Herb of the Week: Angelica.
Latin: Angelica archangelica (and other species of Angelica).
Family: Apiaceae, Umbelliferae, carrot family.
Parts used: Root, seeds, the rest
Taste: aromatic, bitter
4 humors: Dry. Warm to hot.
- helps gut and menstrual cramps, helps with coughs (= antispasmodic)
- helps the digestion and the appetite (= bitter, digestive)
- emmenagogue, helps separate the placenta from the uterus (thanks Miriam!) (watch for excessive bleeding if you do decide to use it for this).
- candied stems
- a spice for sour things like rhubarb pie or (sour) apple sauce
- It's one of the few herbs that actually can do something about the bastardly cramps of endometriosis.
- The taste is atrocious unless it's mixed with something sour.
- I've made the candied stems. They didn't turn out so well and I don't really like a) sugary things and b) the taste of angelica.
Comments on Facebook:
From Sara H.:
I do like it as a gentle digestive and for convalescence after illness. I tend to be a bit cautious of it with menstrual cramps unless the bleed is quite light - it can make menstrual bleeding heavier (much like Angelica sin) (Vib op and ginger can work very well for the bastardy cramps of endo - but it is a bastardy condition - hard to make generalisations). I haven't tried candying it!
November 16 at 11:48pm
From Henriette's herbal:
Sara: thanks! I've also used calamus for endometriosis. Good to have another few herbs to add to that arsenal.
November 17 at 8:53am
From Pamela B.:
Food uses : adding to stewed rhubarb and apple is quite nice...
November 17 at 9:10am
From Laura P.:
I have heard that the essential oil is "like a hug from the angels" so useful for emotions that way and also helpful for smokers trying to quit tobacco.
November 18 at 12:39am
Comments on the herblist:
Angelica is a powerful emmenagogue. I have used tincture of dried Angelica root in my former doulah practice to encourage separation of the placenta from the uterus. Although none of those clients experienced post-partum hemorrhage, I always kept a wary eye open for it, and a thermos full of Shepherd's Purse/raspberry leaf tea handy.
Date: 2011 11 16 - 14:10:11 +0200
From Deb Phillips:
I agree with this. I have used Angelica for retained placentas but only if they don't separate in 30 min or so. We have seen many pp hemorrhages for which we use a tincture that I made called anti-bleed. It has black and blue cohosh, shepherd's purse and red raspberry in it.
Date: 2011 11 17 - 04:47:19 +0200
Yes, I was taught to wait half an hour to consider a placenta as retained. No point in dosing for something you expect to happen by itself. I like anti-hemorrhage shepherd's purse and raspberry as tea - the post-partum woman loves it and drinks it eagerly, which is great rehydration as well. But tinctures are a lot easier to carry around than a thermos full of tea.
2011 11 17 - 10:50:22 +0200
From Deb Phillips:
There is so much going on in the first hour after birth that getting tea brewed would just not happen most of the time especially if there was a need for it. But to bring it in a thermos or make it while waiting to use routinely is not a bad idea. Most women would benefit.
2011 11 17 - 17:11:36 +0200
From Alder Catkins:
Henriette wrote: It's one of the few herbs that actually can do something about the bastardly cramps of >endometriosis.
this has caught my attention! especially as you have given such an accurate description of endometriosis cramps. i've always called them "pure evil" but "bastardly" is excellent too:)
i haven't worked with angelica before- can you give me an idea of about how much root to chew on when those cramps hit? or do you use tincture in this case?
also, does anyone have experience using Angelica atropurpurea "purplestem angelica"? if so, have you found it to be similar in action to Angelica archangelica? (interested in whatever you use the atropupurea for, but especially in whether anyone has used that one for menstrual cramps.)
2011 11 19 - 05:06:33 +0200
I give tiny pieces of root (sliced, then broken into triangular pieces) in a small (30 ml) jar.
They have to be recently dried. If they're too old they won't work for this.
They do taste ghastly. Nobody has wanted more than that tiny jar, so far ...
(Another herb I use for endometriosis is calamus root. That works a treat, too. Chewed teensy-tiny pieces - calamus root has a strong, fiery taste, and the usual ½ cm (⅙") pieces of c/s (cut and sifted) calamus root are way too big for chewing. Usually. I have also seen sliced dried root; that was weaker.)
