Angelica root essential oil is obtained from the cleaned and dried fleshy roots of Angelica archangelica (Apiaceae (Carrot) family). This herb favors temperate climates in the Northern hemisphere and may often be found growing near rivers and moist-shady areas as it prefers cool, damp soil. Angelica is a biennial, like most plants classified in the Apiaceae family, and the root should be harvested the end of the first year or during the second year before the plant goes to seed. (The seed may also be distilled and provides oil with a different personality!) The younger root will give a fresh, spicy and terpenic aroma profile whereas a mature root will be earthier with less “pepper” and a more stable dry-down. Angelica root runs on the pricey side compared to other essential oils and for good reason: it yields little oil, has a long distillation process and the roots take a lot of preparation (i.e., harvesting, drying and chopping). The root oil is often grown and distilled in Germany, France, Belgium and England.
A treasured herb for centuries in Europe, it found its way into several preparations that are still used today to support digestion: Chartreuse and Benedictine among other alcohol-based concoctions like gin. The herb was often considered a panacea for digestive, urinary and respiratory conditions and to promote fertility and support childbirth as well as protect against contagion. It used to this day in digestive teas, tinctures and medicinal liquors yet it doesn’t seem (to me, at least) that the essential oil is too often used in aromatherapy despite its benefits for the nervous system and certain constitutions.
Unlike previous Allies posts, here I will share more personal ruminations regarding my relationship with Angelica root which has been long and timid. This was one of the very first non-typical essential oils I purchased several years ago. The 2ml bottle holding the root oil (that happened to be from England) is still a vivid picture in my head. I have always been wary of using the oil. Only now can I express why I was not ready to receive Angelica’s wisdom: what it may unearth from my subconscious and possibly help me do.
I have grown the actual plant (and other species) for years for its tenacity, playful beauty and propensity to attract an array of pollinators. I’ve distilled its seeds for their hydrosol and collected several bottles of the root and seed oils to the point where some may say I have an obsession. Yet, it has taken me years to stop hiding, open up and work with Angelica’s wisdom.
The root is known to physiologically have sedating and regulating activities on the nervous system—linking the “big” brain to the enteric brain and influencing reproductive hormones. When the plant is happy it may grow upwards of 5 feet—the exceptional part is how the light, playful umbels, up so high, are linked to the deep, fleshy and moist root via a long, hollow stem. The root of any plant is often considered the brain of the plant—searching through its meristems, making decisions, communicating, pulling up water, nutrients and minerals among other activities. This plant is the ultimate connector of air and earth—vata and kapha.
Constitutionally I run very vata—maybe this is why I was never quite ready for the root oil of Angelica but always had it with me in some way. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it to show me how to slow down and take in nourishment provided by the earth, get out of my head and connect with my general ambivalence about femininity and children, lighten up and understand I won’t lose my sense of stability by doing so.
Angelica root essential oil has an overall affinity for the nervous system as calming, relaxant and an overall restorative tonic. Following are notable therapeutic actions and indications where the essential oil may be worked with:
Nervous system: stress, anxiety, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, brings calming focus
Reproductive system: spasms, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, labor support (stimulating to the uterus)
Respiratory system: bronchitis, deep congestion, spastic coughs, fungal infections
Digestive system: spasms, indigestion, bloating, fungal infections, stress related digestive upset
Angelica root essential oil is rich in monoterpenes (e.g., alpha-pinene, alpha and beta-phellandrene, delta-3-carene), supported by trace amounts of several other chemical family components (e.g., the ester, bornyl acetate and the monoterpenol, linalool) depending on country of origin, making it a complex essential oil. Of note, Angelica root contains non-volatile photosensitizing components in trace amounts such as angelicin, psoralen and bergapten. *I have a gut feeling that due to the long distillation process the furanocoumarins that normally would not come over on steam may be able to sneak over—but don’t quote me on that as I’m looking around for documentation to back that up. Also, I’m (mindfully) using myself as an experiment to explore the phototoxicity of Angelica root indicated in the delivery methods and dilution rates outlined below.
Is Angelica Root Essential Oil Safe?
Angelica root oil is non-toxic and non-irritant. However, it is considered photosensitizing due to its furanocoumarin content. Follow the standard guidelines for topical use: avoid exposure of the treated area to UV light for 12-24 hours following application. Maximum concentration = 0.8% (e.g., 4 to 5 drops in 1 ounce). Also, avoid the use of the oil during pregnancy as it is a uterine stimulant. The herb has proven useful for supporting the birthing process.
