During the 16 and 17th centuries angelica was combined with other herbs to make "Carmelite water", a medieval drink thought to cure headache, promote relaxation, and long life, and protect against poisons and witches' spells.
After the bacterial theory was proven in relation to the bubonic plaque of 1665 it was realized that Angelica had antibacterial properties. Some folks chew the dried root for its anti-viral properties. It has been shown to be effective against fungi such as Candida Albican which is a primary yeast infection that can be focal or systemic. It is effective against diseases of the urinary organs.
There are fifteen compounds that act much like calcium channel blockers used in treatment of heart problems related to angina. (Duke, 55, 291) Other medicinal qualities are: Carminative, antispasmodic, topical anti-inflammatory, diuretic, expectorant, digestive tonic, anti-rheumatic, uterine stimulant, cholagogue (gallbladder pain), stomatic, and diaphoretic. This herb helps relieve anemia, abdominal bloating, chronic bronchitis, dyspepsia, flatulence, gastrointestinal spasms, loss of appetite, peptic discomforts, arthritis and joint pain, typhoid, ulcers. It has been used as a blood purifier, to promote blood circulation and in both sexes. It relieves peripheral circulation problems and reduces high blood pressure by acting to stabilize blood vessels.
Excess dosage may affect heart rate and blood pressure as well as increase the level of sugar in the blood.
The upper part of the root is considered a great blood builder. The tail of the root is used in emergencies as a blood clot dissolver after serious accidents or for expelling retained afterbirth (placenta). The coumarins are a valuable medication for reducing high protein edemas such as swelling of the lymph nodes (lymphedema). It has also been used to treat psoriasis accompanying arthritis. (holistic online.com) It is also hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, and analgesic.
Angelica roots and leaves are used for medicinal purposes although the stems were used in olden times when the Doctrine of Signatures was a popular way to choosing herbal remedies. Because the stems are hollow it was thought that they aided in healing respiratory ailments. Latter day German researchers have discovered that angelica relaxes the windpipe, suggesting that it has some validity in treatment of colds, flu,bronchitis and asthma. Additional research has also validated its use in digestive complaints as it is found to relax the intestines. Japanese researchers have reported anti-inflammatory effects confirming the use of angelica to treat arthritic problems.
Preliminary research from China suggest that angelica increases red blood cell counts meaning that some day it will be justified in the treatment of anemias. "The Chinese researchers also reported angelica increases the ability of blood to clot." (Castleman 46)
If this is proven out it is good news for peoples with clotting impairment. On the other side of the coin it means that those with heart disease or at risk of heart disease should be aware of the possible decrease in blood clotting factor. This can lead to decreased blood flow and could trigger a heart attack. Other Chinese preliminary research found that angelica improves liver function in those dealing with liver cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis. "No specific recommendations can be made at this time about using angelica for liver problems." (Castleman 47) There does not seem to be a safety concern for those people with kidney problems.
Specific species are identified with specific health problems but if that species is not available another will be used. This practice probably helps keep one species from being decimated as has happened in the wild in Europe. In North American Angelica archangelica is still very abundant in the wild even though it is being cultivated as well.
One of the North American angelica species currently being investigated for further medicinal use is Angelica hendersonii, which is very common to the Pacific coastal area.
"Wild angelica [Angelica dahurica] can reduce the risk of bone fracture in female athletes with irregular menstrual cycles. It also can reduce the risk of fracture among people taking steroid treatment." (Balch 142)
"Angelica is one of the best bitter tonic ingredients, and is added to many formulas because it is bitter, spicy, [pungent] and aromatic. The warming attributes help moderate and balance the bitter taste of gentian and other bitter herbs." (Hobbs 212-213) By adding spices such as ginger, a little licorice, fennel and artichoke to angelica a wonderful digestive aid is made. In traditional medicine circles of both Europe and China, bitter tonics are thought to tonify and strengthen the digestive tract as well as the whole nervous system and the vital energy of the whole body. Bitter tonic formula, referred to as "bitters", usually contain bitter herbs such as angelica, gentian, golden seal, artichoke, and blessed thistle plus some aromatic or spicy herbs such as ginger, fennel or cardamom, to help counteract the tendency of the formula to cool and contract the digestive tract in some people. Bitters are still used extensively in many cultures to strengthen digestion. Europe has "bitters cafes” which are a popular social stop on the way home after work, as the bitters are thought to prime the digestive tract for the evening meal. Who has not heard of "Angostura Bitters"? Most often this is associated with an alcoholic beverage. Many ready-made bitter formulas are readily available in natural food stores, even in some grocery stores and liquor stores. But be very careful of the grocery and liquor stores as they probably have sugar and other undesirable additives in their products. Both Chinese and European naturopathic physicians recommend eating bitter wild greens or small amounts of unripe fruit (green apples) to help increase digestive powers. Most ancient cultures have some sort of bitters in their diet, such as the Greeks and their unripe, sour bitter plums that are eaten before meals. In our own country the salads are eaten before the meal which are basically bitters. It would be much better for us if all the condiments and dressings were cut back on or omitted entirely. Some countries use fresh angelica leaves like we use chicory or members of the lettuce family, which are all members of the bitters family even though a bit on the mild side. Bitters, such as angelica, work in three major ways, they activate the gastric secretions of hydrochloric acid and other digestive enzymes, such as bile. They increase the strength and tone of the autonomic nervous system and they activate the immune system. It seems that bitters may also be helpful in lowering our level of anxiety and counteracting stress. In Europe bitters are used for people recovering from infectious diseases including viral based disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome. Another use is for intestinal problems such as chronic inflammatory disease--irritable bowel syndrome or candidiasis, it is probable the an "auto-immune" inflammatory process is occurring which is causing cramping, pain, scarring and reduced bowel function. In some clinical trials it has been shown that angelica in formulas with other bitter herbs can decrease levels of antibodies and reduce or eliminate symptoms in some people with inflammatory bowel disease.
One variety, Angelica klusiana, contains lahnophyllum lactone and osthol which has been shown to repel sea snails.