2011 11 19 - 16:08:58 +0200
I use Angelica sinensis (Chinese angelica) extensively in my practice. Although different than the one commonly used in the west, they are from the same family and so I don't think the effects are too distant. The Chinese name is dang gui (or dong quai in some circles).
The two main functions we use it for are tonifying blood (in the case of blood deficiency), and invigorating blood (a term meaning increase blood circulation). It calms pain and also moistens the intestines. The intestinal aspect is useful for people who have dry bowels due to poor bloody quality (and thus poor intestinal nourishment).
It's considered warm in property, so it's contraindicated in situations of heat, like menopausal hot flashes. It will just make them worse. It's great for old injuries that get aggravated and stiffened by cold, or menstrual cramps due to blood stasis or cold conditions of the lower abdomen. A good example of a blood stasis condition is PCOS or endometriosis; we know this because if you look at pictures of those kinds of cysts in surgical records they look purple which means the blood has stagnated in those locations.
It's contraindicated in heat conditions, or damp situations where the body has a lot of excess mucous production.
The tail of the angelica root (called dang gui wei) is better for moving the blood and elimating clotted blood in the body (great for old injuries), and the head is better for nourishing the blood, but most people don't care about this distinction. I sometimes add a whole angelica head to any soup I'm making, especially if it's a chicken soup for the winter time. It really compliments chicken broth quite well! Yum yum! :)
You can read a full professional monograph of dang gui, including modern scientific analysis, here.
2011 11 17 - 04:29:33 +0200
Jason wrote: "It's contraindicated in heat conditions, or damp situations where the body has a lot of excess mucous production."
Damp, really? I do think of Angelica arch. (and that ilk) as drying ... ho hum.
2011 11 17 - 09:53:34 +0200
From Alder Catkins:
Henriette wrote, "Damp, really? I do think of Angelica arch. (and that ilk) as drying ... ho hum."
in regards to that, i was looking up angelica on the herbwifery forum and found a spot where jim was talking about three types of moistening herbs, with one of them being warming aromatics like angelica and osha. he said,
"they are really oily herbs, and the moisture they offer is oil moisture, not water moisture. So, if someone needs water moisture, they won't help much and might aggaravte, but if someone needs oil moisture they can be very helpful. I (who tends to be dry) can use these without much aggravation, but their potential to aggravate if there's water dryness can be tempered by adding a bit of mucilage."
rebecca replies later in the thread saying,
"Now, here's something interesting: I find that people who are oil-deficient (aka "oil-dry") are sometimes also "water-damp". That is, boggy. Water isn't moving properly -- it gets stuck in the tissues, causing "dampness". But classic "drying" herbs are not the right approach here. The problem is that the fat-deprived tissues are not capable of moving the water around properly. Replenish the fat, and the "dampness" gets better."
don't know if that's helpful to anyone but i thought it was interesting. (found here)
2011 11 19 - 05:06:33 +0200
From Gail Faith Edwards:
Regarding the use of angelica and its potentially drying properties - I'm not a Chinese medicine practitioner, but I do know that in Chinese medicine, dong gui *(A. sinensis)* is always taken in combination with other herbs, as it can be hard on the stomach when taken as a simple, and also perhaps because of its potentially drying affect. I have applied this principle when working with A. archangelica as well. I've found American ginseng to be a good working partner with angelica, and have used this combination often with excellent results, although any soothing, mucilaginous herb is acceptable.
A typical dose is 30 drops of fresh or dried root tincture in water/tea, two to three times weekly as a general tonic, or 10 - 40 drops daily when treating specific ailments. One to two cups of infusion, or two tablespoons infused honey daily, can also be effective.
I love growing angelica and have lots of them around the gardens. The smell is amazing, the roots so ginormous, the effect so astounding. I've been making medicines with this herb for many years. Angelica is an outstanding, impressive and incredibly versatile herb! And I love its side effects: rosy cheeks, a healthy glow and increased libido...what's not to like? Blessings, Gail
2011 11 19 - 15:37:48 +0200
From jim mcdonald:
Henriette replied, "Damp, really? I do think of Angelica arch. (and that ilk) as drying ... ho hum."
I also use Angelica archangelica specifically for damp/stagnant states
Alder Catkins wrote: (jim) said, "they are really oily herbs... by adding a bit of mucilage."
Ooh, nice quote... I do feel that's true, though I've had some not really like my reasoning. Perhaps it would be more accurate if I add that it's moistening effect is more transient, and long term use would probably be constitutionally drying.
