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An Angelic, Holy Root
What could possibly be angelic about a plant? Although many plants may seem to be from another heavenly realm, Angelica archangelica was more often attributed with heavenly virtues (e.g., calming the mind and the GI tract, warding off the plague) than other plants and seen as a panacea during medieval times. It often called “Root of the Holy Ghost” and purportedly “revealed to the 14th Century physician Mattheus Sylvaticus by the archangel as a medicinal plant, hence the common name of archangel.”
This medicinal plant favors temperate to subarctic climates in the Northern hemisphere and may often be found growing near rivers and moist-shadier areas as it prefers cool, damp soil. As such, the herb is indicated for cold, damp conditions. Angelica is a biennial, like many plants classified in the Apiaceae family such as Carrot, Parsley, Lovage, Dill and Fennel. It has many of the Apiaceae characteristics such as tall hollow stems, umbels that hold hundreds of flowers and fleshy taproots (so many roots!).
A Plant Who Dances into Your Thoughts
When Angelica blooms, it sends messages from its thick, dense, fleshy roots in the ground up to its airy flowers that seem to dance on the air, into your thoughts and into your dreams. As described below, this plant and its energy stays with you. At least for me, Angelica is a plant that I always return to without quite knowing why. According to Pursell, Angelica’s flower essence may help “enhance protection from spiritual beings during threshold experiences” such as birth, death or any significant change such as coming of age, moving, changing jobs, etc. I am currently working with the hydrosol with such protective intentions in-mind. The blend contains hydrosols of Angelica root, Cistus, Yarrow and Sweet Grass.
Traditional Applications of Angelica Root
A treasured herb for centuries in Europe, Angelica found its way into several alcohol preparations, such as Chartreuse, Benedictine and Gin that are still used today for supporting digestion. The herb was often considered a panacea for digestive, urinary and respiratory conditions (antispasmodic & mucolytic/congestion), to promote fertility and support childbirth as well as protect against contagion. It used to this day in digestive teas, tinctures and medicinal liquors yet it doesn’t seem (to me, at least) that the essential oil is often worked with in aromatherapy despite its benefits for the nervous system and those with fragile constitutions.
Angelic Root or Angelic Seed for the Volatile Oil?
Although the seed may also be distilled, it provides a volatile oil with a different personality and is less sought after than the root oil in general herbal preparations and commerce. The root should be harvested the end of its first growing season, or during the second year before the plant focuses on producing flowers and seeds in its second or third year. The younger root will give a fresh, spicy and terpenic aroma profile whereas a mature root will be earthier with less “pepper” and have a more stable -pervasive dry-down.
A Personal Journey with Angelica
Indulge me, would you? As I share personal ruminations regarding my relationship with Angelica root which has been long and timid. This was one of the very first non-typical essential oils I purchased several years ago. The 2ml bottle holding the root oil (that happened to be from England) is still a vivid picture in my head. I have always been wary of using the oil. Only more recently could I express why I was not ready to receive Angelica’s wisdom. I was wary of what it may unearth from my subconscious.
I have grown the actual plant (and other species) for years for its tenacity, playful beauty and propensity to attract an array of pollinators. I’ve distilled its seeds for their hydrosol and collected several bottles of the root and seed oils to the point where some may say I have an obsession. Yet, it has taken me years to stop hiding, open up and work with Angelica’s wisdom.
Constitutionally I run very vata—maybe this is why I was never quite ready for the root oil of Angelica but always had it with me in some way. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it to show me how to slow down and take in nourishment provided by the Earth. To get out of my head and lighten up and understand I won’t lose my sense of self or stability by doing so.
A Portrait of Angelica Root Essential Oil
Angelica root essential oil is obtained from the cleaned and dried fleshy roots of Angelica archangelica. Angelica root essential oil runs on the pricey side compared to several other essential oils and for good reason: it yields little oil, has a long distillation process (10, upwards of 24 hours!) and the roots take a lot of preparation (i.e., harvesting, washing, chopping and drying). The plant is often grown and distilled in Germany, France, Belgium and England for obtaining essential oil from its roots.
