Angelica Archangelica: it sounds like a famous work of art, something you should recognize like the Mona Lisa or the Pieta. It is, in fact, a root used in herbal medicine and in the flavoring of gin. It is used for sweetening in the kitchen and has many uses as a medicinal botanical. It has also been used as currency. In these modern times it is used to flavor the liqueurs Chartreuse and Benedictine, in schnapps, the aperitifs Vermouth and Dubonnet and in the aforementioned gin.
Angelica has a colorful history; its said that its medicinal properties are thought to have been discovered when a monk dreamt an angel showed him the plant and revealed to him its power to cure the plague. Its powers are also linked to protection from evil spirits and exorcism. Folklore has it used as a protection in the home and when it is burned in the house, it imparts a joyful outlook on all residents. Angelica is linked to the Archangel Michael, a patron saint of chivalry and warriors. He is also said to protect police officers and soldiers. The plant blooms in spring, it is said it blooms on May 8th, St. Michael’s Day. One of its alternative names is “The Root of the Holy Ghost.” For those who believe in warding off evil, lucky amulets and the like, angelica is a powerful substance. Protection from evil, breaking a jinx, healing, blessing and keeping a marriage faithful are all included in the properties of this mystical herb.
In reality, research has shown that angelica does contain compounds that can kill bacteria and affect viruses, fungi and cancer cells and there is a possibility that it may boost the immune system. These effects may mean there is some basis of truth in its usefulness during the time of plague in Europe. It contains the vitamin B12, Zinc, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron and sugars. For medicinal purposes it has been used to cure colic, colds, coughs, urinary tract infections and fevers. As a tonic it is said to be good for women, children and the elderly as it has properties to strengthen the heart. As is true with any medicinal herb, care should be taken before giving it to a woman who is pregnant or nursing, a child or an elderly person to ensure there will be no adverse reactions or potential harm done. It is used as a gargle to sooth sore throats and mouth ulcers and as a poultice to ease swelling, itching and rheumatism. It has even been used to prevent acne and cure athlete’s foot. In an ironic twist, its powdered root is supposed to cause a “disgust for spirituous liquors” when taken as a tonic.
Herbalists use the root, fresh and dried and powdered, for making tonics, infusions, poultices and tea. The stalks are eaten both fresh and candied. Candied stalks are considered a delicacy and are used as confectionary decorations. Angelica can also be used in making jams and jellies. The leaves can be crushed and used for poultices to ease pulmonary ailments. The seeds are processed to obtain the oil, which is in turn used as a flavoring agent. The oil has also been used in making perfume.
Angelica is known to be used in Bombay gins, London Hill Dry Gin, Blackwood Vintage Dry Gin, Plymouth, Beefeater, Mercury and Juniper Green London Dry Gin. Its flavor is comparable to juniper, so it adds sweetness and boosts and compliments the flavor of the juniper berries. Gin distilleries shop for the freshest and most flavorful botanicals available to maintain the quality the sophisticated gin drinker has come to appreciate.