Angelica archangelica is arguably the most incredible herb in my garden. Here in eastern CT, it grows rapidly to the majestic height of 6 to 8 feet, and, if planted in semi shade, reseeds prolifically year after year. It never fails to bring astonished comments from visitors. Care must be taken in thinning it out, because Angelica is biennial, and you don’t want to remove all the first year growth. A member of the parsley family, it was candied and put into fruit cake.
Angelica has been used medicinally for many centuries, and information about those uses abounds on the web. Gerard the herbalist claimed that it “cureth the bitings of mad dogs and all other venomous beasts.” It was also put to work against “poisons, agues and all infectious maladies.” The Chinese variety is known as Dong Quai, and today it’s used widely in alternative medicine.
How did Angelica acquire its interesting name? There are two different legends. The first says that the angel Gabriel appeared to a monk, telling him that Angelica is a cure for, and protection against, the plague. Another version indicates that this plant blossoms annually on the feast day of the Archangel Michael, September 29th. Maybe that happens in Europe, but in CT, my plants have long gone to seed on that day. All parts of the plant were believed effective against evil spirits and witchcraft, and was often worn around the neck as an amulet. Angelica was held in such esteem that it was called ‘The Root of the Holy Ghost.’ In America it was used by the Iroquois and other tribes as Witchcraft Medicine, an infusion of smashed roots was used as wash to remove ghosts from the house. Angelica is a traditional birthing herb, used to help bring on a delayed labor and to help expel the placenta. And Harry Potter and his fellow wizards use it in all manner of spells and potions. What higher endorsement can there be?!