Angelica: The Angel of Herbs
by Karyn Siegel-Maier
If you've ever stood next to an herb taller than you (or the first story of your house), it was probably angelica, also known as wild parsnip. This fast-growing plant can reach up to 8 feet in height!
There is some confusion though as to how angelica (Angelica archangelica) received its reverent name. Some say that it was so named because it reputedly blooms on May 8th of each year, the day of the feast of the Archangel St. Michael. Others believe it's name was bestowed by a monk who either had a dream or vision in which the Archangel Raphael appeared and pronounced the herb to be a cure for the scourge of the mid-17th century - the plague. Perhaps for this reason, angelica has been a long-standing favorite herb in Pagan healing rituals, offering magical powers of protection.
Medicinally, angelica has a long list of ailments it has been used to cure. You'll recall that Raphael presented angelica as a cure for the plague. Well, it's curative powers must have been impressive, for angelica water became a primary constituent of the formula published by the College of Physicians in London. Known as the "King's Majesty's Excellent Recipe for the Plague," the formula combined angelica water, treacle and nutmeg. The brew was simmered over a fire and given to plague victims twice each day.
Angelica was generally revered as a health restorative as it could allegedly add years to one's life. The roots were used to make Carmelite water, a tonic that was taken to ward off evil spirits and to ensure long life. In 1974, French journalists wrote about Annibal Camoux of Marseilles upon her departure from this world and offered the conclusion that she had lived to the ripe age of 120 because she had chewed angelica root every day.
Angelica was also incorporated into brews to treat rabies, digestive disorders and as an eye and ear wash to "help dimness of sight and deafness." Medieval monks made preparations from the root for lung disorders, such as pleurisy, asthma and bronchitis. Native Americans used angelica to treat tuberculosis and consumption. As a poultice, angelica was applied to bruises and inflammatory conditions.
Modern herbalists recommend angelica to regulate the menstrual cycle. A relative of angelica known as don quai (A. sinensis), is well known for its use in gynecology and obstetrics, as well as for its ability to improve liver function impaired by hepatitis or cirrhosis.
Angelica was equally at home in the kitchen. Its use as a flavoring has been known since the Vikings introduced the herb to Europe in the 10th century. The candied stems were once a popular confection and they were the green candies in the first fruit cakes. Norwegian cooks relish the flavor the powdered root lends to baked goods. Benedictine monks used angelica to flavor wines, and it is still an ingredient in vermouth, gin and Chartreuse.
Traditional Candied Angelica
Warning: Don't harvest angelica from the wild since it has been mistaken for a hemlock that grows in the same environment. It's best to obtain the stalks from your own garden, or a reputable nursery.
2 cups angelica stems (the young shoots)
2 cups boiling water
½ cup salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 tbls. lemon juice
Put the angelica in a large bowl and cover with the salt and boiling water. Cover with a tea towel and let stand for one full day. Then drain, peel and rinse the angelica in cook running water.
To make the syrup, cook the sugar and water to the syrup stage on a candy thermometer, about 240'F. Add the angelica and lemon juice and cook another 20 minutes, stirring often. Drain off the angelica stems, reserving the syrup.
Refrigerate syrup and place the angelica on a rack and store in a cool, dark place (like a pantry or cupboard) for 3-4 days.
Return the syrup and angelica to a pot and cook about 15-20 minutes or until candied. Drain angelica and store on a rack until thoroughly dry. Store in a covered jar or container.
To purchase certified organic dried angelica root , visit the Organic Herbs & Spices Page.