The Health Benefits of Angelica

Purported to help digestive concerns, the herb has some safety concerns

Angelica capsules, extract, dried root, and powder

 Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is a perennial herb used in alternative medicine to treat a wide range of conditions ranging from heartburn to insomnia. Angelica contains chemicals that may help eradicate fungus, reduce anxiety, settle the stomach, and aid in the treatment of cancer. But scientific evidence to support the herb's use for health purposes is lacking.

According to folklore, angelica is named after an angel that appeared in plague-ridden Europe and showed a monk the angelica plant as a cure. Today, in addition to the use of angelica extracts and teas as medicine, the herb is used in cooking and as a flavoring agent in alcoholic beverages such as gin and benedictine.

Also Known As

  • European angelica
  • Garden angelica

Herbal angelica should not be confused with Chinese angelica (Angelica sinensis), also called dong quai

Health Benefits

While there has been some research investigating the potential effects that angelica may have on health, strong scientific evidence supporting the use of Angelica is lacking.

For instance, one study published in 2019 explored the use of angelica archangelica as an antitumor agent in the treatment of breast cancer. But the research so far has been limited to rodent and in vitro studies (test tubes). There is no way to know if there may be a benefit for humans.

Here's a look at what existing research says about angelica.

Digestive Issues

Scientific evidence supporting the use of angelic for any digestive issues is scant. Furthermore, the dated and limited evidence that is available suggesting that angelica may help calm digestive issues investigates the use of angelica in combination with other herbal treatments.

While there is a possibility that angelica may help to calm stomach issues like dyspepsia, more research needs to be done to understand its benefits.

In some countries, alternative medicine practitioners have used angelica in combination with other herbs for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

In a review published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers only suggested that angelica and other herbal preparations "could be studied" for their role in the treatment of IBS.

Nocturia

Nocturia is a condition defined as the need to wake from sleep one or more times to urinate. A 2017 study published in the Scandanavian Journal of Urology investigated angelica's potential use as a treatment for the condition.

Researchers used a specific product derived from the Angelica archangelica leaf to treat 69 men age 45 and over. The patients were randomized to receive the herbal treatment or placebo in a double-blind design for eight weeks. Voiding diaries were assessed before and after the treatment.

Researchers concluded that the herbal treatment was safe, but that it did not improve nocturia overall compared to placebo.

Possible Side Effects

Angelica is likely safe when consumed in amounts typically found in food. However, not enough is known about the use of angelica for medicinal purposes to say the same.

People taking angelica should avoid excess sun exposure because angelica can increase the skin's sensitivity to light.

In animal studies, compounds in angelica called furocoumarins have been linked with cancer.

Pregnant women should not use angelica. Angelica may cause uterine contractions, which could threaten the pregnancy.

Remember that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using it for any health purpose, make sure to consult your healthcare provider first.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Angelica is available in health food stores and online. The dried herb can also be purchased to be used in tea.

When purchasing angelica in any form, be sure to read product labels. Some products identified as angelica may be made from dong quai. Also, angelica may be combined with other ingredients.

Keep in mind that supplements like angelica are largely unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to government standards, it is not legal to market a dietary supplement as a treatment or cure for a specific disease or to alleviate the symptoms of a disease. But the products are not tested by the FDA for safety or effectiveness.

In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In others, the product may be contaminated with other substances (a particular concern when it comes to herbs imported from China).

Some consumers look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, TU.S. Pharmacopeia, or NSF International. These organizations don't guarantee that a product is safe or effective, but they do provide a certain level of testing for quality.

How to Make Angelica Tea

Add one cup of boiling water to one teaspoon of dried angelica and steep covered for at least 10 minutes. Some alternative practitioners suggest drinking 1/3 cup of angelica tea 30 minutes before each meal.

Common Questions

What does angelica taste like?
Angelica has an earthy, woody flavor that is slightly bitter. Some compare it to the taste of juniper berries.

How is angelica used in cooking?
Some people use dried angelica seeds in liqueurs, cakes, cookies, and confections. Candied angelica is a treat that can be made at home and consumed after a meal.

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Article Sources
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  1. Angelica. Professional Monograph. Natural Medicines Database. Therapeutic Research Center. Updated 9/16/2020

  2. Oliveira, C. R., Spindola, D. G., Garcia, D. M., Erustes, A., Bechara, A., Palmeira-dos-Santos, C., … Bincoletto, C. Medicinal properties of Angelica archangelica root extract: Cytotoxicity in breast cancer cells and its protective effects against in vivo tumor development. Journal of Integrative Medicine, (2019) 17(2), 132–140. doi:10.1016/j.joim.2019.02.001

  3. Melzer, J., Rösch, W., Reichling, J., Brignoli, R., & Saller, R. Meta-analysis: phytotherapy of functional dyspepsia with the herbal drug preparation STW 5 (Iberogast). Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 20(11-12), 1279–1287. (2004). doi:10.1111/j.1365-2036.2004.02275.x

  4. Rahimi R, Abdollahi M. Herbal medicines for the management of irritable bowel syndrome: a comprehensive review. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(7):589-600. doi:10.3748/wjg.v18.i7.589

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