Blending with Angelica Root Essential Oil</strong >
Angelica root essential oil blends well with: the citrus family (Citrus aurantium var amara leaf and flower, Citrus bergamia), Clary sage (Salvia sclarea), Jasmine (Jasminum sambac), Rose (Rosa damascena), Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin), Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides), Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi), Sandalwood (Santalum album or S. spicatum), Frankincense (Boswellia carterii), Elemi (Canarium luzonicum), Black pepper (Piper nigrum) and Green myrtle (Myrtus communis) as well as many conifers (Tsuga Canadensis, Picea mariana and Abies alba).
Creating Wellness Products with Angelica Root Essential Oil
There are many ways to work with phototoxic essential oils—namely through olfaction and the respiratory tract. (Note that clinical use of furanocoumarin rich oils is used for certain types of skin conditions.) If topical use is indicated it may be best to apply to areas “where the sun doesn’t shine” like the arches of the feet. Otherwise stick to the standard safety guidelines noted above.
Synergy for Reflex Points to Aid Digestion and Emotional Connection
I’ve always wanted to apply Angelica to my feet and cannot tell you why (phototoxic concerns aside). The funny thing is how I never feel compelled to put any other essential oil on the bottoms of my feet! Below you’ll note 5 drops of Angelica—I’m okay with this as it is being applied to the arch of my foot, and I am monitoring myself with this protocol. You may choose to put fewer drops of Angelica in the synergy.
5 drops Angelica root (Angelica archangelica) essential oil
7 drops Petitgrain sur fluer neroli (Citrus aurantium var amara) essential oil
9 drops Green Myrtle (Myrtus communis) essential oil
Usage notes: I have been using this daily where my application method is 21 drops of synergy into a 10 ml roller ball (Camellia is my chosen base oil). I roll a liberal amount on the inner arch of each foot then rub the synergy into the arch, pressing on the lower arch for a minute to help the oils penetrate. However, you may also find this synergy helpful for respiratory support as a steam in the shower or smelling it straight from the bottle for olfactory purposes. Try smelling the oils together in their respective bottles to see how you feel about using the synergy and go from there.
Practicing Lightness: A Synergy to Lift the Spirits
The following synergy was created to help soothe my nerves due to constant disruption from the commercial space below me (ah! the glories of city living!) which has made me feel very un-nerved and angry. Anger is the main reaction I need support with! And guess what? It’s been no joke: since applying it daily I find myself less irritable and feeling a bit lighter in spirit. In my case, a noticeable shift happened in about 3 days and I have been applying it every day for over 30 days.
1 drop Neroli (Citrus aurantium var amara) essential oil
2 drops Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) essential oil
3 drops Angelica root (Angelica archangelica) essential oil
5 drops Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) essential oil
7 drops Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) essential oil
Usage notes: This synergy was put into a 10 ml roller ball in a jojoba base. I apply the blend 2 to 3 times a day, generally when I am leaving my apartment or walking around the city. I apply at the start of my jawline by an ear and go to my chin, massaging my lymph nodes with the applicator for immune-supporting benefits along the way. I also apply on my inner wrists and rub them together. To-date I have no photo-toxicity issues (note—the careful application under the jawline). When the applicator is empty my work with the synergy will be complete, and I plan to give my body a break.
Root and Flower Feminine Support
3 drops Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var dulce) essential oil
4 drops Rose Otto (Rosa damascena) essential oil
5 drops Angelica root (Angelica archangelica) essential oil
6 drops Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) essential oil
12 drops Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) essential oil
Usage notes: Consider blending the essential oils listed above to add to…
- An inhaler or smelling salts to help balance your mood and nerves
- A 1 ounce glass bottle with a pump top for a penetrating massage oil to apply to the abdomen and hip flexors before and during menses to bring stability, support and pain relief. Beneficial base oils to fill the bottle are sesame, tamanu, sweet almond and/or arnica-infused oil.
My wary and slightly tenuous journey with Angelica will go on for some time, until I’m ready to stop. Who knows what it is about this year, but it was time for me this autumn to finally have a deeper relationship with Angelica root. Maybe you’ve had a similar relationship with a plant and a specific essential oil—reach out and let me know as I’d love to learn about your journey. Thank you for spending time with Angelica root and me.
Battaglia, S. (2018). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (3rd ed., Vol. I Foundations & Materia Medica). Brisbane: Black Pepper Creative.
Holmes, P. (2019). Aromatica A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics (Vol. II). London: Singing Dragon.
Rhind, J. P. (2016). Aromatheraapeutic Blending Essential Oils in Synergy. London: Singing Dragon.
Shutes, J. (n.d.). Essential Oil Monographs. Retrieved from New York Institute of Aromatic Studies.