Lovage

Scientific Name(s): Levisticum officinale Koch. Family: Umbelliferae

Common Name(s): Lovage , maggi plant , smellage

Uses

Lovage has been used historically as an antiflatulent and diuretic. Its extracts are used in flavorings and fragrances.

Dosing

There is no clinical evidence to support specific dosage of lovage. Classical use of the herb was at a daily dose of 4 to 8 g daily.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects include emmenagogue effects. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Lovage can cause photosensitivity with resultant dermatitis at harvest, but not as a therapeutic agent.

Toxicology

No reports of toxicity are in the literature.

Botany

Lovage is an aromatic umbelliferous perennial that is similar in appearance to angelica. It carries yellow-green flowers arranged in dense clusters, which bloom from July to August on top of the thick, hollow stems. The plants grow up to 2 meters high. Its leaves are divided by sharply toothed leaflets. Its characteristic, strongly aromatic odor resembles celery. It tastes “spicy-sweet” and slightly bitter. 1 , 2 Lovage is native to Europe, but is found throughout the northeastern United States and Canada. Synonymous are Angelica levisticum Baillon. and Hipposelinum levisticum Britt. and Rose in older texts. This plant should not be confused with Oenanthe cocata L. known commonly as water lovage and O. aquatica (L.) Lam. (water fennel), toxic members of the family Apiaceae.

History

Lovage has been used in folk medicine for over 500 years, primarily for its GI effects. It has a reputation for use as a carminative and antiflatulent, but it has also been used as a diuretic and for the management of sore throats and topical boils. It has been used as a breath lozenge, a skin wash and a lotion. The name “lovage” is from the Latin word meaning “from liguria” because, at one time, the herb flourished in this region. Translated to English, it evolved into “love parsley.” Misled by its descriptive name, lovage has been included in numerous OTC “love tonics.” 2 Today it is a common ingredient in commercial herbal teas. Extracts of lovage are used as flavorings for liqueurs, spice extracts and bitter spirits and fragrances for cosmetics. Cooked leaves and roots have been eaten.

Chemistry

Lovage contains approximately 2% of a volatile oil responsible for its characteristic flavor and odor. This oil is composed primarily (70%) of phthalide lactones, (eg, 3-butylphthalide [32%], cis- and trans-butyldenephthalide, cis- and trans-ligustilide [24%], sen-kyunolide and angeolide). In addition, lesser amounts of compounds such as terpenoids, volatile acids and furocoumarins contribute to the flavor of the extract. Other compounds found are camphene, bergapten, psoralen and caffeic, benzoic and other volatile acids. 1 Several of the compounds identified in lovage have also been found in celery (see monograph), another member of Umbelliferae. HPLC analysis has been performed to determine glycoside content in lovage. 3 Other reports discuss isolation and identification of phthalides from the roots of the plant by chromatographic and spectrometric methods. 4 , 5 Chemical composition of lovage oil has been reported. 6

Uses and Pharmacology

GI Effects

Although teas of this plant have been used primarily for their GI effects, there is little documentation for these indications. In general, many volatile oils, including lovage, induce GI hyperemia resulting in a carminative effect; other oils have also been shown to reduce gas within the GI tract. Lovage extracts probably exert their GI effects through common mechanisms, increasing saliva and gastric juice production by their aroma and mildly bitter taste.

Animal clinical data

Research reveals no animal clinical data regarding the use of lovage for its GI effects.

Other Uses

Lovage is also used to dissolve phlegm in the respiratory tract. Two constituents of lovage, butylphthalide and ligustilide, have been shown to have spasmolytic action. 1 The phthalides have been reported to be sedative in mice, and the furocoumarins have been associated with a phototoxic reaction following ingestion or contact. Following parenteral administration, extracts of lovage were shown to exert a diuretic effect in rabbits. 7 This effect is presumed to be caused by a mild irritation of the renal tubules by the volatile oil. 7 Lovage has been indicated for pedal edema in humans. 1

Dosage

There is no clinical evidence to support specific dosage of lovage. Classical use of the herb was at a daily dose of 4 to 8 g daily.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects include emmenagogue effects. Avoid use. 8

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Furocoumarins in plants of the Umbelliferae family may cause photosensitivity resulting in dermatitis.

Toxicology

Research reveals little or no information regarding toxicology with the use of lovage.

Bibliography

1. Bisset N. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals . CRC Press, Stuttgart, Germany. 1994;295–7.
2. Dobelis I, ed. Reader's Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants , Reader's Digest Association, USA 1986;239.
3. Cisowski W. Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica 1988;45(5):441–4.
4. Gijbels M, et al. Planta Medica 1980;39(Suppl. 1):41–7.
5. Gijbels M, et al. Planta Medica 1982;44(Apr):207–11.
6. Lawrence B. Perfumer & Flavorist 1990;15(Sep-Oct):57–60.
7. Tyler VE. The New Honest Herbal , G.F. Stickley Co, 1987.
8. Ernst E. Herbal medicinal products during pregnancy: are they safe? BJOG . 2002;109:227-235.

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