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Angelica is a perennial plant found in the moist mountain ravines, meadows, and coastal regions of northern Europe and Asia, and is widely cultivated. Angelica has a round, hollow stem which grows from a reddish-brown rootstock. The purplish stem is branched near the top and can reach three to seven feet in height. The leaves are triangular and can grow up to 20 inches in length. The largest leaves are near the base of the plant; they grow smaller higher up the stem. They are divided and subdivided two to three times and possess strongly toothed margins. From June to August the plant bears greenish-white flowers which emit a honey-like odor. The flowers are displayed in inverted umbrella-shaped umbels characteristic of the umbelliferae family. The fruit appears as two double-winged seeds which mature from the flower. The medicinal parts are the rootstock and the leaves.

Other common names: European angelica, Garden angelica

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 Acetaldehyde  Borneol  Caffeinic acid
 Carbohydrates  Caryophyllene  Citric acid
 Coumarins  Fatty acids  Fructose
 Fumaric acid  Glucose  Limonene
 Linoleic acid  Linalool  Oxalic acid
 Phellandrene  Phenolic compound  Pinene
 Plant acids  Sucrose  Volatile oils

* For definition of some of the above terms see the dictionary section of this book.

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 Bioflavonoids  UFA   Vitamin C

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Appetizer - a substance which stimulates the appetite.

Carminative - an agent which assists in the expelling of gas from the intestines.

Diuretic- Diuretics form a class of drugs which increase the volume of urine produced by the kidneys. It can be used effectively to treat mild cases of edema when kidney function is good and when the underlying abnormality of cardiac function, capillary pressure, or salt retention is being corrected simultaneously. Diuretics are not an appropriate treatment for edema caused by inflammation of the kidneys, and are useless in cardiac edema associated with advanced kidney insufficiency. There are a variety of diuretics with different modes of action. Among the diuretics are spironolactones, triamterene, and theobromine.

Emmenagogue - an agent which stimulates menstrual flow.

Expectorant - an agent which stimulates the outflow of mucus from the lungs and bronchials.

Stimulant - an agent that temporarily increases the activity or physiological processes. Stimulants may be classified according to the organ upon which they act; for example, an intestinal stimulant is that which stimulates the intestines.

Stomachic - a substance which excites, strengthens, and tones the stomach.

Tonic - an agent which strengthens or tones.

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The American variety has a reputation as a carminative to soothe upset stomach. It has proven antispasmodic properties for improved gastrointestinal function, including help in ulcers, vomiting, stomach cramps, colic and digestives system problems. Angelica is used externally to soothe rheumatism, arthritis, and skin disorders; internally, it is used in the treatment of anorexia, dyspepsia, and stomach ulcers.

It has been shown to have moderate antibacterial and antifungal properties. A constituent of the herb, angelica, when administered intravenously in doses of 20 mg/kg had a depressive effect on the central nervous system. Effects were dosage dependent, appearing within one half hour and persisting for 5 to 24 hours. A dose of 40 mg yielded about the same results as the same dose of chlordiazepoxide. Angelican also markedly inhibited hyperactivity induced by amphetamines. Angelican was also found to be spasmolytic, demonstrating a marked relaxation of rabbit duodenum.

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Angelica is generally regarded as safe by the FDA.

In folk medicine, large doses are said to adversely affect blood pressure, heart action and respiration.

Angelica is high in coumarins, many which are phototoxic to human skin. Hyperpigmentation of the face and neck have been attributed to coumarins similar to those of angelica (the actual coumarins were from bergamot oil). The root oil has been reported to be phototoxic. Recently, scientists have stated that these coumarins (called psoralens) pose a serious health hazard to man and should be avoided, externally or internally. It is, however, too soon to tell if the ingestion of angelica on a moderate basis would produce psoralen toxicity.

Angelica should be used with caution by diabetics because it increase blood sugar levels. It is also an emmenagogue, and so should not be used by pregnant women. Used in large doses, angelica can have an adverse effect on blood pressure, heart action and respiration. The juice of the fresh root is bitter and poisonous, but dissipates when dried. A species of Chinese angelica, A. polymorpha var. sinensis (tang-kuei, dong-qui or dong-quai) may be harmful to women who experience excessive and frequent menstruation, since this herb promotes greater blood circulation.

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Known Interactions

A mixture containing astragalia radix, cinnamon, peony, cnidii rhioma, angelica root, ginseng root, and licorice root has been shown to enhance antitumor activity and to decrease the toxicity of mitoymycin C.

Angelica seeds, in so far as their diuretic action, increase renal excretion of sodium and chloride, may potentiate the hyperglycemic and hyperuricemic effect of glucose elevating agents.

In addition, the diuretic actions of angelica seeds may potentiate the action of antihypertensive, ganglionic or peripheral adrenergic blocking drugs, tubocurarine, and to a lesser degree, norepinephrine.

Possible Interactions

The oxytocic property of angelica, in conjunction with vasoconstrictors such as ephedrine, methoxamine, phenylephrine or sympathomimetics, may cause severe hypertension.

In addition, citrates, in conjunction with angelica, may produce erratic and unpredictable results, due to the oxytocic action of the herb. It should also be noted that angelica root and sparteine may have synergistic oxytocic activity.

The anticoagulant effects of coumarins, such as angelica, are antagonized by vitamin K, mendadione, and menadiol sodium diphosphate. Conversely, allopurinol has been tentatively shown to increase the half-life of anticoagulants.

The hypoprothrombinemic effect of angelica root may be increased by the antiarrhythmic agent, quinidine.

As a diuretic, angelica seed is more prone to produce hypokalemia, in conjunction with cortiocotropin (ACTH) or corticosteroids. The use of this diuretic herb may also require dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs. In addition, the diuretic action of angelica seeds may reduce renal clearance of lithium.

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Although the coumarin content of angelica is not high at normal usage levels, it is important to note that coumarins can affect the action of almost any drug.

Prolonged use of diuretics such as angelica seed may affect certain laboratory test results such as electrolytes, especially potassium and sodium, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), uric acid, glucose, and protein bound iodine (PBI).

There is evidence to show that combining bactericidal and bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the bacteriostatic agent.

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