Angelica is not one plant, but many. There are over 60 unique species of biannual, perennial herbs in the Apiaceae family called Angelica. The plant is related to fennel, parsley, parsnips, chervil, caraway, carrots, and asafoetida.
Angelica plants thrive in the Northern Hemisphere all the way up to Iceland, but some varieties are particularly important in China for their health benefits.
Angelica Sinensis, also known as dong quai, is the better-known Angelica variety in China; it’s even known as the female ginseng. This variety is particular to China, Japan, and Korea and is not to be confused with European and American Angelica varieties.
There are also several European Angelica varieties as well; the Angelica Archangelica, also known as wild celery, is the most widely available and also has medicinal uses.
Western Angelica, often confused with the ones above, has poisonous roots but it’s only found in the US — this is the Angelica Lineariloba.
If you’re unsure what type of Angelica you’re dealing with, stay clear of it. Other than that, a respected spice dealer can provide you with healthy dong quai or European varieties suitable for cooking or as medicinal herbs.
The History of Angelica
Angelica has an impressive past; people in Middle Age Europe thought it had something to do with Michael, the Archangel, because the plant blooms in May, close to the biblical character’s festivity. The medicinal plant was used in the middle ages to repel witches, spirits, and even diseases like the plague.
Angelica was recorded in early medical books as early as the late 1500s in Europe, and it found its way into the kitchen not much later, as the Danes began cultivating it and sweetening it as a treat. Candied Angelica is quite a famous ingredient.
Angelica’s use in bread goes back for centuries in Scandinavian countries, while the French added it to their liqueurs and, to some extent, their famous perfumes.
Five hundred years of history in Europe are impressive, but Angelica was known 4,000 years ago in China. Of course, Europeans used Angelica Archangelica, and the Chinese used Angelica Sinensis.
These two main Angelica varieties shaped the world as we know it in many ways, making this plant one of the most influential in ancient and modern cooking and medicine. Considering there are dozens of other Angelica varieties cultivated and used for various purposes, makes the plant family even more interesting.
Angelica Health Benefits
Just to be clear, the Angelica you’re looking for is Angelica Sinensis, the herb that’s been part of Chinese medicine for 2,000 years. It’s also called Radix Angelica Sinensis, tang-kui, dang gui, and Chinese angelica root. In fact, the root, seed, fruit, and leaves are used for medicinal purposes.
It’s also worth pointing out there is some scientific evidence backing the following health claims, but science is catching up to the millennial herbal knowledge.
- Angelica can promote wellness, improving blood circulation, decreasing artery fat accumulation, and blood pressure.
- Angelica could be part of effective cancer treatments. Studies suggest the root can stop the cancer cell’s cycle, even with the possibility of killing certain cancer cells in vitro trials.
- Angelica could also reduce anemia, which is a diminished number of red blood cells in your bloodstream. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
- Angelica is often recommended for women to reduce menopause symptoms, improve dried skin, alleviate menstrual spasms, and treat sleep disorders.
- Some people might have adverse reactions to Angelica, including drowsiness, headaches, and an upset stomach.
- According to Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, there’s almost no malady or ailment that Angelica can’t treat, from sore throats to cancer.
Cooking With Angelica
The most common way of consuming Angelica is in tea, but it’s more versatile than you might think; it’s used to flavor ice cream, used candied as a cake topping decoration, and even added to salads.
Angelica Archangelica, the European variety, can flavor jams and preserves, and is widely used in bakery. Here’s a secret: Famous herbal liqueurs, including Benedictine, Chartreuse, and some Vermouth, are flavored with Angelica amongst other herbs and spices, and the plant is one of the most important flavorings in gin.
Get yourself a jar of angelica jam with rhubarb and apples to discover the fantastic flavors behind this amazing plant. You won’t regret it for a second.
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Highly Rated – Social Media Chatter on Angelica