Lovage: How does this herb lift up your health?
Story at-a-glance –
- Lovage is a perennial herb native to the Mediterranean region, and can be found growing wild in northern Greece, southern France and in the Balkans
- Lovage can grow up to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) high, with large vibrant green leaves, yellow flowers and small fruits measuring 5 to 7 millimeters one- to two-tenths of an inch). The entire plant is aromatic — its seeds, leaves and root are most often used, which is why it’s now cultivated
- If you want to use fresh lovage to flavor your dishes, harvest them as needed, ideally in the morning, when the plant has a good amount of essential oils. Don’t rinse them or you will lose the flavor
Are you familiar with lovage (Levisticum officinale)?1 Unless you are from certain areas of Europe or parts of southwest Asia,2 you probably haven’t heard of this member of the parsley family,3 which can provide a unique flavor to your dishes as well as potential health benefits. Continue reading to find out the health benefits of lovage and how to grow this plant at home.
Also called love parsley, mountain celery and sea parsley,4 lovage is a perennial herb native to the Mediterranean region, and can be found growing wild in northern Greece, southern France and in the Balkans.5
Lovage can grow up to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) high, with large vibrant green leaves, yellow flowers and small fruits measuring 5 to 7 millimeters (one- to two-tenths of an inch). The entire plant is aromatic — its seeds, leaves and root are most often used for various purposes, which is why it’s now widely cultivated. An essential oil can also be extracted from the plant.6
Whether you use the seeds, leaves or root, lovage may provide a variety of biological properties, including:
- Anti-inflammatory — According to a study published in the journal Molecules, one of the compounds found in lovage that contributes to its anti-inflammatory properties is quercetin.7 Studies show that this flavonol may be useful in the management of inflammation-related disorders such as atherosclerosis, asthma, gout, arthritis and hemorrhoids.8,9,10
- Antioxidant — Studies show that lovage contains high levels of phenolic compounds with proven antioxidant properties. This may help protect your cells against the damaging effects of free radicals.11,12
- Antibacterial — A study published in the Journal of the Serbian Chemical Society found that the oils from mature and ripened lovage fruit exhibited the most potent antibacterial activity against gram-positive bacteria like Bacillus subtilis.13
- Expectorant — Lovage may be used to help loosen and expel phlegm, making it potentially useful for managing certain respiratory problems.14
- Diuretic — According to the journal Urologic Nursing, lovage may help stimulate the diuresis of water without excreting electrolytes. Because of its mechanism of action, lovage may be more accurately classified as an aquaretic.15
- Emmenagogue16 — Lovage may help regulate menstrual function and relieve menstrual pains.17
- Carminative — Lovage possesses natural carminative properties18 that may help address bloating and flatulence by promoting healthy bowel function.19
Lovage can be utilized for these main purposes:
• Medicinal — Lovage’s medicinal and therapeutic capabilities were well-known as early as the Roman and Greek civilizations.20 In the 12th century, St. Hildegarde also noted that lovage may help ease coughs, stomach pain and even heart problems.21 According to WebMD, lovage may be utilized to help ease the following health conditions:22
◦ Sore throat
The lovage plant is easily grown from seeds when planted in a sunny location, but may need partial shade during very hot summers. They thrive in rich, well-drained soil with a 6.5 pH level.24,25 The ideal time to begin sowing lovage seeds depends on your location. Grow Veg offers a planting calendar26 to help you determine the right time to plant lovage.
Be sure to plant the seedlings 2 to 3 feet apart to provide them with adequate space for growth.27 Lovage needs little attention once it’s planted, but it is very sensitive to celery worms, leaf miners and tarnished plant bugs, which can damage the plant. If you notice spots or leaves that have been damaged, remove them as soon as possible.28
If you want to use fresh lovage to flavor your dishes, harvest them as needed, ideally in the morning, when the plant has a good amount of essential oils. Don’t rinse them or you will lose the flavor.29 You can also dry the stems and leaves by placing them in small bunches and hanging them in a dark, warm area with good air circulation.30 Once the leaves and stems are dried, store them in a sealed airtight glass container, away from direct sunlight.
