The Health Benefits of Angelica

Angelica plant
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Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is a perennial herb used in alternative medicine to treat a wide range of conditions ranging from heartburn to insomnia. According to folklore, it is named after an angel that appeared in plague-ridden Europe and showed a monk the angelica plant as a cure. In addition to its use as a medicine, it is used in cooking and as a flavoring agent in alcoholic beverages such as gin and benedictine.

Other names for the herb include angelica archangelica, European angelica, and garden angelica. Herbal angelica should not be confused with Chinese angelica (Angelica sinensis), also called dong quai

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 its use is lacking.

Health Benefits

In alternative medicine, angelica is used primarily for digestive complaints. Angelica's bitter taste is thought to improve digestion.

Angelica may contain substances that relax intestinal muscles which can help relieve mild cramps, bloating, and gas according to some alternative medicine proponents.

Studies investigating these potential benefits is lacking. Most scientific studies related to angelica investigate angelica sinensis or angelica radix. One study, however, focused on angelica archangelica.

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 aged 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

Not enough is known about the use of angelica for medicinal purposes to know if it is safe. When consumed in amounts typically found in food it is likely safe.

People taking angelica should avoid excess sun exposure because angelica can increase the sensitivity of the skin 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.

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend angelica as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note 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 extract form at some health food stores. The dried herb can also be purchased to be used in tea.

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.

When purchasing angelica extract or angelica tea, 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 other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances. Some consumers look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, 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.

Common Questions

What does angelica taste like?

Sources say that angelica has an earthy, woody flavor that is slightly bitter. Some compare it to the taste of juniper berries.

Can you cook with angelica?

Yes, some people use angelica seeds which can be dried and used in liqueurs, cakes, cookies, and confections. Candied angelica is a popular confection that can be made at home and consumed after a meal.

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