The Health Benefits of Lovage

A Unique Herbal Supplement and Culinary Spice Which May Promote Urinary Health

Lovage (Levisticum officinale Koch) is an herbal supplement native to the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe. Part of the Apiaceae family, other names for lovage include Ligusticum Levisticum (Linn.), Old English Lovage, American Lovage, Italian Lovage, Cornish Lovage, Maggi plant, and Smellage.

Lovage is a perennial plant that is easy to cultivate because of its hardy properties. It belongs to the same family as carrots, parsley, and dill. The dark green leaves of the lovage plant resemble cilantro and Italian parsley in shape and color, and its stalks are often compared to celery stalks (in appearance, and to a lesser extent, in flavor). Lovage has a very strong odor and tastes warm and aromatic.

The parts of the lovage plant most often used for medicinal purposes include its leaves, stems, and roots. Lovage is commonly made into an essential oil and can be used in infusions, tinctures, decoctions (preparations made by boiling fresh or dried herbs in water to extract their water-soluble ingredients), vinegars, elixirs, and lozenges.

A unique medicinal herb, lovage can be eaten as a fresh vegetable or used in cooking to enhance flavor and add nutrients to food. Its touted benefits include improving urinary health and offering antibacterial properties.

Health Benefits   

Lovage may work as a diuretic due to an action called “aquaretic.” This means that the herb can stimulate urination (and help flush the bladder and kidneys by increasing urine output) without the loss of vital electrolytes (such as sodium).  

The plant is also thought to contain a soothing agent called eucalyptol, which may help to reduce irritation in the lungs and promote healing of some types of respiratory disorders (such as pleurisy).

Medical Uses

Although there is not enough clinical research data to back up most of the claims of the health benefits of lovage, the plant has been traditionally used to treat many health conditions, including:

  • stomach disorders
  • cough and respiratory conditions (such as pleurisy)
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • colic (in young children)
  • gas
  • rheumatism/arthritis
  • urinary tract infections
  • kidney stones
  • gout
  • boils
  • malaria
  • migraines
  • jaundice 

Preliminary study results back up some of the touted health benefits of the herbal supplement, such as urinary health and antibacterial properties, among others:

  • a diuretic effect
  • a carminative action
  • an expectorant effect (helping to loosen phlegm)
  • an antibacterial effect
  • an anti-inflammatory effect
  • a stimulant effect
  • an appetite stimulant effect
  • a diaphoretic action (to stimulate perspiration and help reduce fevers)
  • an emmenagogue (helping to regulate menstruation)

A 2016 study on the effectiveness of lovage on cystinuria (a rare hereditary condition involving bladder and kidney stones) discovered that lovage “might have a proper effect on urine cysteine. Therefore, it might give the impression as a safe agent that might be able to exhibit protective and positive clinical impact on reducing morbidities [illness] related to cystinuria and recurrence of cystine stone formation.” The study authors went on to explain that more studies involving a larger number of participants with cystinuria would be advantageous.

A 2012 study published in the European Medicines Agency Report found that data were sufficient to back up claims that lovage works as an effective agent in increasing urine to flush the urinary tract in minor conditions. However, the data on acute (severe short-term) and chronic (long-term) toxicity, carcinogenicity (cancer-causing) reproductive and developmental toxicity was lacking. Due to the lack of data on long-term safety, the use of lovage root was not recommended by the study authors.

Another study found that lovage root essential oil was found to have stronger antibacterial properties than 25 other essential oils that were tested in the study. Lovage essential oil was found to work against several types of bacteria, including Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.

Possible Side Effects

Overall, there are very few known serious side effects of lovage. One common side effect involves a condition called photodermatitis. This occurs after the herb is eaten or used on the skin, and it can cause the skin to become more sensitive to UV (ultraviolet) light, such as sunlight. Caution should be used when taking lovage before going out in the sun, like wearing sunscreen and protective clothing.

Contraindications

Lovage should not be used by children or taken while pregnant or nursing; the only exception would be when under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional. 

Because lovage is considered a diuretic (a substance that increases urine output), caution should be taken for anyone with heart or kidney problems. In fact, lovage should not be used by anyone with a medical condition without first consulting with a healthcare provider. 

There is some question as to the effects of lovage on sodium in the body. An increase in sodium could have an impact on blood pressure. Those with blood pressure problems should not use lovage.

Interactions

Those who are taking diuretics (medications to help decrease fluid in the body by increasing urination), such as chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, Hydrodiuril, Microzide), and others should not use lovage because of its diuretic effect. Using lovage while on diuretics could result in the loss of too much body fluid. Loss of too much body fluid may cause an adverse reaction with symptoms such as dizziness and low blood pressure.

Those who take anticoagulants, such as heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), dabigatran (Pradaxa) and others in this drug class should avoid the use of lovage because of the plant’s furanocoumarins, which may interact with anticoagulants. Some furanocoumarins block the effect of a liver enzyme that could deactivate medications, therefore, when taking any type of prescription or over-the-counter drug or supplement, a healthcare provider should be consulted before taking lovage.

Dosage, Preparation, and Storage

Dosage

While you should consult with your doctor before taking any dose of lovage, common dosages include:

  • 4 to 8 grams daily
  • As a tincture, taken in doses of .5 to 2 milliliters, three times daily
  • As a tea, prepared with 2 to 3 grams of lovage root and 1 cup of hot water (left to soak for 15 to 20 minutes), ingested three times per day. 

Preparation

The leaves of the lovage plant can be used in salads or infused as a tea (using dried leaves). In fact, the leaves are considered one of the oldest known salad greens; they can be used in soups, salads, stews, casseroles, stocks and more.

The stems of lovage are often candied and eaten as a sweet treat. Other parts of the plant are incorporated into foods and beverages—including some alcoholic drinks—as a spice or flavoring agent. The seeds can be ground and can also be used as a spice in baked goods.

Essential oil can be extracted from all parts of the lovage plant, including the roots. 

The oil from the plant’s roots is yellow or brownish in color, depending on how dry the roots are during the distillation process. Steam distillation involves exposing the roots or leaves to extremely high temperatures to extract the oil. The oil from the roots is resinous in nature, with a very strong floral smell and just a hint of a scent that resembles celery.  Lovage essential oil extracted from the leaves has a thinner consistency than that of its roots, and emits a sweet, spicy aroma. Lovage essential oil can be used in many products including:

  • soaps
  • massage oils
  • perfumes
  • liquors
  • non-alcoholic drinks

To use lovage essential oil on the skin, the dilution of the oil must be 1 percent or less. Try a patch test to test for an allergic reaction or skin sensitivity before using it all over the body.

Storage

Dried lovage should have its leaves removed and stored in a container that is sealed and airtight. Fresh lovage can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a week. Storing the herb for long periods is possible by blanching the leaves, then placing them in a plastic freezer bag and into the freezer. 

What to Look For

While lovage is a hardy growing plant that can survive for up to eight years, it’s not advisable to use parts of plants that have been growing for long time spans, because the plant loses its potency with age. Therefore, plants should be split, and roots re-grown every year, to help it retain its vigor.

A Word From Verywell

Although lovage is an herb that is considered relatively safe, and some preliminary studies have found it to be effective for treating specific conditions, it’s important to keep in mind that lovage can interact with other herbs, medications (including over the counter drugs), and more. Precaution should be used and the recommended dose of lovage (or any other herbal supplement) should never be exceeded. It’s vital to consult with a healthcare professional before using lovage or any other herbal supplements, particularly for those taking medications or individuals with any type of medical condition. 

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