Angelica is known as the "angel of herbs" because it is rumored to have so many healing powers. There are many varieties of this plant, and it grows all over the world, from Syria to Holland, the Himalayas to Iceland, and into Japan, China, and even New Zealand.
Research into the true medicinal effects of angelica is ongoing, but the current literature indicates that this plant may live up to its reputation.
There are about 90 species of angelica, but not every type has been studied for its medicinal uses. Some are more interesting to researchers, including Angelica sinensis, Angelica archangelica, Angelica keiskei Koidzumi, but the properties of one variety do not necessarily transfer to others because the chemical makeup of each is slightly different.
Angelica has long been a treatment for anxiety in Indian medicine, and the data seems to support its effectiveness. One study of Angelica archangelica in rats shows that angelica was as effective as diazepam, a common anti-anxiety medication. Another study of the same variety had similar results and showed that extracts from the roots and whole plant were more effective than those from the leaf and fruit.
Angelica archangelica can also treat bacterial or viral microbial infections. One study showed that extracts effectively reduce viral replication of Herpes simplex virus type l, while another study demonstrated that the essential oil may effectively treat bacterial infections caused by E. coli or staph aureus.
Scientists have done a lot of research on angelica as a potential cancer treatment, and the results are promising. Angelica archangelica has good potential against some types of lung and larynx cancer and some forms of breast cancer.
It was also effective against cervical cancer, inhibiting thr growth, spread, and invasion of cells in the lab, though it has not yet been studied on human cervical cancer cells.
Studies of angelica sinensis show that it may be effective at preventing osteoarthritis. Researchers believe that two components of the plant work together to both prevent cartilage destruction and support cartilage repair. One component is sodium ferulate, which appears to have an anti-inflammatory effect, while a long chain of carbohydrates stimulates the repairs.
The Angelica keiskei Koidzumi variety appears to improve liver function. One study looked at the effects of supplements on habitual drinkers. The results show that GGT levels were lower in study participants who took the supplement when compared to those who received a placebo.
GGT is an enzyme mostly found in the liver. When the liver is damaged, GGT leaks into the bloodstream. These study results indicate that these angelica supplements may improve liver function in people who drink heavily.
Angelica keiskei Koidzumi may also help prevent stomach ulcers. One study shows that extracts from the plant inhibited acid secretion and gastric lesions caused by stress. Although this study has promising results, it was done on pigs. More research is needed to see if the extract has the same effects in humans.
One study examined the effects of angelica sinensis on physical fatigue and exercise performance in rats. The results show that rats receiving treatments had increased endurance and lower serum lactate levels than the control group, indicating that this variety of angelica can improve performance and support exercise training.
More research is needed to determine if these results are the same in humans.
Angelica has some side effects, the most serious being a potential interaction with warfarin, a potent anticoagulant. The plant may also increase blood pressure.
Some people have photosensitivity reactions to angelica, and breastfeeding women should avoid it. It is also important to understand that supplements do not have the same regulatory requirements as medication, so choosing high-quality brands is essential.
Angelica grows well in moist, rich soil. It prefers full sun and does best when planted in early spring. Harvest the leaves and stalks when they are still tender, and collect seeds in late summer or early fall.
The roots, seeds, leaves, and young stems are all edible and can be used in a variety of ways, including to make tea or candied.
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