Thursday, April 26, 2012

Angelica Emerging

There are some plants in the garden that I am totally in awe of. I can't quite explain what it is about these plants, they just seem so powerful in a majestic and beautiful sort of way. Angelica is one such plant for me. I first added a small Angelica to a wet area of the garden a few years ago. Now there is a slowly growing patch of this beautiful plant. She is happily self seeding and naturalizing, as I had hoped she would, and there are now first and second year plants present (Angelica is biennial).

As she prepares to flower, Angelica begins to send up a thick, hollow, reddish stalk higher into the air. I have been visiting the patch daily, because she seems to be changing so fast now as she gets ready to open her blossoms...

At four feet and growing, I can almost see her getting taller.

Angelica's fragrant leaves can be used in salads (high in vitamins and iron) or as a healing poultice, but the real medicine is in the roots. This is an herb or women! The roots are used to strengthen the reproductive system, balance hormones, regulate menstruation. It is also useful for relieving hot flashes, making her an aid during menopause as well. Pregnant women, however, should avoid angelica.

Aside from women's issues, angelica has been relied on to treat muscle tension, chest congestion, bronchitis, pleurisy fever, cods, influenza, nausea, flatulence, colic, cystitis, urinary inflammation, and prostatitis in men. She stimulates the appetite, lowers blood pressure, strengthens the heart, spleen, liver and kidneys, and detoxifies carcinogens and disrupts the growth of cancer cells. Angelica also thins the blood, so it is recommended she be avoided by women with heavy menstrual bleeding.

A word of warning...Angelica is very easily confused with the very poisonous water hemlock. The two are almost indistinguishable to most folks. To be safe, I would not harvest angelica from the wild, it is just too easy to make a deadly mistake. The veins on the leaves can be used for identification, as angelica's veins end at the outer points of the serrated leaf edges, while water hemlock's veins end at the inner recesses of the serrations. The seed of the two plants are also very different.

I have used angelica root in my own teas, but have yet to harvest her myself from my young patch. I want to make sure she is well established before I begin digging her first year roots in the fall. For now I'll have to be content to nibble the leaves.

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