2011 11 19 - 16:43:19 +0200
Jason wrote: "I don't think the effects are too distant. The Chinese name is dang gui (or dong quai in some circles)."
I think dong quai (dang gui) (tang kwei) (the various processed Chinese angelica species) as a smoked lovage far more than an angelica.
For instance, I've never tried it for menstrual cramps ... where the western one is one of the first herbs I turn to.
2011 11 17 - 09:53:34 +0200
From Seanna Tully:
Been following the posts a bit on this, and as a western herbalist and a current student of TCM herbal medicine, I have a few comments.
I don't agree that we can assume that Angelica Archangelica and Dang Gui/Angelica sinensis are identical in action based on being in the same genus. There are several Angelicas in the TCM materia medica that are quite different in use and function than Dang Gui, eg Du Huo (Angelica pubescentis) that is in the dispel wind/cold/damp category and Bai Zhi (Angelica dahurica) that is in acrid herbs that release the exterior. Granted, Chinese herbal medicine can be notably reductionistic, and of course many of the functions of these herbs overlap, but it doesn't mean they can or should be used interchangably in any given clinical situation.
In some ways, this is the fault of most TCM schools that don't study the actual plants, the botany, and the similarities and differences within the genus and/or family of plants. A lot of this stuff gets lost in the mire and rush of learning 200 herbs in a short period of time (herbal speed dating), and for the fact that most don't grow here (unless you've visited Elixir Botanicals in Missouri or other such projects --- I, for one, will never be able to get the image of Steven Foster walking around with Angelica Dahurica leaves sticking out of his ears like the gnome that he is -- out of my head).
That said, Angelicas and many Apiaceae medicinals (leaving out Poison Hemlock here) have this lovely, potent aromatic, celery-ish, butterscotchy, acrid nature that moves their targeted stagnant fluid or substance of choice very well. In some cases they move too much as to be drying, or in Dang Gui's case, why it got such a bad rap for heavy periods (just too moving). Just recently in the clinic, we had a patient with low back pain (disc herniation) who the intern had put on Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang, and despite attempts to augment the formula to prevent drying up the patient; low and behold she's turned up yin deficient by the fifth week being on this formula (most obvious signs being pulse rate of 100, geographic tongue coat), so we're taking her off the formula. Du Huo=back pain isn't sufficient enough as a treatment strategy, but of course, we know that individual presentation is almost always more complex. While Du Huo moves wind cold damp well esp in the lower back and legs, Dang Gui moves and tonifies blood well (but usually is coupled with cool, sour Bai Shao/Peony to offset the warming nature a bit when there is blood deficiency), and Bai Zhi moves wind and cold/damp (eg white flowy nasal/ear congestion) really well at the surface (hence Steven Foster sticking the leaves in his ears demonstratively). So, all have their specialties to some degree. However, Du Huo can be used to release the exterior in place of Bai Zhi. Du Huo is for a more deficiency-type headache, while Bai Zhi is better for a more excess-type headache. Bai Zhi can also be used for white flowy vaginal discharge and to discharge pus out of sores. As raw herbs, Bai Zhi root actually kinda looks white and flowy, Du Huo sliced wide and yellowish in color, and of course Dang Gui like a space alien or a jellyfish (depending on the cut).
Where does that leave me with Angelica Archangelica? I had this one case where I hoped to transform some lung cold damp and grief with Angelica in a formula for a woman who had lost her partner in the past year. I was all excited about the potential for the archetypal Angelica/protective energy to also assist in this process. Instead, I gave her a really heavy period and spotting through the month and she never came back. Ugh. Learn from my mistake and catch whether or not someone has heavy bleeding with bright red blood and AVOID using it. So, that is to say, I feel that Angelica Archangelica is more like a cross between Du Huo and Dang Gui in that it is not much in the way of blood tonifying, eg, it is really drying, moving and warming like Du Huo, but can move stuck blood (hence endo use) and cold damp in the joints/back and G/U.
So, just make sure they are at least having clotty dark blood periods, if not totally coldish and sticky (sticky or moist skin on lower abd upon palpation to indicate damp), or cold-type vag discharge.
2011 11 20 - 03:50:51 +0200
Jason wrote: "The two main functions we use it for are tonifying blood (in the case of blood deficiency), and invigorating blood (a term meaning increase blood circulation).
