Angelica is generally considered a warm, sweet or pungent, building herb that moves blood and opens pathways, allowing dampness and stuck or lingering pain to clear. In modern herbal tradition, A. archangelica and A. sinensis have become most popular as Women’s Medicine. Each has been used by their native cultures for more than that, of course, but when you look at how they help women in their fertile years you get a good idea of the medicine Angelica species in general offer.
Angelica in Traditional Western Herbalism
Traditional Western Herbalism, rooted in European traditions and heavily influenced by Unami Tibb and Native North American practices, relied on A. archangelica for both food and medicine. Matthew Wood describes A. archangelica and its North American cousin A. atropurpurea, as Bear Medicine. As such, it warms and stimulates, getting blood moving and helping one build tissues. People with a Vata constitution, who are pale, thin, and potentially undernourished or recovering from a grave trauma or illness are well-suited to the rebuilding aspect of this herb. It can also be quite helpful, according to Wood, for those who are of a stout, strong, Bear-like constitution, too. In both cases, look for indications of blood stagnation, such as pale to blue-tinged fingertips or forearms with bruise-like blotching. Blue-green to Yellow-gray tones around the veins are another indication of blood stagnation.
Angelica archangelica has been used, too, to balance the nervous system in modern Traditional Western Herbalism practice. It opens the pores and channels, allowing digestion that has stagnated or been shut down by an overactive sympathetic nervous system to resume a natural course and encouraging digestion that has become insatiable or excessive due to an overactive parasympathetic nervous system to relax. This supports the long-standing European use of A. archangelica root as a carminative to promote healthy digestion.
According to Traditional Western Herbalism, A. archangelica is pungent, bitter, sweet, oily, warm, and stimulating. It supports healthy functioning of the stomach, liver and kidneys, helping the body to accept nutrition and circulate it through out the system while also releasing toxins, wastes, and excess water from the system. European herbalists of old used A. angelica to help rebuild the body after prolonged illness or trauma, to support health and balanced fertility in young to mid-aged women, and to support healthy lung and immune function in general. It was also used to help clear swellings, lumps, and glandular or other inflammations, much as modern herbalists use alteratives or lymphatics today.
Angelica in TCM
Traditional Chinese Herbalists have long relied on a set of three Angelica species for a variety of conditions related to dampness, stagnation, and blood. As with so many TCM herbs, each species of Angelica is used primarily in formulation. They are all generally considered warming and acrid to some degree. Angelica archangelica can potentially be substituted for any of the three, if the traditional Chinese Angelicas are not available.
Bai Zhi or A. dahurica, is most often used in formulas for opening the upper orifices in conditions of External Wind Cold, which translates into opening the sinuses and upper respiratory system. Bai Zhi is often included in treatment for Colds, Flus, Sinus infections, allergies, and related conditions, off of which include excessive damp (mucus, drainage) and pain. Bai Zhi has an affinity for opening and moving the Stomach channel, which supports better digestion and can ease pain in the sinuses or face along the stomach channel’s pathway. As such, Bai Zhi or A. dahurica is often included in formulas for a variety of headaches, too. Compared to A. archangelica, Bai Zhi is considered more drying and a stronger pain-reliever by Peter Holmes and other TCM herbal practitioners.
Du Huo or A. pubescens, is most often used in formulas for the muscular-skeletal system and Wind, Damp, Cold Obstruction or Lung Phlegm Cold conditions. In both cases, Du Huo helps warm the channels and move cold or stuck energies. This may look like rheumatism or arthritis in the muscular-skeletal system, manifesting as painful joints and swollen or cold joints, particularly in the lower body described by TCM practioners as Bi pain. In the respiratory system, Du Huo helps move energy through the Ren and Lung channels, opening the lungs and helping move excessive dampness out of the system. Occasionally, Duo Huo is used in formulas for menstrual conditions, much like those treated by A. archangelica or A. sinensis.
