage: – To preserve roots– Cut lengthwise, dry in stove, crush and can store airtight for 3+ years – Extraction Methods- Boil root for aromatic bitter, tincture for relaxing antispasmodic, steeping for anesthetic/astringent for stomach lining – Tincture dosage: 1-3ml (4-5 dropperfuls) of 1:2 ratio liquid extract – Tea dose: 6-12g of angelica root left in cold water overnight, heated over stove (30min-1hr) or 1tsp macerated overnight in 1 cup of water. 1/3rd taken as dose prior to meals – Can make wines, liquors & candies with this root – Burn root & inhale fumes for shamanic usage: or on rocks in sweat lodge – Warning: at excess doses can potentially irritate stomach, cause photosensitivity, and cause strong sedation. Should not be used in pregnancy as it is a uterine stimulant. This article does not constitute medical advice and is for educational purposes only, please use herbs under the supervision of a licensed physician.
Interesting Research about Angelica A study that looked at elderly patients with dementia that were treated with ferulic acid (extracted from angelica sinensis) and angelica archangelic extract found that this combination may be helpful in lowering the negative behavioral and psychological symptoms associated with dementia including: agitation, anxiety, irritability, hallucinations, strange behaviors and apathy. This seems to be in accord with Angelica’s uses for increasing focus and balancing the nervous system, and it’s shamanic use as well. (3)
Angelica species have a number of other uses such as for allergic skin conditions, high blood pressure, apoptosis (death) of cancer cells in animal models, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and a variety of other fascinating potential benefits which you can look through at the link below.
My Personal Experience of Angelica Archangelica
Using an herbal extract (tincture) that I crafted from Fresh Angelica grown on a local Oregon farm, I wished to experiment with the metaphysical properties of this plant, and my experience. I took about 6 full droppers (about 3ml) of my 1:2 50% alcohol tincture straight on the tongue. I immediately noticed a very earthy aromatic flavor to the plant, reminiscent of valerian, that turned to a mild bitter at the back of my tongue as it went down. Then a peculiar sensation of tingling on my tongue, familiar to me from strong extractions of echinacea, came on indicating that there were certainly some potent compounds in this plant. Within a few minutes I began to feel a sense of calm in my heart region, and felt my muscle begin to relax. There is certainly a mild euphoric effect within a few minutes of ingestion.
About 45 minutes in the effects were still noticeable, from a general sense of calm curiosity about the world and a seeming increase in my senses. It has a very relaxing and calming presence and have a pretty apparent effect on the mind state. I would describe it as a relaxed focus, with a decrease in the sensation of tension that may happen in muscles and in the lung/heart region. My digestion seems to be stimulated as I feel saliva increasing, and find myself thinking about what I will eat, feeling my stomach warm up and activate. I also notice that I am getting into a state that is relaxed and would be conducive to sleep. I am not sleepy but feel this sense of relief as if I could easily. Overall, I would describe this plant (especially in fresh extract) to be mood boosting, digestion supporting (I hear my stomach mildly purring as I write this), and very relaxing to any anxiety/tension in the heart area. I am interested in experimenting with higher dosages of this plant and burning the root in the shamanic way and see if it makes my mind more conducive to journeying and meditative states. Herbal Resources: (1) Holmes, Peter. The Energetics of Western Herbs Vol.1, 4th Revised Edition 2007. Snow Lotus Press. (2) The Earthwise Herbal: A complete guide to New World Medicinal Plants Vol.1, Matthew Wood, North Atlantic books, 2008 (3) Kimura, T., Hayashida, H., Murata, M. and Takamatsu, J. (2011), Effect of ferulic acid and Angelica archangelica extract on behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia in frontotemporal lobar degeneration and dementia with Lewy bodies. Geriatrics & Gerontology International, 11: 309-314. doi:10.1111/j.1447-0594.2010.00687.x