I find this interesting ... again, most of the women I have are older and are still menstruating (45-58 yo). many have a history of endometriosis and problems with ovarian cysts. they feel absolutely great with dong quai but often develop more bleeding problems. the same with raspberry leaf .. they love the stuff, but often have more bleeding. i would think that dong quai would be the herb of choice for these multiparous women .. especially if they are still having signs of estrogen dominance with weakened and boggy organs.
do they need to stay away from dong quai? or do they need to just stay the course until things even out themselves?
2011 11 17 - 16:17:51 +0200
From Sharon H-R.:
Try the women's cordial herbs/recipies they are milder and still add to tone and function. Viburnum, mitchella, Chamaelirium, add in some ginger or cinnamon for flavor and to warm up and you could add berries like raspberry.... I also have had a hard time with raspberry leaf tea but the berries are fine...
2011 11 17 - 16:56:48 +0200
are you talking about Moore's recipe that includes vitex, yellow dock, sarsaparilla, peony and ginseng? With all of Henriette's ranting about vitex (and I agree with a lot of it) I would think that vitex would be contraindicated here. Again, I would think that vitex would be more indicated in someone younger where the follicles would be more responsive.
Instead, it's like beating a dead horse .. I find that a lot of women just can't tolerate the vitex .. it seems to bring on great moodiness.
mitchella? sorry , that doesn't ring a bell.
and chamaelirium, I am used to using that for those wishing for conception .. I see it mostly for those younger.
again, i'm dealing with old ladies ..
an old lady, too - diane
2011 11 17 - 17:38:55 +0200
From Sharon H.-R.:
Diane, mix up your own formula, you can see Moore's example, but it doesn't have to be that I gave 3 herbs I would use along with flavoring that are warmers.that have their own qualities. So mitchella repens (partridge berry), viburnum opp or prunifolium (cramp bark or black haw either one) and Chamaelirium ( false unicorn root) and yep I know that they are used for promoting conception and as a mother's cordial when pregnant but they work as regulators for older gals too.... They use-to-be part of the climateric formulas... We are talking out when periods happen and if there is cramping or too little or too much bleeding these are toners and nourishers
You could go a bit more simple with just say viburnum and a bit of cherry root bark, and some cinnamon made with honey or symple syrup....
If there is incontenence throw in some first year mullein root.
So here is some info on formulas in King's, you will see how they can fit.
2011 11 17 - 20:24:26 +0200
Sharon - those are about the best suggestions! During the flooding episode, I do know that she took a combo of cramp bark, yarrow and cinnamon. Worked fabulously.
For my ladies, I think that addition of mullein (bladder problems are so common) would be a gem - I never thought of that, thank you.
One woman loves the Woman's Liberty tea (nci), I think that's the name - she says that it makes her feel so much better. But when the flooding issue came up (she's had it in the past as well) wondered if the dong quai was the culprit. I'm more apt to think that this occasional flooding (in the absence of using phytoestrogenic herbs) is just a 'normal' part of the perimenopausal scene that occurs as she gets closer to finally ending things. I guess I just can't get away from thinking that dong quai has more beneficial effects than derogatory effects.
2011 11 18 - 16:36:18 +0200
From Sharon H.-R.:
Well who am i to interfere with what makes a gal happy, if the women's liberty tea is doing something for her, then she should use it ,but to counter balance on the days when she would be expecting a period i don't mean the new short cycle ones on day 22/24 but a 28 ish day cycle, the newer quicker cycles have to do with a drop in both estrogen and lack of progesterone, trouble is that often the lining build up in the menopause dance is from not stopping bleeding in response to a progesterone surge but thru the rising estrogen ,which its self can be low too, in any case the estrogen on the rise being the agent of discontinued bleeding thru remodeling of endometrial tissues that remodling makes for more buildup, so what ever didn't slough before is on top of the new buildup.
Any how on the expected day 28 stop drinking it for 7 days and be sure to use the progesterone cream... Now she may need to play with that a bit and maybe use the cream and drink the tea too on days 25, 26, 27 or even longer in in lessening amounts. And she could probably use the other bleeding combo as a tea along with the topical progesterone.
This may have some hormonal similarity to PCOS may even feel like it but the biggest difference is that the ovaries are near empty...so we really dont have a polycystic ovary hanging there stagnant and enlarging
2011 11 18 - 19:26:12 +0200
Thread a: post-partum
Thread b: endometriosis
Thread c: damp vs. dry
Thread d: Seanna's excellent elaboration on TCM vs western and hot vs cold with bleeding
Thread e: perimenopause
Please add your experiences etc. in the comments.