Angelica archangelica - Medicinal uses and history

Angelica herb

Angelica archangelica survived the last ice age

Angelica archangelica (hvönn) is a medicinal herb native to Northern Europe, where it thrives and contains the greatest amount of bioactive components. It is believed to be one of few medicinal herbs originating in the northern hemisphere and was one of the plants that survived the ice age 8 to 10 thousand years ago.

Angelica herb was popular in medieval trade

The Vikings introduced the Angelica archangelica to Europe when they traded with other Europeans. The herb was an important export item from Iceland up until around the year 1500 and was even used as currency in trade.

Most popular medicinal herb in Iceland

The angelica herb has been used in Iceland for 1100 years. The history of Angelica archangelica dates back to the settlement of Iceland where this plant was considered one of the best medicinal herbs. The angelica was among the first vegetables grown in Scandinavia and most Icelandic farms had angelica patches. Tinctures and herbal infusions were made from the Angelica archangelica to treat stomach and respiratory ailments and to regain strength after illness. The herb must have been considered quite valuable. This can be deduced by the fact that in the first Icelandic book of law, Grágás, there was a special law against stealing the Angelica archangelica.

An archangel is said to have pointed to the angelica herb as a cure for plague

The angelica has been known as the “Herb of the North”, where it flourishes and its most potent variety is found. The Latin name, Angelica archangelica, is thought to originate from a story of a French monk in the 17th century. This monk is said to have dreamt of the archangel Raphael pointing to the herb as a cure for plague.

The Angelica archangelica was a longstanding favourite in pagan healing rituals, offering magical powers of protection. In Iceland, its name is Ætihvönn (Edible hvönn). A number of places in Iceland bear the name of the angelica such as the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnjúkur (Angelica valley peak).