COMMON NAME(S): Angelica. Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis).
FAVORITE USE(S): To subtly induce a natural dreamy state before sleep, opening our imaginative centers.
FAVORITE TIME(S): Anytime in the afternoon or evening when a creative, imaginative space is needed.
Angelica is a lesser known, but just as important Shaman plant in Eurasia. Peoples such as the Laplanders, Celts and the Sami worked with this plant, possibly along side another important Shaman plant called “Amanita muscaria.” Many herbs are thought to be short, leafy, and bushy. Angelica towers above most other herbs, growing up to 7 feet tall in early summer.
Yes, the religious-sounding name isn’t by accident. The name comes from two places. First, from its ancient pagan links to its use as a magic wand to help exorcise evil spirits (the thick, hollow stems make great wands). Second, the name honors the Archangel Michael, who’s job is to lead lead God’s armies against Satan in one of the books of the Christian Bible called “Revelation”. (Which, may very well be a psychedelic vision.) The New American Herbal has this to say about Angelica:
In ancient practice, angelica — combined with sixty other herbs plus opium — was a component, perhaps an aromatic flavoring, in a wonder drug of antiquity called theriac. Developed by Nero’s physician, Andromachus, it was the preferred antidote of kings.
According to a paper called “Aromatherapy and the Mind: An exploration of the psychological and emotional effects of essential oils”, Lawless states that A. angelica is considered revitalizing and restorative, and that it’s stimulating in small quantities, while being sedative in larger quantities. Another modern day herbalist; Herbalist Matthew Wood says of it that it “opens the sphincter of the mind,” which is a colorful way of saying that Angelica helps us find our creative centers, that “alpha-theta” state so critical to lucid dreaming.
There are no known side effects, except an a reference to “uterine contractions” and only in extremely high amounts. So, as a precaution, it’s simply not a good idea to work with this plant if you’re pregnant or nursing.
HOW TO PREPARE/RECIPE: The seeds and roots are reportedly the best parts of the plant, although I have worked with all parts of the plant. The whole plant is aromatic, but the root only is officially in the Swiss, Austrian and German Pharmacopoeias. The seeds can make for a very interesting incense as well as a nice accompaniment to the subtle dream state sensations this helps you achieve. The seeds are also traditionally used in liqueurs; it’s Angelica that provides Benedictine with it’s very unique and distinctive flavor. But, if you’re looking for the least subtle and most traditional uses, always try to find the root of the plant.
The classic way to work with Angelica is to put some of the plant material into a dream pillow or sachet, sometimes with other aromatic sleep herbs such as Hops Flowers, Chamomile or Passion Flower. I’ve found that a dream sachet of Hops Flowers and Angelica can reliably help me find that dreamy state that helps increase my lucid dreaming. There’s something very “visual” about the dream pillow scent as well, which makes me curious to try it in an essential oil as well.
The scents of Angelica is strong and fragrant, and is a pleasantly sweet taste at first, which gives way to a somewhat warm, earthy, pleasant musky taste as it lingers. The aromatic and medicinal properties are best extracted by alcohol. Soaking the roots for several weeks in alcohol will make a tincture that will last years.
Steeping Angelica as a tea produces weak effects from my own experimentation. You can make Angelica tea using a ratio of approximately 2 teaspoons of angelica to 1 cup of water. However, Angelica tea can be somewhat unpleasant on its own, even with a few dashes of honey added. So, feel free to blend this is with other calming herbs or a few dashes of mint for a more pleasant flavor. For me, the synergy of Angelica and Calea produces a much more pronounced and dreamy effect. I’ve tried smoking Angelica but haven’t noticed much from it. And again, the incense made from the root of Angelica is a nice accompaniment to your ingestion of Angelica.
On a curious side note, Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis) is widely known in China as the “female Viagra” or more commonly; “female Ginseng”. Traditionally, it’s been used for treating a lack of sexual desire for women, as well as the symptoms of menopause, cramps and PMS. Clinically, it has been shown to increase hormone production in both men and women, and for that reason it’s often marketed as an aphrodisiac for both men and women.