FWD 2 Expanded Commission E: Angelica root

Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E

Angelica root

Latin Name: Angelica archangelica
Pharmacopeial Name: Angelicae radix
Other Names: European angelica


European angelica is a biennial or perennial herb native to northern and eastern Europe (Leung and Foster, 1996) and parts of Asia (Budavari, 1996; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). Its natural habitat includes Iceland, Scotland, Holland, and Lapland (Grieve, 1979; Leung and Foster, 1996). In Germany, it is cultivated in the states of Bavaria and Thüringen (Lange and Schippmann, 1997). The material of commerce is obtained from northern Europe, including the United Kingdom (BHP, 1996), almost entirely from plants cultivated in the Netherlands, Poland, and Germany, and to a lesser extent from Belgium, Italy, and the Czech Republic (Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).

Angelica has been used for centuries in European medicine as an expectorant for bronchial illnesses, colds and coughs, and also as a digestive aid for stomach disorders (Leung and Foster, 1996; Wren, 1988). By the fifteenth century it was in popular use. In the English herbal entitled Paradisus Terrestris, published in 1629 C.E. by John Parkinson, angelica was reported to be one of the most important medicinal herbs of that time (Bown, 1995; Grieve, 1979).

In Germany, angelica root is official in the German Pharmacopeia (DAB 10, 1993), listed in the German Drug Codex (DAC, 1986), approved in the Commission E monographs (BAnz, 1998), and the tea form is official in the German Standard License monographs (Braun et al., 1997). Clinically, it is mainly used as an aromatic and bitter tonic for the digestive system, used to stimulate the appetite, and to treat dyspepsia. It is commonly employed as a component in bitters and liqueurs such as Bénédictine, Boonekamp, and Chartreuse (Weiss, 1988; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994) and also as a component in numerous gastrointestinal, cholagogue, and biliary remedies (Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). In German pediatric medicine, angelica root is used for treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. For example, a Commission E approved 'stomach tea' is composed of 20% angelica root, 40% gentian root (Gentiana lutea L.) and 40% caraway seed (Carum carvi L.) (Schilcher, 1997). In the United States, angelica root was formerly official in the United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary (Leung and Foster, 1996).

German pharmacopeial grade angelica root consists of the whole dried rhizome and roots of Angelica archangelica L., carefully dried at below 40° C. It must contain not less than 0.25% (v/m) volatile oil with reference to the dried drug. It may contain no more than 5% stem and leaf fragments and no more than 5% discolored components. Botanical identity must be confirmed with thin-layer chromatography (TLC), macroscopic and microscopic examinations, and organoleptic evaluation. Additionally, a test for adulteration with lovage root (Levisticum officinale) is required (DAB 10, 1993). The Austrian Pharmacopeia requires not less than 0.3% volatile oil (ÖAB, 1983; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). Additionally, the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia requires it to be harvested in Autumn and that it should contain not less than 30% water-soluble extractive (BHP, 1996). The German Drug Codex also requires not less than 30% extractive (DAC, 1986; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).


Angelica root consists of the dried root and rhizome of A. archangelica L. [Fam. Apiaceae], and their preparations in effective dosage. The root and rhizome contain essential oil, coumarin, and coumarin derivatives.

Chemistry and Pharmacology

Angelica root contains 0.35-1.9% volatile oil, of which 80-90% are monoterpene hydrocarbons such as b-phellandrene (1328%), a-phellandrene (214%) and a-pinene (1431%); sesquiterpenes (Wichtl and Bisset, 1994); 0.3% angelic acid (Budavari, 1996; Weiss, 1988); 6% resin; sterols (e.g., sitosterol); phenolic acids such as chlorogenic and caffeic acids (Budavari, 1996); fatty acids (e.g., palmitic, oleic, and linoleic acids); coumarins (approximately 0.2% osthol) and furanocoumarins (e.g., angelicin, bergapten); sugars; and tannins (Bruneton, 1995; Leung and Foster, 1996; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).

Note: Under proper storage conditions, angelica root still loses approximately 0.05-0.10% volatile oil content per year. Therefore, product shelf life should be determined based on this known rate of volatilization, calculating the difference between the volatile oil content on the date of packaging against the minimum amount required in the drug codex or pharmacopeial monograph (Braun et al., 1997). Shelf life for the cut or sliced root is maximum 18 months and for the powdered root only 24 hours (DAB-DDR, 1983; Meyer-Buchtela, 1999).