The root is known to physiologically have sedating and regulating activities on the nervous system—linking the “big” brain to the enteric brain and influencing reproductive hormones. When the plant is happy it may grow upwards of 5 feet—the exceptional part is how the light, playful umbels, up so high, are linked to the deep, fleshy and moist root via a long, hollow stem. The root of any plant is often considered the brain of the plant—searching through its meristems, making decisions, communicating, pulling up water, nutrients and minerals among other activities. This plant is the ultimate connector of air and earth—vata and kapha—brain and gut.-Amy Anthony
Impressions & Personality of Angelica Root Essential Oil
Mind-Body Impressions of Angelica Root
Angelica root oil has an uncanny ability to link the head-brain to the gut-viscera and lower trunk. Its photo-toxic properties lend itself, it almost demands to work internally even through pure olfaction; in other words, it seems to seep into the body-mind with ease. Through gentle inhalation it washes the lungs with clarity, pulling energy down into the uterine area and thighs. Each breath brings length to the body. Allowing you to settle into your body. You may stand tall with ease, supported by your own strength, feeling proud and worthy. In essence, you may step into and inhabit your body.
Angelica continues to settle the mind, wash through the lungs and settle into the lower abdomen and trunk, bringing a warming, cozy feeling. The feeling is one of calm washing rather than a pulsing-abrupt feeling. Angelica brings clearing and centering so you may settle into and be at home in your body. You may give yourself permission to ease into your own skin, into your viscera. A sense of evenness and stability pervade the body-mind. Angelica helps the child-self step into the mature-self without losing a sense of wonder and play. It integrates light and dark, head and gut.
Aromatic Personality of Angelica Root
Angelica root starts off with a rush of bright, crisp, fresh-clean molecules with hints of citrus. The oil is a complex bouquet in and of itself due to its unique chemistry and abundance of molecules. Fresh, floral notes carry vapors of carrot then a terpene-peppery bite. This oil is playful while getting things done. I’m taken to a shop that sells old, clean-white vintage clothing with interior rooms lined with dry, well-worn wood. The olfactory experience always showcases Angelica’s pungent, penetrating but playful nature; a soft tenacity. Deeper into the gentle dry-down comes celery-warmth with hints of the former clean-sharp-bite. Resinous-balsam qualities emerge mixed with a little dark-earth and light, sharp bite. Angelica embodies and connects both lightness and darkness.
The above notes are from multiple sessions with an oil from France. Angelica root oil’s aromatic profile will vary depending on factors such as when the root is harvested and the plants growing conditions (i.e., geographic location, climate and altitude). This particular oil seems to be from younger, fresher roots with an abundant presence of sun.
Learn More About Angelica Root While it is Being Distilled…
Angelica Root Essential Oil Safety & Chemistry Highlights
• Angelica root oil is non-toxic and non-irritant. However, it is considered photosensitizing due to its furanocoumarin content. Follow the standard guidelines for topical use: avoid exposure of the treated area to UV light for 12-24 hours following application. Maximum concentration = 0.8% (e.g., 3 to 5 drops in 1 ounce). Also, avoid the use of the oil during pregnancy as it is a uterine stimulant. The herb has proven useful for supporting the birthing process.
• Angelica root essential oil is rich in monoterpenes (e.g., alpha-pinene, alpha and beta-phellandrene, delta-3-carene), supported by trace amounts of several other chemical family components (e.g., the ester, bornyl acetate and the monoterpenol of linalool) depending on where the plant grows, making it a complex essential oil.
Note to Reader: Angelica root is known to contain non-volatile photosensitizing components in trace amounts such as angelicin, psoralen and bergapten. *It is my understanding that the long distillation process enables trace amounts of the furanocoumarins that normally would not come over on steam to sneak over.
Affinities and Usage Applications for Angelica Root Essential Oil
Angelica root essential oil has an overall affinity for the nervous system as a calming relaxant and an overall restorative tonic. Following are notable therapeutic actions and indications where the essential oil of Angelica root may be considered:
- Mind & Emotions: stress, anxiety, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, brings calming focus, evenness and stability.
- Blend with any of the oils listed below depending on the desired outcome, notably Vetiver, Patchouli, Clary Sage and Spikenard or Valerian for sleep.
- Female Reproductive health: menstrual spasms, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, labor support (stimulating to the uterus)
- Consider blending with Clary Sage, Fennel (note safety data), Rose and Lavender
- Respiratory support: bronchitis, deep congestion, spastic coughs, fungal infections
- Consider blending with any of the resins or conifers listed below along with Green Myrtle.
