Traditional and Modern Use of Wild Angelica

The name Angelica (Angelica sylvestris) comes from the belief that it dispelled plagues and poisons.

The popular group called ‘angelica’ is named after the Greek angelos, which means ‘a messenger’.

In Christian myth, angelica revealed itself as a cure to the plague in an archangel’s dream, and for centuries it was placed above all other healing herbs.

The English herbalist and botanist John Parkinson (1567–1650), in his work Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris (Park-in-Sun’s Terrestrial Paradise, 1629) wrote:

“it is so goode an herbe that there is no part thereof but is of much use.”

There are around thirty species of angelica, but it is garden angelica (Angelica archangelica) that is most mentioned in old and new herbal texts.

The wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris) with its tall, furrowed purplish stalks and delicate umbels of flowers that, as Geoffrey Grigson says, “seem to have been dipped in claret”, is an almost forgotten plant.

Its species name Sylvestris means “wild, of or from woods or forests”, yet it is angelic by association to A. archangelica and has acquired many archangel names through time.

Wild angelica (A. sylvestris) is a native British species, but by the days of the great herbalists, such as Parkinson, Gerard, and Culpeper, the species known as garden angelica (A. archangelica) had made its way across Europe (originating from Syria according to some authorities) to cooler, northern climates as far as Lapland and Iceland.

Wild angelica - Angelica-sylvestris-illus
Wild angelica

Common Name

Wild Angelica

Scientific Name

Angelica sylvestris

Family

Apiaceae

Botanical Description

Stem 2-3 feet high, slightly downy above, purplish ; leaflets equal, ovate-lanceolate or ovate, often the at base, incisoserrate not decurrent, lateral ones rather unequal at the base; flowers pinkish-white, with an involucre of about three leaves.

Status

Perennial. Native.

Habitat and Distribution

Deciduous woodland, ditches, fens, marsh, ponds & pond edges, river banks.

Wild angelica occurs throughout most of Europe, east through Russia to western China and in a small area of northeastern North America.

Parts Used For Food

Leaf, seed, stem, root.

Harvest Time

Leaf: Spring
Stem: Early summer
Seed: Late summer
Root: Autumn

Food Uses

The leaf stalks have traditionally been blanched and eaten as a celery substitute. Goes well combined with rhubarb in various desserts, jams and sauces.

The leaves are aromatic and have a mild liquorice flavour which goes well in salads. Great with poultry or fish.

Bygone cookbooks often had recipes for candied Angelica flower stems and leafstalks, which were used in confectionary, cakes and pastries.

The young flower heads while still enclosed in their sheaths can be eaten in salads, omelettes or grilled and served with oil and vinegar.

The roots and seeds are used to make an essential oil to flavour ice cream, cordials, sweets and various bakery products.

Used in alcoholic beverages such as gin, vodka, Tatra, Liqueur d’Angelique, vermouth, Chartreuse, Benedictine Liqueur etc.

The dried leaves were once used in the preparation of hop bitters.

All parts of the plant can be brewed into a tea.

Wild Angelica Recipes

Nutrition of Wild Angelica

I can’t find any at present.

Other Uses

A yellow dye can be obtained from it.

According to a 1679 ‘Receipt book’, one can crush the seeds of wild angelica, then sprinkle the mixture on the head. Thereby killing the head lice after a short time.

The seeds need gathering around Lammas (August).

Cautions

Wild angelica is a phototoxic plant. Which means some people may be sensitive to the sap due to the furanocoumarin content.

Getting the sap on you from any member of this genus might increase your skin sensitivity to sunlight and cause contact dermatitis (phytophotodermatitis).

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4 thoughts on “Traditional and Modern Use of Wild Angelica

  1. Love this! I’ve never grown A. archangelica as I thought it was just for candying but have been noticing A. sylvestris coming into flower and admiring the purple stems. Great to know I can eat it too ~ will be collecting seeds this autumn! What is the plant that looks just the same, growing in the same situation, but green stems?

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