Angelica (Dang Gui)
Botanical Name: Western – Angelica archangelica, A. offcinalis, A. sylvestris. Eastern – Angelica sinensis, A. polymorpha.
Since very early times, Angelica or Dang Gui has been viewed as a cure-all, blood purifier, digestive and protector against enchantment and plagues. The Chinese revere it as one of the fundamental herbs aiding female disorders. Due to their aromatic qualities the dried leaves are used in preparing hop bitters.
Below is an overview of angelica, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of angelica.
Western Name: Angelica
Also Known As: Angelica Root, Choraka, Holy Ghost, Angel’s Food, Aunt Jericho, St Michael’s Flower, Archangel
Organs/Systems: Heart, Lungs, Uterus, Joints, Stomach
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Carminative, Stimulant, Diaporetic, Stomachic, Tonic, Expectorant, Emmenagogue, Digestive, heartburn, intestinal gas, loss of appetite, arthritis, circulation, anxiety, insomnia, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, promotes urination, improves sex drive, antiseptic. Used externally for joint pain, nerve pain, and skin disorders. The resin Angelicin is stimulating to the lungs and skin. Treats colds, pleurisy, coughs, fevers. Fresh leaves are used in poultices for lung and chest diseases. Traditional birthing herb used to assist delayed labor and to help expel the placenta following childbirth.
Pin Yin: Dang Gui
Also Known As: Dong Qui, Dang Quai, Tang Guai (literal translation means “State of Return”)
Meridians: Heart, Liver, Spleen
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Tonifies the Blood/Regulates Menses: Patterns of blood deficiency and especially those associated with menses. Invigorates and Harmonizes Blood/Disperses Cold: Important herb for stopping pain due to blood stasis. Commonly used for abdominal pain and traumatic injury. Also used with blood deficiency and wind-damp painful obstructions. Moistens Intestines/Unblocks the Bowels. Reduces Swelling/Expels Pus/Generates Flesh/Alleviates Pain: Sores, abscesses where tonifying and moving blood aids recovery.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Root, Seed, Leaves, Fruit
Flavors/Temps: Warming, Sweet, Acrid, Bitter
Caution: Considered a tonic herb and generally very safe.
History/Folklore: Roots are used medicinally and the stems for flavoring candy and stews. The stems were also used to prevent and aid indigestion, the only herb stronger was ginger. Angelica has a long history protecting against contagion, purifying the blood, and curing every conceivable ailment. After introduction into Christianity, the plant became associated with an archangelic patronage and was associated with the spring-time festival of the Annunciation. In one legend, Angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel to cure the plague and gave the plant its name, “Angelica.” Another source for its name is thought to be that it blooms on the day of Michael the Archangel (May 8th) and therefore a ward against evil spirits and witchcraft. All parts of the plant are believed to protect against harm, spells and enchantments.
Old writers compare the scent of Angelica to musk or juniper, even the roots are fragrant. Even deer and fish were said to be attracted to the plant’s scent so it was used as bait. The roots need to be dried quickly and sealed air-tight in order to maintain their medicinal values for many years. Roots are dug up in the autumn of the first year. The properties are best extracted in alcohol, though water can be used. Natives of Lapland use the fleshy roots as food and the stalks as medicine. Leaves can be added to cooked dishes, soups, and stew. Angelica is said to protect against negative energies and is used in herbal baths to remove curses. It can be sprinkled around the house to purify the environment and protect against unwanted spirits.
In Chinese Medicine, Angelica (Dong Gui) is one of the most respected female tonic herbs. The prepartion of Angelica is an important industry in the South of France where it is purchased by confectioners and also used to make the liquers Vermouth and Chartreuse. It is also used to flavor gin, Dubonnet and Benedictine. Angelica is said to symbolize ecstasy, inspiration and magic. In China, the upper part of the plant is said to treat the head best, the middle part the body, as the middle part is the most tonifying, and the tips of the roots are less tonfiying and more blood moving. Frying the herb in vinegar or wine strengthens the blood-invigorating properties. Toasting to ash enhances its ability to warm the channels and stop bleeding. Herbs that are dry, totally lacking in oil, or have greenish-brown cross section should not be used. Good quality is large, long, moist, oily, fragrant with a yellowish-white cross section.
Volatile oil, Valeric acid, Angelic acid, Sugar, Bitter, Resin (Angelicin), Essential oils (including Terebangelene and other Terpenes), Coumarin compounds, Butylidene phthalide, Ligustilide, Vitamin B12, and Carotene.
The Root of the Holy Ghost
Angelica was held in such esteem that it was called “The Root of the Holy Ghost” in early Christian Europe.
Angelica vs. Hemlock
Use gloves while pruning as the plant can cause dermatitis and photosensitivity. Do NOT confuse with Hemlock which is poisonous and whose leaves smell foul when crushed. Angelica’s leaves are not foul smelling.
Angelica’s seeds and stems are used in confectionery, flavoring and the preparation of liqueurs.
References: For a complete list of references please visit our References and Resources page.
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