The Commission E reported antispasmodic and cholagogue actions, and that it stimulates the secretion of gastric juices.

The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia reported aromatic bitter and spasmolytic actions (BHP, 1996). The Merck Index reported its therapeutic category as carminative, diaphoretic, and diuretic (Budavari, 1996). In addition, animal studies using the root oil have documented antibacterial activity against Mycobacterium avium and antifungal activity against 14 types of fungi (Opdyke, 1975). In vitro, angelica root extracts of various species have demonstrated calcium-antagonist-like effects, which may be relevant for treatment of cardiovascular disease (Leung and Foster, 1996).

Some of its early uses are at least partially supported by in vitro studies of angelica's active coumarin and furanocoumarin constituents. One of these, angelicin, relaxes smooth muscles in vitro, including those in the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. Angelica also relaxes tracheal (Reiter and Brandt, 1985) and vascular smooth muscles in vitro. This latter effect is likened to calcium-antagonist mechanisms (Härmälä et al., 1992). European angelica may also increase uterine contractions, similar to the effects shown by Chinese angelica, A. sinensis (dong quai) in anesthetized rabbits (Harada et al., 1984).


The Commission E approved angelica for loss of appetite, peptic discomforts such as mild spasms of the gastrointestinal tract, feeling of fullness, and flatulence.

The German Standard License indicates the use of angelica root tea for treatment of complaints such as feeling of fullness, flatulence, and mild cramp-like gastrointestinal disturbances, as well as stomach conditions such as insufficient formation of gastric juice (Braun et al., 1997). In India, it is used to treat anorexia nervosa and flatulent dyspepsia (Karnick, 1994).


None known.

Side Effects

The furanocoumarins present in angelica root sensitize the skin to light. Subsequent exposure to UV radiation can lead to inflammation of the skin. During treatment with the drug or its preparations, prolonged sun-bathing and exposure to intense UV radiation should be avoided.

Use During Pregnancy and Lactation

Not recommended during pregnancy (McGuffin et al., 1997). No restrictions known during lactation.

Interactions with Other Drugs

None known.

Dosage and Administration

Unless otherwise prescribed: 4.5 g per day of cut dried root and other oral galenical preparations.

Dried root and rhizome: 1-2 g, three times daily (BHP, 1983; Karnick, 1994; Newall et al., 1996).

Decoction: Place 1.5 g fine-cut root in 150-250 ml cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for approximately 10 minutes in a covered vessel (Meyer-Buchtela, 1999; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). Or: Simmer 2-4 g in 150 ml boiling water for approximately 10 minutes. Drink warm, several times daily one half-hour before meal times (Braun et al., 1997; Meyer-Buchtela, 1999).

Infusion: Steep 2-4 g in 150 ml boiled water for approximately 10 minutes. Drink warm, several times daily one half-hour before meal times (Braun et al., 1997; Meyer-Buchtela, 1999).

[Note: According to the Austrian Pharmacopeia, the average single dose for angelica root tea infusion is 1.5 g per cup (Meyer-Buchtela, 1999; ÖAB, 1991).]

Fluidextract 1:1 (g/ml): 1.5-3 ml (Commission E); 0.5-2.0 ml, three times daily (BHP, 1983; Karnick, 1994; Newall et al., 1996).

Tincture 1:5 (g/ml): 1.5 ml (Commission E); 0.5-2.0 ml, three times daily (BHP, 1983; Newall et al., 1996).

Essential oil (Oleum Angelicae): 10-20 drops (Commission E).


BAnz. See Bundesanzeiger.

Bown, D. 1995. Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. New York: DK Publishing, Inc. 238.

Braun, R. et al. 1997. Standardzulassungen für FertigarzneimittelText and Kommentar. Stuttgart: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP).1983. Keighley, U.K.: British Herbal Medicine Association.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP). 1996. Exeter, U.K.: British Herbal Medicine Association.

Bruneton, J. 1995. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants. Paris: Lavoisier Publishing.

Budavari, S. (ed.). 1996. The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals, 12th ed. Whitehouse Station, N.J.: Merck & Co, Inc. 109.

Bundesanzeiger (BAnz). 1998. Monographien der Kommission E (Zulassungs- und Aufbereitungskommission am BGA für den humanmed. Bereich, phytotherapeutische Therapierichtung und Stoffgruppe). Kln: Bundesgesundheitsamt (BGA).

Deutscher Arzneimittel-Codex (DAC). 1986. Stuttgart: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag.

