Cow Parsnip or Angelica
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Annalynn Faulkner
Posted on: September 22, 2003

What can you tell me about this plant as I purchased it at a horticultural sale and it grew to five feet wide and high this year than broke off at the stem in a wind storm. I have seeds from the flower head. Is there anything special I do with them or the plant?

In the subject line of your query you mention both cow parsnip and angelica. These are two very different plants with very different properties. Both angelica and cow parsnip grow to the size of your plants, and bigger, so it is impossible to tell which you have from the information you provide.

There are several species of angelica grown in gardens. By far the most common is Angelica archangelica, a culinary and medicinal herb that you will find listed in our catalogue. It is best known for angelica candy made with the stems, but it has a long history of use as a medicinal herb, particularly for coughs. Here is what Maureen Rogers writes about angelica in her CD, "Herbalpedia" (available from Richters):

"An old remedy for flatulence directed that the stalks are slowly chewed until the condition was relieved which may have been good advice, as it has been found that one of angelicas constituents is pectin, an enzyme which acts on digesting food. This herb is a useful expectorant for coughs, bronchitis and pleurisy, especially when they are accompanied by fever, colds or influenza. The leaf can be used as a compress in inflammations of the chest. Its content of carminative essential oil explains its use in easing intestinal colic and flatulence. As a digestive agent it stimulates appetite and may be used in anorexia nervosa. It has been shown to help ease rheumatic inflammations. In cystitis it acts as a urinary antiseptic. Angelica has proved itself to relieve muscle spasms of asthma and its been used to regulate a womans menstrual cycle, especially after extended use of birth control pills or an intrauterine device. Combine with coltsfoot and white horehound for bronchial problems and with chamomile for indigestion, flatulence and loss of appetite. The leaves are used in the bath to stimulate the skin.

"Angelica salve is helpful in cases of chronic rhinitis and sinusitis because it dissolves mucus and warms. Apply it twice daily to the area of the paranasal sinuses, forehead, root of the nose, nose, cheeks and angle of the jaw.

"Angelica contains at least 14 anti-arrhythmic compounds, one of which is said to be as active as verapamil (Calan, Isoptin), a popular calcium channel blocker. This recipe comes from Jim Dukes book: Antiarrhythmic Angelade: put angelica roots, carrots, fennel, garlic and parsnips through the juicer. Add some water and spices to make it drinkable and its suggested to drink 1-2 8 oz classes daily.

"Pharmacologically, angelica is usually listed among plants with volatile oils, but from the clinical point of view it is more appropriate to include it among the aromatic tonics, as its main uses are in this field. Because of its aromatic bitter properties, this plant is much used in bitters and liqueurs such as Benedictine and Chartreuse. The volatile oil has carminative properties, counteracting flatulence, so that the action of this plant comes close to that of wormwood in this respect, a plant mainly used to treat gallbladder disease."

There a photo of angelica on our website at:

Cow parsnip belongs to the genus Heracleum, and the most common species is Heracleum mantegazzianum. It is also known as giant hogweed.

Its seeds are considered edible in Iran, but otherwise the plant is considered a hazard because it causes skin rashes in sensitive individuals. There is more information on cow parsnip, plus photos, in the following Q&A on our website:

The Plants for a Future database has more information on the uses of other cow parsnip species, such as Heracleum sphondylium:

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