As mentioned earlier, lovage has a flavor similar to celery. If you’re able to grow lovage, you can incorporate the herb into a healthy recipe such as this:
Lovage, lettuce and pea soup
- 1/2 ounce raw grass fed butter
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- A few young lovage stalks, chopped
- 1 small handful of lovage leaves, shredded
- 23 fluid ounces homemade bone broth or chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 little gem lettuces, finely shredded
- 3 1/2 ounces peas
- Dr. Mercola’s Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A few teaspoons of crème fraiche or raw, grass fed yogurt to finish
- Warm the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat.
- Add in the onion, thyme and a pinch of salt, and then sauté until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add the lovage stalks and sauté for a couple of minutes.
- Pour in the broth or stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the rest of the vegetables (but set aside some lovage leaves to garnish) and simmer for five minutes.
- Season and serve with dollops of the yogurt or crème fraiche and a scattering of lovage leaves.
(Recipe adapted from The Guardian31)
Long-term use of lovage can lead to higher sensitivity to the sun, putting you at risk of rashes, sunburn and even skin cancer. This herb is also not safe for pregnant women because of its emmenagogue properties, which can cause the uterus to contract or stimulate menstruation, resulting in a miscarriage.32
Not much is known about the safety of this herb for breastfeeding women. However, it’s best to err on the side of caution, so avoid using this herb if you’re breastfeeding. This herb is also not safe for individuals with impaired kidney function.33
Lovage essential oil can be derived from the aerial parts, as well as the seeds and roots,34 of the plant via hydro (steam) distillation.35 It has a light yellow color with a distinct sharp odor. Its chemical composition varies depending on the botanical part from which it’s extracted, but research shows that there are more than 190 compounds in lovage root, seed and leaf oils.36 Lovage oil may provide the following medicinal properties:37,38
Before you use this oil, consult a physician or holistic nutritionist to find out how to best use it. Take an allergen patch test to check for allergic reactions or sensitivities.
Lovage might not be as popular as other medicinal herbs, but it doesn’t mean that it has lost its edge when it comes to improving well-being. Growing your own lovage and adding it to your favorite dishes may be worth it, thanks to its unique flavor and important health benefits. Just don’t forget to consult your physician or holistic nutritionist prior to taking this herb or using its essential oil, because there are side effects that are associated with it.
Sources and References
- 1 Missouri Botanical Garden, Levisticum officinale
- 2, 6 Journal of Essential Oil Research 4(4):375-380
- 3, 20, 23 The Epicentre, Lovage
- 4 Plants Rescue, Levisticum officinale
- 5 Botanical.com, Lovage
- 7, 11 Molecules. 2019 Apr; 24(7): 1441.
- 8 Pharmacogn Rev. 2016 Jul-Dec; 10(20): 84–89.
- 9 J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Oct; 22(4): 969–981.
- 10 Molecules. 2016 May 12;21(5).
- 12 Notulae Botanicae Horti Agrobotanici Cluj-Napoca, 45(1), 179-184.
- 13 Journal of the Serbian Chemical Society. December 2010 75(12).
- 14, 22, 32, 33 WebMD, Lovage
- 15 Urologic Nursing October 2005 Volume 25 Number 5
- 16, 18, 37 European Medicines Agency, Assessment report on Levisticum officinale Koch, radix
- 17 Plant Protoplasts and Genetic Engineering VI pp 79-89
- 19 MedicineNet, Carminative
- 21, 27, 30 Planet Natural Research Center, Lovage
- 24, 26 Grow Veg, Lovage Growing Guide
- 25 Gardening Know How, Lovage Plants In The Garden – Tips On Growing Lovage
- 28 Gardening Know How, Lovage Pest Management – How To Treat Common Pests Of Lovage
- 29 Gardening Know How, Lovage Herb Harvest – When To Pick Lovage Leaves
- 31 The Guardian June 24, 2011
- 34, 38 Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavor and Safety, pp.539-549
- 35 Asian Journal of Biochemistry, Volume 2 (2): 161-163, 2007
- 36 J. Serb. Chem. Soc. 75 (12) 1661–1669 (2010)