Deutsches Arzneibuch, 10th ed., 2nd suppl. (DAB 10). 1993. Stuttgart: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag.

Deutsches Arzneibuch der Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DAB-DDR). 1983. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Grieve, M. 1979. A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Harada, M., M. Suzuki, Y. Ozaki. 1984. Effect of Japanese Angelica root and peony root on uterine contraction in the rabbit in situ. J Pharmacobiodyn 7(5):304311.

Härmälä, P., H. Vuorela, K. Tornquist, R. Hiltunen. 1992. Choice of solvent in the extraction of Angelica archangelica roots with reference to calcium blocking activity. Planta Med 58(2):176183.

Karnick, C.R. 1994. Pharmacopoeial Standards of Herbal Plants, Vol. 1. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications. 1112.

Lange, D. and U. Schippmann. 1997. Trade Survey of Medicinal Plants in GermanyA Contribution to International Plant Species Conservation. Bonn: Bundesamt für Naturschutz. 32.

Leung, A.Y. and S. Foster. 1996. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 3234.

McGuffin, M., C. Hobbs, R. Upton, A. Goldberg. 1997. American Herbal Product Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press. 10.

Meyer-Buchtela, E. 1999. Tee-RezepturenEin Handbuch für Apotheker und Ärzte. Stuttgart: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag.

Newall, C.A., L.A. Anderson, J.D. Phillipson. 1996. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press. 2829.

Opdyke, D.L.J. 1975. Angelica root oil. Food Cosmet Toxicol 13(suppl.):713.

Österreichisches Arzneibuch, 1st suppl. (ÖAB). 1983. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Staatsdruckerei.

Österreichisches Arzneibuch (ÖAB). 1991. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Staatsdruckerei.

Reiter, M. and W. Brandt. 1985. Relaxant effects on tracheal and ileal smooth muscles of the guinea pig. Arnzeimforsch 35(1A):408414.

Schilcher, H. 1997. Phytotherapy in Paediatrics: Handbook for Physicians and Pharmacists. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers. 48.

Weiss, R.F. 1988. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield, England: Beaconsfield Publishers. 4647.

Wichtl, M. and N.G. Bisset (eds.). 1994. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers. 7072.

Wren, R.C. 1988. Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. Essex: The C.W. Daniel Company Ltd.

Additional Resources

British Pharmaceutical Codex (BPC). 1934. London: The Pharmaceutical Press.

Salikhova, R.A., Sh.N. Dulatova, G.G. Poroshenko. 1993. Izuchenie antimutagennykh svoistv dudnika lekarstvennogo (Angelica archangelica L.) mikroiadernym testom [Study of the antimutagenic properties of Angelica archangelica by the micronucleus test]. Biull Eksp Biol Med 115(4):371372.

Salikhova, R.A. and G.G. Poroshenko. 1995. Antimutagennye svoistva dudnika lekarstvennogo [Antimutagenic properties of Angelica archangelica L]. Vestn Ross Akad Med Nauk (1):58-61.

Wichtl, M. (ed.). 1989. Teedrogen, 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft.

This material was adapted from The Complete German Commission E MonographsTherapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. M. Blumenthal, W.R. Busse, A. Goldberg, J. Gruenwald, T. Hall, C.W. Riggins, R.S. Rister (eds.) S. Klein and R.S. Rister (trans.). 1998. Austin: American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications.

1) The Overview section is new information.

2) Description, Chemistry and Pharmacology, Uses, Contraindications, Side Effects, Interactions with Other Drugs, and Dosage sections have been drawn from the original work. Additional information has been added in some or all of these sections, as noted with references.

3) The dosage for equivalent preparations (tea infusion, fluidextract, and tincture) have been provided based on the following example:

  • Unless otherwise prescribed: 2 g per day of [powdered, crushed, cut or whole] [plant part]
  • Infusion: 2 g in 150 ml of water
  • Fluidextract 1:1 (g/ml): 2 ml
  • Tincture 1:5 (g/ml): 10 ml

4) The References and Additional Resources sections are new sections. Additional Resources are not cited in the monograph but are included for research purposes.

This monograph, published by the Commission E in 1994, was modified based on new scientific research. It contains more extensive pharmacological and therapeutic information taken directly from the Commission E.

Excerpt from Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs
Copyright 2000 American Botanical Council
Published by Integrative Medicine Communications
Available from the American Botanical Council.