- Digestive support: spasms, indigestion, bloating, fungal infections, stress related digestive upset
- Harken back to why liquors were made with herbs to aid digestion. Blend with Citrus oils and other plants that produce seeds such as Fennel, Black pepper, Caraway and others.
Blending with Angelica Root Essential Oil
Angelica root essential oil blends well with: the citrus family (Citrus aurantium var amara leaf and flower, Citrus bergamia), Clary sage (Salvia sclarea), Jasmine (Jasminum sambac), Rose (Rosa damascena), Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin), Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides), Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi), Sandalwood (Santalum album or S. spicatum), Frankincense (Boswellia carterii), Elemi (Canarium luzonicum), Black pepper (Piper nigrum) and Green myrtle (Myrtus communis) as well as many conifers (Tsuga Canadensis, Picea mariana and Abies alba).
Aromatherapy in Practice with Angelica Root Essential Oil
Reader Note: There are many ways to work with phototoxic essential oils—namely through olfaction and the respiratory tract. (Note: clinical use of furanocoumarin rich oils is used for certain types of skin conditions.) Avoid toxicity concerns if topical use is indicated by applying diluted Angelica oil to areas of the body “where the sun doesn’t shine” such as foot arches, behind the ears or along the jawline. Otherwise stick to the standard safety guidelines noted above.
Aromatherapy Blend for Peaceful, Emotional Connection
Are you looking for a little assistance to Ground, Settle and Uplift? That’s the thing about many of the volatile oils, they have paradoxical effects and when blended a synergistic effect takes place and the molecules convene like a symphony. Try smelling this blend straight from the bottle, 3 x a day for 1-2 minutes at a time to settle into your body and calm the mind.
- 2 drops Angelica root (Angelica archangelica) essential oil
- 5 drops Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) essential oil
- 10 drops Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) essential oil
Practicing Lightness: A Synergy for Lifting the Spirits
I created the synergy described below to help soothe my nerves due to constant disruption from the commercial space below me (ah! the “glories” of city living!) which has made me feel very un-nerved and angry. Anger is the main reaction I need support with! And guess what? It’s been no joke: since applying it daily I find myself less irritable and feeling a bit lighter in spirit. In my case, a noticeable shift happened in about 3 days and I have been applying it every day for over 30 days.
- 1 drop Neroli (Citrus aurantium var amara) essential oil
- 2 drops Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) absolute
- 3 drops Angelica root (Angelica archangelica) essential oil
- 5 drops Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) essential oil
- 7 drops Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) essential oil
Usage notes: Try putting this synergy into a 10 ml roller ball in a jojoba base. Apply the blend 2 to 3 times a day along the jawline, from ear-to-ear. This helps address photo-toxicity concerns and provides a lymph massage. Also consider applying the blend on the inner wrists.
Menstrual Support with Roots and Flowers
- 3 drops Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var dulce) essential oil
- 4 drops Rose Otto (Rosa damascena) essential oil
- 5 drops Angelica root (Angelica archangelica) essential oil
- 6 drops Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) essential oil
- 12 drops Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) essential oil
Usage notes: Consider blending the essential oils listed above to add to…
- An inhaler or smelling salts to help balance your mood and nerves
- A 1-ounce glass bottle with a pump top to create a penetrating massage oil to apply to the abdomen and hip flexors before and during menses to bring stability, support and pain relief. Beneficial base oils to fill the bottle are sesame, tamanu, sweet almond and/or arnica-infused oil.
Parting Thoughts on Angelica archangelica
My wary and slightly tenuous journey with Angelica will go on for some time, until I’m ready to stop. Who knows what it is about this year, but it was time for me this autumn to finally have a deeper relationship with Angelica root. Maybe you’ve had a similar relationship with a plant and a specific essential oil? Thank you for spending time with Angelica root and me.
Battaglia, S. (2018). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (3rd ed., Vol. I Foundations & Materia Medica). Brisbane: Black Pepper Creative.
Holmes, P. (2019). Aromatica A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics (Vol. II). London: Singing Dragon.
Pursell, JJ. (2015). The Herbal Apothecary. Portland: Timber Press.
Rhind, J. P. (2016). Aromatheraapeutic Blending Essential Oils in Synergy. London: Singing Dragon.
Shutes, J. (n.d.). Essential Oil Monographs. Retrieved from New York Institute of Aromatic Studies.