To Ignite the Imagination : Angelica Plant Profile
It has been a while since I posted a full plant profile, but as part of the Plant Ally Project: Thirty Day Challenge, I wanted to share with folks what a full plant profile in my personal materia medica looks like. The following format is not only what I use for my personal materia medica, but is also the style of plant profile that I hand out to my students both online and offline. For ease of online reading I have changed the order of how I list information on my printed materia medica for those of you who are really curious. I also add additional space for notes at the end of my materia medicas for quickly jotting down thoughts and observations.
I love getting to look at other herbalist's plant profiles and how they organize information. I usually am inspired to add to or adjust my own plant profiles after viewing them. While the following plant profile of Angelica is my long form version, I do create two other styles of plant profiles. The first is my one page, at-a-glance form that I create when first meeting a plant and for easy reference later on. The second type is half-way between the short and long form and is my homage to herbals of antiquity where everything is drawn and written directly into one hard-backed book (unlike my long and short form plant profiles which I keep in three-ring binders) and is as much a Book of Shadows as it is an herbal guide or plantbook. I'll be posting a free ecourse on creating your plantbook in the future!
If you're just starting out on creating your own plant profiles, a few tips:
- It takes time and experimentation to figure out what works for you. You might love the style I've created below or find it doesn't have the flow you're looking for. It took me a few years to find a style that I really liked and wanted to use consistently.
- Write in your own words. I reference multiple materia medicas when creating my own plant profiles, in addition to recording my own personal experience with the plant. Instead of copying and pasting, I try and use my own voice and language. When I do copy passages, I cite the source so I can reference back to it easily (for those grammar nerds who are afraid I might not know that I'm not doing it correctly, you'll notice below that my citations below are my own hybrid style). You can check out my favorite herb books, including the materia medicas that I most often reference, on my LibraryThing.
- Have fun! Putting together plant profiles should be fun, not a chore. If it feels burdensome change the way you're doing it until it becomes a pleasure. Be creative as you like - these plant profiles are for you and your practice so don't worry about how well someone else might like them.
Other items that you might find in my personal materia medica would be poems and images (often cut out of magazines or postcards that I've found) that I tuck in with my plant profiles. I love being able to add as many avenues of storytelling when it comes to connecting with plant allies and helping others do the same. Be sure to check out the Plant Ally Project: Thirty Day Challenge for examples of plant-inspired poetry and how to put together your very own materia medica!
Common + Folk Names : Angelic herb, archangel, masterwort, holy ghost root, wild celery, choraka, ground ash.
Planet : Sun (particularly when placed in Leo), Jupiter, Moon
Element : Fire
Sign : Leo, Pisces
Moon Phase : Full Moon, New Moon (traditional)
Parts used : Root, leaf, stem, seed
Habitat : Native to Europe, North America. Enjoys swampy and marshy areas, including meadows.
Growing conditions : Enjoys deep, moist loam and partial shade. Grow near water if possible and keep soil damp.
Collection : Harvest from mature plants (2 or more years old). Maude Grieve, however, recommends harvesting the roots in the first year. Harvest stems in April and May and leaves before flowering. Harvest roots in the fall.
Flavor : Pungent
Temperature : Warm
Moisture : Oily, through some sources say Dry.
Tissue State : Dry/Atrophy, Cold/Depression
Constituents : Flavonoids, furanocoumarins, essential oils, coumarins, acids, caffein acid, citric acid, fatty acids, phthalates, sugars, resins, sterols, tannins, vitamin C.
Actions : Alterative, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, anti-rheumatic, antiemetic, antispasmodic, aromatic, antioxidant, astringent, bitter, circulatory stimulant, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hypotensive, hepatoprotective, nervine, rejuvenative, stimulant, stomachic, tonic, uterine stimulant.
Contraindications : Not for use in pregnancy and those with bleeding disorders, GERD, reflux, peptic ulcers, hypertension. Use with caution with diabetics as the plant can increase blood sugar levels. Large doses affect blood pressure, respiration, and can overstimulate the nervous system. Avoid in cases of heavy menstruation. Avoid a week prior to surgery. The fresh root of Angelica atropurpurea is said to be toxic and should only be used dried.
Drug interactions : Avoid with Warfarin, salicylates, and anticoagulants (McIntyre).
Dosage : 1 - 10 drops (1:2 fresh root or 1:5 dry root 75% alcohol extract), 1 - 3 times daily. As a tea, 1 teaspoon of root, soaked overnight, per cup of water.
Angelica is a classic herb in the Traditional Western Herbalism materia medica with long uses for digestive complaints, fever (including typhus), and menstruation. As a digestive tonic, Angelica stimulates sluggish and cold digestion. Look for additional signs of gas, distention, and colic. Lack of appetite may stem not only from digestive complaints, but from sluggishness of the spirit and low vitality. Angelica is specific to hypochlorhydria, which is a condition of the stomach in which the production of hydrochloric acid in gastric secretions is low. The bitter content and sugars present in the herb help to stimulate the appetite and produce bile necessary for digestion. Angelica also helps clear toxins from the gut and assists with the metabolism of fats. Angelica should be used with caution for those with diabetes as it can raise blood sugar levels in the blood and urine through its stimulation of the adrenal cortex which releases cortisol in the system. The scent of the crushed leaves can alleviate nausea.
