Angelica

The genus Angelica is a unique member of the family Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae), for its pervading aromatic odour, entirely different from other members such as fennel, parsley, anise and caraway: here even the roots are aromatic. There are more than 40 species of Angelica, but A, archangelica (syn. A, officinalis Moench; Archangelica officinalis (Moench) Hoffm.) is the only one officially used in medicine and as a spice. As the name indicates, the folklore of North European countries and nations affirms to its merits as a protection against communicable disease, for purifying the blood, and for curing every conceivable malady. According to one Western legend, Angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel as a gift of Mother Angel to cure the plague. Another explanation of the name of this plant is that it blooms on the day of Michael the Archangel, and is on that account an additive against evil spirits and witchcraft. It was valued so much that it was called 'The Root of the Holy Ghost' (Grieve, 1931).

The fruit, young stem and roots are used as food additives and for flavouring (Anon., 2001), for human consumption as a beverage base such as herbal tea and liquors, in medicines (Duke, 1985) and also as an ornamental.

5.4.1 Origin and distribution

The crop is indigenous to Northern Europe and distributed in Temperate Asia - in regions such as Georgia, the Russian Federation (Ciscaucasia, Western Siberia) and also European countries such as Belarus, the Czech and Slovak republics, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands; Norway, Sweden, Ukraine, and also the European part of the Russian Federation and New Zealand. The crop seems to be widely naturalized elsewhere (Wiersema and Leon, 1999). In several London squares and parks, angelica has continued to grow, self-sown, for several generations as a garden escape; in some cases it is appreciated as a useful foliage plant, in others, it is treated rather as an intruding weed. It was exceedingly common on the slopes bordering the Tower of London on the north and west sides and the inhabitants held the plant in high repute, both for its culinary and medicinal use.

Angelica grows in temperate regions at altitude 1000-4000 m and is commercially grown in Belgium, Hungary and Germany. There are 30 or more varieties of angelicas growing around the world. China alone boasts at least ten varieties. In India, angelica is found in a natural state in Kashmir (near water channels) at altitudes of 1000-3900 m, in Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, at altitudes of 1800-3700 m and Sikkim at 30003300 m. It has also been reported from Rajasthan at an attitude of 1200 m and from Bihar. Both A. archangelica and its related species A. glauca are aromatic and used as herbal spices.

5.4.2 Botany and description

Angelica is a stout, aromatic perennial herbaceous plant that flowers every two years. Its habit is confusing, and it is a biennial in the botanical sense of that term. The seedlings attain maturity within 12 months. The plants usually set seed in their third year of growth and the plants die off after seeding once. Rarely, plants flower in their second year.

Angelica is glabrous and it grows to a height of 2-3 m. The stems are hollow, round, jointed, channelled, smooth and purplish; the leaves are ovate, 30-90 cm, 2-3 pinnate, ultimate pinna toothed, leaflets few, ovate or lanceolate. The root is tuberous, aromatic warm, pungent and of bitter sweet taste. The roots of the common angelica are long and spindle-shaped, thick and fleshy and with many long, descending rootlets.

Angelica blossoms in July. The flowers are small and numerous, yellowish or greenish-white in colour, and are grouped into large, globular umbels. Fruits are pale yellow, oblong, 4-6 mm (1/6 to 1/4 inch) in length when ripe, with membranous edges, flattened on one side and convex on the other, which bear three prominent ribs. Both the odour and taste of the fruits are pleasantly aromatic. The schizocarps are oblong or sub-quadrate, somewhat corky, 13 mm x 6 mm. The seeds are dorsally much compressed.

5.4.3 Chemistry

Angelica contains an essential oil, 0.1-0.4% in fresh roots and 0.5-1% in dried root. Fruits contain 1.2-1.3% oil. Oil is extracted by prolonged steam distillation. The major constituents of the root oil are a-pinene, P-pinene, p-cymene, dihydrocarvone, terebangelene and other terpenes, sesquiterpene ketones, angelic acid, valeric resin, alcohols and various acids such as aconitic acid, malic acid, quinic acid, citric acid and oxalic acid. The roots contain five furanocoumarins. The medicinal properties are attributed to these compounds, namely archangelin, prangolarin, oxypeucedanin hydrate, ostsathol and osthol. These are reported to have effect in curing leucoderma. The root oil also contains angelicin, archangelicin, umbelliferone, tiglic acid, etc. Angelicin and archangelin are reported to have spasmolytic activity (Harborne and Baxter, 1993). The phellopterin from fruit is identified as 4-methoxy-7-(y,y-dimethylallyloxy)-psoralen by degradation and synthesis. Seed oil typically is quite a bit higher in P-phellandrene (35-65%) and lower in the musk components (pentadecanolide and tridecanolide) than the root oil. Root oil contain between 10 and 30% P-phellandrene. The seed oil also contains in addition methyl-ethylacetic acid and hydroxy-myristic acid umbelliprenin, isoimperatorin, bergapten, prangolarin, ostruthol and oxypeucedanin hydrate (Harborne and Baxter, 1993; Rastogi and Mehrotra, 1990, 1993; Anon., 2001; http://www.naturedirect2u.com).

Essential oils isolated by hydrodistillation and supercritical CO2 extraction on analysis revealed that the two oils had a widely different percentage composition and the one extracted through supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) exhibited a higher number and concentration of oxygenated compounds (Paroul et al., 2002).

The effect of potential precursors (cinnamic acid, phenylalanine, tyrosine) in three concentrations (0.01; 0.1; 1 mmol/l) on the growth of the culture and coumarin production was investigated in the suspension culture of A. archangelica. The cultures were cultivated under constant illumination (3500 lux) and in the dark. Under constant illumination, coumarin production was decreased by the action of cinnamic acid, but not by tyrosine and phenylalanine (0.01 and 0.1 mmol/l), increased it in comparison with the culture without precursors (Siatka and Kasparova, 2002). Angelica balsam is obtained by extracting the roots with alcohol, and evaporating and extracting the residue with ether. It is a dark brown colour and contains angelica oil, angelica wax and angelicin.

Twenty solvents were tested in the extraction of compounds from the roots of angelica and the calcium-antagonistic activity of the extracts was investigated. Chloroform was found to be the best solvent for the extraction of non-polar, biologically active compounds from the roots of A. archangelica (Harmala et al., 1992).

5.4.4 Functional properties and toxicology

The furanocoumarin content in the leaves is reported to be phytotoxic (Ojala, 1999). Salikhova and Poroshenko (1995) reported that the antimutagenic effect of angelica against thio-TEPA (triethylenethiophosphoramide) mutagenicity in murine bone marrow cells is greater with pretreatment (two hours before) than simultaneous treatment. A commercial preparation, STW 5, consisting of angelica extract along with eight other plant extracts, was tested for its potential anti-ulcerogenic activity against indometacin-induced gastric ulcers of the rat and found beneficial. The cytoprotective activity of the extract was assigned to its flavanoid content and free radical scavenging properties (Khayyal et al., 2001).

5.4.5 Cultivars and varieties

One variety, Dong Quai, is used in China (http://www.naturedirect2u.com). Lundqvist and Andersson (2001) studied the genetic diversity of Angelica along the free-flowing Vindel River in northern Sweden, using starch gel electrophoresis. The diversity was found to increase downstream. Angelica is an insect-pollinated out breeder and the seeds may float for over a year. Dispersal appears to be related to the floating ability of propagules.

5.4.6 Cultivation and production

Propagation is through seed and root propagules. The plant is cultivated in ordinary deep, moist loam, in a shady position, as it thrives well in a damp soil and loves to grow near running water. Seeds should be sown as soon as possible after removing them from the plant; however, they can be stored in a plastic container under refrigeration. Fresh seeds are sown outdoors in autumn for exposure to frost or prechilled in a refrigerator for a few weeks before sowing in spring. Four to six-leaved seedlings are transplanted to a moist shady position, before the roots become immovable. Mulching and irrigation must be provided as required. Angelica needs plenty of fertilizer and moisture.

Red spider mites attack angelica when conditions are dry, so spraying the underside of leaves daily during dry spells is recommended. Application of sulphur on the infested plants early in the morning when the plants are damp are also practised, as the powder will stick better.

Offshoots, produced after harvest of stems, can be transplanted to 60 cm apart and provides a quick method of propagation. This method is considered inferior to that of raising by seed, which as a rule will not need protection during winter.

5.4.7 Harvesting and processing

Leaves are harvested in the spring before the plant blooms. The leaves, stems, seeds and roots are edible and used in cooking, candying, tisanes, teas and liqueurs. Flower stalks and leaf stalks are best when harvested in April-May while leaves are best for flavouring when harvested in June, just before flowering. Roots are dug up just before flowering and dried slowly (Westland, 1987; Clevely and Richmond, 1999).

The seeds are gathered when ripe and dried. The seed-heads should be harvested on a fine day and dry in shade. When dry they are beaten with a rod to remove seeds. Seeds are further dried and stored.

Oil of angelica, which is very expensive, is obtained from seeds by distillation with steam, the vapour being condensed and the oil separated by gravity. A mass of 100 kg of angelica seeds yield 1 kl of oil, and the fresh leaves a little less, the roots yielding only 0.15-0.3 kg.

5.4.8 Quality issues

Leaves, leaf stalks, flower stalks and root oil are the products. Oil is extracted from the root, fruit or seed of the plant. Fresh roots yield oils of lighter colour and more pronounced terpene content. Oil distilled from older roots is darker, more viscous and has a characteristic musk-like odour. Oil from young roots (or from the seed) exhibits a light, somewhat peppery top note missing in oils from older (2-3 yr) roots. Seed oil is colourless or very pale yellow with a strong, fresh, light peppery odour. It is sometimes used to adulterate the root oil and can be difficult to detect (http://www.naturedirect2u.com).

5.4.9 End uses

In food flavouring

Angelica is a favourite flavouring herb in Western culinary art. Leaves are used dried or fresh as a tisane, which helps in reducing fever and cold. Because of its lovely colour and scent it is often used to decorate cakes and pastry and for flavouring jams. Angelica jams and jellies are favourites. Leaf stalks are employed in confectionery. Young leaves and shoots are used to flavour wine and liquors, while the stout stems are candied as a cake decoration or cooked like rhubarb. Essential oil is used in the perfume and flavour industries. Angelica root is the main flavouring ingredient of gin. It is widely used in liqueurs such as benedictine, chartreuse, cointreau and vermouth (http://www.naturedirect2u.com).

Angelica is largely used in the grocery trade, as well as for medicine, and is a popular flavouring for confectionery and liqueurs. The appreciation of its unique flavour was established from ancient times. The preparation of angelica is a small but important industry in the south of France, its cultivation being centralized in Clermont Ferrand. The stem is largely used in the preparation of preserved fruits and 'confitures' generally, and is also used as an aromatic garnish by confectioners. The seeds, which are aromatic and bitterish in taste, are employed in alcoholic distillates, especially in the preparation of vermouth and similar preparations, as well as in other liqueurs. From ancient times, angelica has been one of the chief flavouring ingredients of beverages and liqueurs. The seed oil is used as flavouring for beverages and also medicinally. Chopped leaves of angelica may be added to fruit salads, fish dishes and cottage cheese in small amounts. Leaves are added to sour fruit such as rhubarb to neutralize acidity. Stems are boiled with jams to improve the flavour. Young stems can be used as a substitute for celery. All parts promote perspiration, stimulate appetite and digestion, and are used to treat ailments of the chest. Young leaves and shoots are used to flavour wines and liqueurs, while the stout stems are candied as a cake decoration. Fresh or preserved roots have been added to snuff and used by Laplanders and North American Indians as tobacco (Clevley and Richmond, 1999).

In order to retain their medicinal virtues for many years, angelica roots are dried rapidly and placed in airtight containers. Fresh root has a yellowish-grey epidermis, and yields a honey-coloured juice, when bruised, having all the aromatic properties of the plant. If an incision is made in the bark of the stems and the crown of the root at the commencement of spring, this resinous gum will exude. It has a special aromatic flavour of musk or benzoin, and can be used as a substitute for either of these. The dried root, as it appears in commerce, is greyish brown and much wrinkled externally, whitish and spongy within and breaks with a starchy fracture, exhibiting shining, resinous spots. The odour is strong and fragrant, and the taste at first sweetish, afterwards warm, aromatic, bitterish and somewhat musky. These properties are extracted by alcohol.

In medicine

The roots, leaves and seeds are used for medicinal purposes. The whole plant is aromatic, but the root is official only in the Swiss, Austrian and German pharmacopoeias. For medicinal use, the whole herb is collected in June and cut shortly above the root. If the stems are too thick, the leaves may be stripped off separately and dried on wire or netting trays. The stem, which is in great demand when trimmed and candied, should be cut in about June or early July.

Properties of the herb (and extract) are: antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, anticoagulant, bactericidal, carminative, depurative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, hepatic, nervine, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. Powdered root is administered to children in warm water for stomach complaints to check vomiting. It is also used in leucoderma. All parts promote perspiration, stimulate appetite, and are used to treat ailments of the chest and digestion (Westland, 1987). It is an alternative to artificial hormones during the menopause, a remedy for menstrual problems, a tonic for anemia, and a treatment for heart disease and high blood pressure. Medieval and Renaissance herbalists noted the blood-purifying powers of angelica. It was used as a remedy for poisons, agues and all infectious maladies. The fleshy roots were chewed and burnt to ward off infection during the 14th- and 15th-century plagues. It stimulates production of digestive juices, improves the flow of bile into the digestive tract, and combats digestive spasms. The oil has been recommended for treating a weak stomach or digestive system, lack of appetite, anorexia, flatulence, chronic gastritis and chronic enteritis. It is also used to reduce accumulation of toxins, arthritis, gout and rheumatism and water retention. In the traditional Chinese medicine, angelica is used for damp, cold intestinal conditions with underlying spleen Qi deficiency, as well as chronic lung, phlegm, cold syndromes with painful wheezing. In aromatherapy, it is a germ killer, excellent for coughs and colds, flu, muscular aches, fatigue, migraine, nervous tension, stress and rheumatism. It has a calming effect on the digestion and is relaxing (http://www.naturedirect2u.com).

The yellow juice from the stem and root, when dry, is a valuable medicine in chronic rheumatism and gout. Taken in medicinal form, angelica is said to cause disgust for alcoholic spirits. It is a good vehicle for nauseous medicines and forms one of the ingredients in compound spirit of aniseed.

5.4.10 Recipes and formulations

To preserve angelica

Cut into 10 cm (4 inch) long pieces and steep for 12 hours in salt and water. Put a layer of cabbage or cauliflower leaves in a clean brass pan, then a layer of angelica, then another layer of leaves and so on, finishing with a layer of leaves on the top. Cover with water and vinegar. Boil slowly until the angelica becomes quite green, then strain and weigh the stems. Use 1 kg loafsugar to each kg of stems. Put the sugar in a clean pan with water to cover; boil for ten minutes and pour this syrup over the angelica and allow to stand for 12 hours. Pour off the syrup, boil it up for five minutes and pour it again over the angelica. Repeat the process, and after the angelica has stood in the syrup for 12 hours, put in a brass pan and boil until tender. Then take out the angelica pieces, put them in a jar and pour the syrup over them, or dry them on a sieve and sprinkle them with sugar: they then form candy. Confectioners have evolved their own methods of candying angelica.

Angelica liqueur

A delicious liqueur, which is also a digestive, preserving all the virtues of the plant, is made in this way: 28 g (1 ounce) of the freshly gathered stem of angelica is chopped up and steeped in 1.21 (two pints) of good brandy for five days together with 28 g (1 ounce) of skinned bitter almonds reduced to a pulp added. The liquid is then strained through fine muslin and 0.61 (1 pint) of liquid sugar added to it.

Angelica is used in the preparation of vermouth and chartreuse. Though the tender leaflets of the blades of the leaves have sometimes been recommended as a substitute for spinach, they are too bitter for the general taste, but the blanched mid-ribs of the leaf, boiled and used as celery, are delicious, and Icelanders eat both the stem and the roots raw, with butter. In Lapland, the inhabitants regard the stalks of angelica as a great delicacy. The Finns eat the young stems baked in hot ashes, and an infusion of the dried herb is drunk either hot or cold. Angelica makes a drink much in use in Continental Europe for typhus fever: pour 1.21 (2 pints) of boiling water on 170 g (6 oz) of angelica root sliced thin, infuse for half an hour, strain and add juice of two lemons, 110 g (4 oz) of honey and 70 ml (1/8 pint) of brandy. The Norwegians use the roots for making breads.

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