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Angelica Is an Angelic Herb

Updated on August 6, 2015

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman

The wild Angelica,Angelica sylvestris is a late flowering member of the parsley family {Apicaceae} which may best be identified by its stout stems distinctive foliage and large domed shaped flower heads. These umbels are often tinged with a pink.

Angelica flowers later than the common hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium, but during July and August the flowering period of the two species may overlap, and where they dwell together may cause confusion especially from a distance. However, closer observation will reveal significant differences between the two species, with the help of photographs the differences will be more easily observed.

Let us start with the obvious features such as the foliage. Those of the common hogweed,{see my hub Hogweed }, Those of the hogweed have coarsely divided wide lobes while those of the angelica have neat leaflets they are airy, and the whole leaf is triangular in outline. They both have inflated sheaths were the leaf stalk joins the stems.

Top. Hogweed foliage. Middle and Bottom. Angelica foliage

The coarse and wide lobed foliage of the common hogweed. Photograph by D.A.L.
The coarse and wide lobed foliage of the common hogweed. Photograph by D.A.L.
The neater airy foliage of angelica.Photograph by D.A.L.
The neater airy foliage of angelica.Photograph by D.A.L.
The prominent sheath where the leaf meets the stem is a feature of this family.Photograph by D.A.L.
The prominent sheath where the leaf meets the stem is a feature of this family.Photograph by D.A.L.

Umbels or flower heads

Next a closer observation of the umbels{flower heads}. Those of the hogweed are flat like a table top. The outer petals of each umbel {spoke like structures} that make up the flower head are larger than those in the middle. The petals are of a dull white colour. Those of the angelica compose a flower head that is rounded or domed shaped often the umbels have pink hues about them.

Flowe rheads or Umbels of Angelica. Below the Umbels of Hogweed

The flower heads of angelica.Photograph by D.A.L.
The flower heads of angelica.Photograph by D.A.L.
The flower heads of hogweed.Photograph by D.A.L.
The flower heads of hogweed.Photograph by D.A.L.


The cultivated species or garden angelica, Angelica archangelica has long been cultivated for its medicinal purposes. The roots and seeds being the main components for such use. The stems and seeds have been employed in the preparation of liqueurs. The dried foliage has aromatic qualities and have been added to herbal beers.

Components of the Angelica

Components of the Garden angelica.
Components of the Garden angelica.


It is recommended that the roots are dug up in the autumn of its first year of growth when they are considered to be at their best. They must be dried rapidly and immediately placed into an air tight container. Studies have revealed that treatment of this manner will keep their medicinal properties viable for many years. Thick roots should be sliced length ways to aid the drying process.

Stems should be cut about June or July for the purposes of being candied, which is done on a commercial scale, to produce cake decorations for the confectionery products.

Angelica has properties which are said to be calming, diaphoretic, stomachic, tonic and expectorant. It was regarded as being good to counteract the symptoms of colds and flu, colic,pleurisy and infections of the urinary organs. Modern day science disputes some of its medicinal virtues. For instance the use of seeds and foliage is unapproved. It also gives the following warnings. Pregnancy --there are documented adverse effects avoid the use of angelica. Diabetics should not take angelica it raises the blood sugar level. Angelica should not be used with any warfarin medication.

Young angelica

A young angelica in grass land.Photograph by D.A.L.
A young angelica in grass land.Photograph by D.A.L.

The name angelica

Angelica derives from the Greek Angelos, which means a messenger. It relates to a monk being visited by an angel during his dreams. The angel conveyed to him that angelica was the herb that should be used to treat the plague.

Wild angelica is said to have the same medicinal virtues as its cultivated cousin. However. here in the U.K. it is against the law to dig up any wild plant unless you have the express permission of the land owner.

Identification is important

This family of plants are notorious for having similar looking poisonous species. Therefore correct identification is necessary before consuming any from this group. Over on my website there are many others of this group featured complete with descriptions and images.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi equealla, thank you for your kind and appreciated comments. Glad it has been of help. Best wishes to you.

    • equealla profile image


      9 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      After reading this article, it will be more easy to distinguish between the two, especially by the clarity of the photos. Thanx again for a very educative and enriching hub.


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