Dang Gui, Dong Quai, or A. sinenses, is the most well-known of the TCM Angelica species in the West. It is used in formulas to circulate Qi and move blood in the Lower Warmer, which translates to supporting a healthy menstrual cycle. This affinity for Women’s Medicine is quite likely why Dang Gui is as popular among modern herbalists with or without training in TCM. The generally tonic, or building, nature of Dang Gui makes it a fairly safe herb for most women to try with or without the supervision of a TCM herbal expert, which has helped it gain the spotlight in mainstream herbal medicine. Dang Gui is most often used in formulas for uterus Qi stagnation with blood congealed, resulting in late or absent menstruation or difficult or painful menstruation. Often, this is accompanied by headache, irritability, and a clotted flow. When menses are irregular with stress and insomnia, and there is Liver of Heart Fire with Qi constraint Dang Gui may be included in the formula, too. Dang Gui can be used in place of any of the other Angelicas in many formulas, but it’s affinity is strongly for blood-related problems, which makes it the favorite for Menstrual difficulties.
Angelica in Ayurveda
Ayurvedic practice does not make strong use of Angelica, or Choraka, preferring instead Shatavari, a member of the asparagus family, as a lifelong tonic herb for women of fertile age. Despite that, Angelica has made its way from both Traditional Western Herbalism and Traditional Chinese Herbalism into India and Ayurvedic practice. Most often, when Angelica is referenced in Ayurvedic herbalism, it is A. sinenses that’s being discussed and most often the treatment is centered around Menstrual symptoms. In The Yoga of Herbs, Drs. Frawley and Lad suggest using Shatavari and Dang Gui together as a tonic to support balanced doshas during the fertile years.
Angelica is considered balancing to all the doshas, although when Pitta is excessive it can potentially push the system further out of balance. Angelica’s warming nature may increase Pitta if Pitta is already excessive. Vata constitutions are the most obvious candidates for Angelica, but consider it for Kapha-dominant constitutional types and particularly Kapha-Vata or Vata-Kapha constitutions, too. Look for signs of Pitta stagnation or excessive Kapha that affect the blood, lungs, or digestive system. Likewise, deranged Vata may also call for use of Angelica, such as with colds, flus, and weight that’s either excessive or insufficient coupled with circulatory problems or excessive damp conditions.
Angelica as a Spirit Medicine
Matthew Wood and Stephen Harrod Buhner speak of Angelica as a Spirit Medicine. Both draw on Native American traditions and use of Angelica in the Sweat Lodge and as a Dreaming Medicine. Angelica is said to help one open to the realms of the Divine, offering the ability to connect with one’s higher purpose and Teachers or Spirit Guides. Wood speaks of Angelica in Shamanic practice as an incense plant who helps connect one to the Other Worlds and as an herb that has been used for Shamanic Dreaming practices.
According to Buhner, Angelica has a particular affinity for women (or men) who have a hollow or empty place within and/or feel out of balance in their lives or bodies. Angelica’s ability to balance our energies helps us step into greater balance with Nature, Spirit, and our lives. Angelica is connected with Mature Wisdom and the ability to walk between worlds with grace and confidence, being neither unbalanced nor lost in the process.
Angelica Flower Essence
Bridging the gap between Heaven and Earth is the Calling of Angelica. Shamans and medicine people for centuries have sought Angelica’s protection and assistance in walking between the worlds and most especially crossing from the Middle World into the Upper World safely. Angelica Flower Essence in modern society is helpful to those who make their living doing highly abstract intellectual work, like blogging or creating Websites or doing just about anything relating to the internet as well as other types of abstract thinking work that requires one to exist essentially in two worlds, the world of the abstract and the world of the material.
Irritability, eating disorders, a feeling of isolation or lack of strong connection to family or friends, relationship problems at work or home that are often blamed on work, and a strong desire to retreat into one’s work or escape into similarly other worldly pursuits like gaming and Spiritual practice rather than spending time on the more material side of life are potential signs that Angelica’s medicine is needed. Angelica Flower Essence can help one to remember one’s connection to both the Divine or abstract while focusing on the Body or material and likewise remember one’s connection to the Body or material when focusing on the Divine or abstract. Spiritually, Angelica offers guidance and protection with an eye toward remaining balanced in one’s pursuits.
- The Earthwise Herbal, Volume I: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants
- Jade Remedies: A Chinese Herbal Reference for the West, Vol. 1
- Jade Remedies: A Chinese Herbal Reference for the West, Vol. 2
- The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine
- Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism