American Angelica. Angelica atropurpurea L.
OTHER COMMON NAMES—Angelica, purple-stemmed angelica, great angelica, high angelica, purple angelica, masterwort.
HABITAT AND RANGE—American Angelica is a native herb, common in swamps and damp places from Labrador to Delaware and west to Minnesota.
DESCRIPTION OF PLANT—This strong-scented, tall, stout perennial reaches a height of from 4 to 6 feet, with a smooth, dark purple, hollow stem 1 to 2 inches in diameter. The leaves are divided into three parts, each of which is again divided into threes; the rather thin segments are oval or ovate, somewhat acute, sharply toothed and sometimes deeply cut, and about 2 inches long. The lower leaves sometimes measure 2 feet in width, while the upper ones are smaller, but all have very broad, expanded stalks. The greenish white flowers are produced from June to July in somewhat roundish, many-rayed umbels or heads, which sometimes are 8 to 10 inches in diameter. The fruits are smooth, compressed and broadly oval. American Angelica root is branched, from 3 to 6 inches long, and less than an inch in diameter. The outside is light, brownish gray, with deep furrows, and the inside nearly white, the whole breaking with a short fracture and the thick bark showing fine resin dots. It has an aromatic odor, and the taste at first is sweetish and spicy, afterwards bitter. The fresh root is said to possess poisonous properties.
The root of the European or garden angelica (Angelica officinalis Moench) supplies much of the angelica root of commerce. This is native in northern Europe and is very widely cultivated, especially in Germany, for the root.
COLLECTION, PRICES AND USES—The root is dug in autumn and carefully dried. Care is also necessary in preserving the root, as it is very liable to the attacks of insects. American Angelica root ranges from 6 to 10 cents a pound.
American Angelica root, which was official in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1860 is used as an aromatic, tonic, stimulant, carminative, diuretic and diaphoretic. In large doses it acts as an emetic.
The seeds are also employed medicinally.