As a warming and oily herb, Angelica helps to move oils and fats through the body more effectively, including their metabolism and break-up of excess fluids. As an expectorant, Angelica is useful in cases of excess phlegm in the lungs. It is especially good when a respiratory complaint is worsened by cold or an illness has turned into a low-level chronic cough leading to exhaustion. The herb also works on the lymphatic system, clearing out congestion through its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory actions. Use in cases of sore throats, where the throat is raw, and for coughs, bronchitis, and asthma - especially if these conditions are made worse by cold. Angelica’s anti-inflammatory qualities can also be used in cases of arthritis and gout. The herb is also a diaphoretic, opening the skin and improving peripheral circulation.
Angelica calms both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, finding balance between the two. The herb calms anxiety and helps to rebuild the protective sheaths of the nervous system as part of its ability to move oils effectively through the body. As a brain tonic, Angelica improves mental clarity, uplifts the mood, and stimulates the imagination (Matthew Wood specifically talks about Angelica as an imagination tonic which I have found to be very true). It can be a helpful part of someone’s herbal and healing regimen for depression.
Angelica is a useful herb for congested, cramping, and cold menstruation. The herb offers pain relief and regulates the cycle. It can help bring on delayed menses and is useful in the treatment of amenorrhea. After birth, Angelica has been used traditionally to expel the placenta and bring on milk. The essence of Angelica is excellent to have on hand for any type of life passage including death, birth, and initiations. It can also be used as a tonic to help the spirit return to the body after a traumatic or shocking experience.
In general, Angelica offers a reparative action throughout the body as a circulatory tonic. While I haven’t used Angelica for this yet, it is said to reduce the desire for alcohol which would make it useful for folks dealing with alcoholism. I think the herb would be good to use with those family members and partners who are affected by their loved ones alcohol abuse as well, as it is supportive of the nervous system and helps all parties imagine a new path forward and bring on optimism for recovery.
Externally, the oil of Angelica can be used in massage blends to relieve joint stiffness and pain. It can also be used in baths with the same effect. Brigitte Mars recommends using Angelica for victims of electric shock by giving them a Angelica sponge bath using gentle upward strokes (Mars, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, 33). Additionally, Angelica oil can be used in magickal salves for trance work.
Angelica connects us to our spiritual nature, whether that is through our guardian angels, our guides or our ancestors. Furthering the plants connection to the imagination, in the language of flowers Angelica represents inspiration. It is known as Bear Medicine within American Indian medicine because not only is it “brown, furry, oily, and pungent” but “Bear eats such roots in the spring to wake up and start rebuilding his mass.” ( Wood, The Earthwise Herbal, 92) If you work with Bear as an ally or ancestor, you might consider incorporating Angelica into your practice. Traditionally, Angelica was used in protection spells against poisoning, contagion, and malefic witchcraft. Culpeper recommends harvesting the herb when the Sun is in Leo.
The plant has a connected to the archangel Michael, where its latin binomial stems from, after being revealed to a monk in a dream during a time of plague. Additionally, the herb may be associated with Archangel Michael as the flower blooms around the day (May 8) of Michael the Archangel. The herb is sacred in Saami and is used as part of their religious ceremonies. I use the extract as a base for blends meant to enliven psychic centers of the body.
The Angelica spirit has forgotten that they have a spirit. The world feels like a cold, sunless, and unkind place. They lack trust that they will ever feel better and part of that lack of trusts stems from an inability to connect with their vision for a brighter future. Generally speaking, a trauma has occurred and they have not yet dealt with its reverberations in their life. The spirit, in a sense, has been squeezed into a tight space. Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol may have become an unhealthy coping mechanism. Angelica helps reconnect them to their spiritual world, unfurls the spirit, and acts as a nourishing tonic for the imagination. It is an herb of transitions, too, so it not only helps them to imagine a new possibility for themselves, but then to transition towards their vision with ease.
Remedies + Charms
Typhus Fever Syrup
Traditional from Maude Grieve
Pour a quart of boiling water upon 6 oz. of Angelica root cut up in thin slices, 4 oz. of honey, the juice of 2 lemons and 1/2 gill of brandy. Infuse for half an hour.
Alexis J. Cunningfolk
I created the Tarot Elixir for students of my tarot class to enjoy before conducting readings. The Tarot Elixir awakens our psychic centers and helps us think creatively when engaging with divinatory tools. The essence is best made when the Moon is in Pisces.
To 1 ounce of Angelica Root extract add the following essences:
- 3 drops Nuummite Gem Essence
- 3 drops Pink Yarrow Flower Essence
- 3 drops Angelica Flower Essence