Medically reviewed on May 15, 2018
Scientific Name(s): Angelica archangelica L., synonymous with Archangelica officinalis Hoffm. Family: Apiaceae (carrots)
Common Name(s): European angelica , Echt engelwurz (German)
Often used as a flavoring or scent, angelica has been used medicinally to stimulate gastric secretion, treat flatulence, and topically treat rheumatic and skin disorders; however, there is little documentation to support these uses.
Angelica root typically is given at doses of 3 to 6 g/day of the crude root.
The leaf and seed of angelica are unapproved.
Documented adverse effects. Emmenagogue effects. Avoid use.
Avoid using angelica root concurrently with warfarin.
Furanocoumarins in the plant may cause photodermatitis.
Poisoning has been reported with high doses of angelica oils.
Angelica is a widely cultivated, aromatic biennial, northern European herb with fleshy, spindle-shaped roots, an erect stalk, and many greenish-yellow flowers arranged in an umbel. The seeds are oblong and off-white. It is similar to and sometimes confused with the extremely toxic water hemlock, Cicuta maculata .
There are several recognized varieties of A. archangelica , wild and cultivated. In the US, A. atropurpurea L. often is cultivated in place of the European species.
Angelica has been cultivated as a medicinal and flavoring plant in Scandinavian countries since the 12th century and in England since the 16th century. The roots and seeds are used to distill about 1% of a volatile oil used in perfumery and as a flavoring for gin and other alcoholic beverages. The candied leaves and stems are used to decorate cakes. The oil has been used medicinally to stimulate gastric secretion, treat flatulence, and topically treat rheumatic and skin disorders.
The volatile oil contains many monoterpenes; β-phellandrene is the principal component of var. angelica , while sabinene is the most abundant monoterpene of var. sativa . 1 Sesquiterpenes also are numerous in the oil; α-copaene and other tricyclic sesquiterpenes are characteristic constituents. 2 Supercritical fluid extraction has been studied as an alternative method of extracting angelica volatiles. 3 The shelf life of the root is limited because of the loss of the volatile oil while in storage.
The small organic acid, angelic acid, was the first compound purified from the root in 1842. 4 15-pentadecanolide ( Exaltolide ) is a fatty acid lactone constituent of the root with a musk-like odor, used as a fixative in perfumes. 5
As with most of the many species of angelica, A. archangelica contains a wide variety of coumarins and their glycosides. The angular furanocoumarins, archangelicin 6 and angelicin, 7 and congeners 8 are present in the roots, and many glycosides and esters of linear furanocoumarins also have been reported.
A trisaccharide, umbelliferose, originally was isolated from angelica roots. 9
Uses and Pharmacology
Angelica has been used medicinally to stimulate gastric secretion, treat flatulence, and topically treat rheumatic and skin disorders.Sedation
Angelic acid was formerly used as a sedative. The angular furanocoumarin angelicin also has been reported to have sedative properties, although recent experimental evidence of this is limited. The carminative action of the volatile oil is because of an unremarkable monoterpene content.Animal data
Research reveals no animal data regarding the use of angelica for sedation.Clinical data
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of angelica for sedation.Other uses
Angelica root oil was preferentially relaxant on tracheal smooth muscle preparations compared with ileal muscle. 10 The oil had no effect on skeletal muscle in a second study. 11 The calcium-blocking activity of angelica root has been examined relative to solvent used in extraction, and furanocoumarins were identified as the likely active species. 12 The root oil has been found to have antifungal and antibacterial activity. 13
Angelica root typically is given at doses of 3 to 6 g/day of the crude root. 14
Documented adverse effects. Emmenagogue effects. Avoid use. 15
Theoretically, there is a possible increased risk of bleeding when using angelica root concurrently with warfarin. The additive or synergistic effects of coumarin or coumarin derivatives possibly may be present in angelica root. 16 , 17 Because warfarin has a narrow therapeutic index, it would be prudent to avoid concurrent use.
The linear furanocoumarins are well-known dermal photosensitizers, while the angular furanocoumarins are less toxic. 18 The presence of linear furanocoumarins in the root indicates that the plant parts should be used with caution if exposure to sunlight is expected. The coumarins are not important constituents of the oil, which, therefore, gives the oil a greater margin of safety in that respect.
Poisoning has been recorded with high doses of angelica oils.
Bibliography1. Kerrola K, et al. Characterization of volatile composition and odor of Angelica ( Angelica archangelica subsp. archangelica L.) root extracts. J Agric Food Chem . 1994;42:1979-1985.
2. Jacobson M, et al. Optical isomers of α-copaene derived from several plant sources. J Agric Food Chem . 1987;35:798-800.
3. Kerrola K, et al. Extraction of volatile compounds of Angelica ( Angelica archangelica L.) root by liquid carbon dioxide. J Agric Food Chem . 1994;42:2235-2245.
4. Buchner L. Justus Liebigs Ann Chem . 1842;42:226.
5. Stanchev S, et al. A short synthesis of 15-pentadecanolide. Tetrahedron Lett . 1993;34:6107-6108.
6. Nielsen B, et al. The structure of archangelicin, a coumarin from Angelica archangelica L. subsp. litoralis Thell. Acta Chem Scand . 1964;18:932-936.
7. Corcilius F. Isolation of a new coumarin. Arch Pharm 1956;289:81-86.
8. Härmälä P, et al. A furanocoumarin from Angelica archangelica . Planta Med . 1992;58:287-289.
9. Wikström A, et al. La structure d'un isomère du raffinose isolé des racines de l' Angélica archangélica L. subsp. norvégica (Rupr.) Nordh. Acta Chem Scand . 1956;10:1199-1207.
10. Reiter M, et al. Relaxant effects on tracheal and ileal smooth muscles of the guinea pig. Arzneimittelforschung . 1985;35:408-414.
11. Lis-Balchin M, et al. A preliminary study of the effect of essential oils on skeletal and smooth muscle in vitro. J Ethnopharmacol . 1997;58:183-187.
12. Härmälä P, et al. Choice of solvent in the extraction of Angelica archangelica roots with reference to calcium blocking activity. Planta Med . 1992;58:176-182.
13. Opdyke D. Angelica root oil. Food Cosmet Toxicol . 1975;13:713.
14. Blumenthal M, Brinckmann J, Goldberg A, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs . Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
15. Ernst E. Herbal medicinal products during pregnancy: are they safe? BJOG . 2002;109:227-235.
16. Miller L. Herbal medicinals: selected clinical considerations focusing on known or potential drug-herb interactions. Arch Intern Med . 1998;158:2200-2211.
17. Heck A. Potential interactions between alternative therapies and warfarin. Am J Health Syst Pharm . 2000;57:1221-1227.
18. Ceska O, et al. Naturally occurring crystals of photocarcinogenic furocoumarins on the surface of parsnip roots sold as food. Experientia . 1986;42:1302-1304.
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