Know your wild herbs: A is for Angelica

Know your wild herbs: A is for Angelica August 18, 2014

Angelica in bloom, surrounded by rose bay willow herb (fire weed) and with fields and hills in the background.
Angelica Sylvestris

AKA plants I meet while walking my dog.

Throughout this summer, I’ve noticed what a vast range of medicinally, magically, and otherwise useful herbs grow all around the place, here in the valley where I live. The diversity of plant life is one of the things that helps me to feel that yes, this is indeed home. It’s one of the things I most miss when I’m away, or during the winter months.

So I’ve decided to introduce you to some of my vegetable neighbours by way of an A-to-Z.

A is for Angelica

Angelica comes in a number of varieties. The one normally listed in herbals is Angelica Archangelica, or Angelica Officinalis, which is a plant of impressive proportions. However, the angelica with which I am familiar from my daily walks is Angelica Sylvestris, the Archangel’s smaller sibling.

It is a strong, upright plant, with a dusty pink hue to the upper stalks and flowers (the latter of which are umbelliferous), especially early in the summer. It is easily — and potentially lethally — confused with both hogweed and hemlock, so take care and carry a reliable field guide, with photographs, if you choose to go out and harvest it.

The angelica that grows all around the place here first came to my attention back in the early 2000s, when one of our dogs, Bella, dug some up and chewed on the root. She was a formidable herbalist, that dog. She used to eat blackberry leaves when she was coming up to being in season, which I expect have the same action as raspberry leaves. I never worked out why she went for the angelica root. Perhaps she had indigestion.

Medicinal and magical uses

Medicinally, angelica is traditionally used for coughs and colds, for breaking fevers, and relieving flatulence — which may explain the abundance of bright green candied angelica stems I remember living in my grandmother’s kitchen. Of course, that could also simply have been the cake and dessert decorating fashions of the 1970s at work.

Magically, angelica is a powerful protector and shield, promotes personal confidence and strength of courage and will, and is, so I have been told, an ingredient in Fiery Wall of Protection, although I imagine that would be the Archangel variety.

From personal experience, picking the flowers to have around the place as energetic protection is a disappointing experience: if you put them in a vase of water they have a tendency to droop. Far better to hang them upside down above doorways and windows. Or just break off a stem and sniff in the scent of the sap as you walk by.

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