Scientific Name(s): Levisticum officinale Koch.
Common Name(s): Lovage, Maggi plant, Smellage
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Aug 1, 2019.
Lovage has been used historically as an antiflatulent and diuretic, but there are no clinical trials to support these uses. Lovage extracts are used in flavorings and fragrances.
Lovage has traditionally been used at a daily dose of 4 to 8 g. The tincture has been administered at 0.5 to 2 mL 3 times daily. The tea is prepared by decocting 2 to 3 g of the root in a closed cup of water for 15 to 20 minutes and has traditionally been consumed 3 times daily.
Contraindicated in pregnancy, renal impairment, and renal inflammation.
Avoid use. Documented adverse reactions include emmenagogue effects.
Lovage root may increase the risk of bleeding in patients receiving anticoagulants such as warfarin.
Lovage can cause photosensitivity with resultant dermatitis at harvest, but not when used as a therapeutic agent. A case report described contact dermatitis caused by lovage essential oil.
There are no known reports of toxicity.
Lovage is an aromatic umbelliferous perennial similar in appearance to angelica. It carries yellow-green flowers arranged in dense clusters that bloom from July to August on top of the thick, hollow stems. The plant grows up to 2 m tall,van Wyk 2004 and its leaves are divided by sharply toothed leaflets. The characteristically strong aromatic odor resembles that of celery, and it has a "spicy-sweet" and slightly bitter taste. Lovage is native to Europe, but is also found throughout the northeastern United States and Canada. Angelica levisticum Baillon. and Hipposelinum levisticum Britt. and Rose are synonymous in older texts. Lovage should not be confused with Oenanthe cocata L., known commonly as "water" lovage or with Oenanthe aquatica (L.) Lam. (water fennel), toxic members of the family Apiaceae.
Lovage has been used in folk medicine for over 500 years, primarily for its GI effects as a carminative and antiflatulent, but has also been used as a diuretic and for the management of sore throats and topical boils. Additional uses as a breath lozenge and as a skin wash and lotion have been described. The name "lovage" is derived from the Latin word ligusticum meaning "from Liguria" because, at one time, the herb flourished in this region of Italy. Translated to English, it evolved into "love parsley," a descriptive name that led to the inclusion of lovage in numerous OTC "love tonics." Lovage is a common ingredient in commercial herbal teas, and extracts are used as flavorings for liqueurs, spice extracts, and bitter spirits, and in fragrances for cosmetics. Cooked leaves and roots have been eaten.Dobelis 1986
Lovage contains approximately 2% of a volatile oil responsible for its characteristic flavor and odor. This oil is composed primarily of phthalide lactones (70%) (eg, 3-butylphthalide [32%], cis- and trans-butyldenephthalide, cis- and trans-ligustilide [24%], sen-kyunolide, angeolide). Limited amounts of certain compounds, such as terpenoids, volatile acids, and furocoumarins, also contribute to the flavor of the extract. Other compounds include camphene, bergapten, and psoralen, as well as caffeic, benzoic, and other volatile acids.Bisset 1994 High-performance liquid chromatography analysis has been performed to determine glycoside content in lovage.Cisowski 1988 Other reports discuss isolation and identification of phthalides from the roots of the plant by chromatographic and spectrometric methods.Gijbels 1980, Gijbels 1982 Chemical composition of lovage oil has been reported.Lawrence 1990
Uses and Pharmacology
In vitro/Animal data
There are no in vitro/animal data regarding the use of lovage for its urological effects.
In an open label study of 59 patients with diabetic nephropathy receiving enalapril, the herbal combination product Canephron N, containing lovage root, rosemary leave, and centaury herb, decreased microalbuminuria as compared with the control group following 6 months of administration. The herbal product also improved antioxidant defense parameters. Because Canephron N is a combination product, it is difficult to discern the direct effects of lovage on diabetic nephropathy based on findings from this study.Martynyuk 2014
A review of the literature found that Canephron N was effective at decreasing the frequency of cystitis relapses in adults, preventing acute pyelonephritis in children, restoring kidney function in children undergoing surgical correction of vesicoureteral reflux, and increasing the rate of kidney stones in adults.Naber 2013
Although lovage teas have been used primarily for their GI effects, documentation for these indications is limited. In general, many volatile oils, including that of lovage, induce GI hyperemia, resulting in a carminative effect; other oils have reduced 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.
Lovage has also been used to dissolve phlegm in the respiratory tract. Two constituents of lovage, butylphthalide and ligustilide, have been shown to have spasmolytic action.Bisset 1994 The phthalides have had a sedative effect in mice, and the furocoumarins have been associated with a phototoxic reaction following ingestion or contact. Following parenteral administration, extracts of lovage exerted a diuretic effect in rabbits, presumed to be caused by a mild irritation of the renal tubules by the volatile oil.Tyler 1987 Lovage has been indicated for pedal edema in humans.Bisset 1994
Lovage may be useful for treating insomnia. A review of the literature analyzing patterns of herbal use for insomnia in China found positive outcomes with lovage.Zhou 2011
Lovage may also have a role in the treatment of depression. In a study of rats, the combination product Kaiyu granule, which contains lovage among other herbal ingredients, improved depression through its effects on G protein-coupled inwardly-rectifying potassium 1 channel expression.Jin 2013
Houshiheisan compound, containing lovage and other herbs, protected neurovascular units after cerebral ischemia in rats. The compound specifically reduced postischemic neurological deficit scores at 24, 48, and 72 hours. The necrotic tissues decreased and amyloid-beta 42 protein expression was lower in rats receiving Houshiheisan. Because this compound contained numerous herbals, discerning the role of lovage on neuroprotection is difficult.Wang 2014
Methanolic extracts of Levisticum officinale inhibited acetylcholinesterase (97.6%) in vitro in a noncompetitive manner. Therefore, lovage may play a role in patients with Alzheimer disease.Gholamhoseinian 2009
L. officinale essential oil demonstrated inhibition against the human head and neck squamous carcinoma cell line.Sertel 2011
Classical use of the herb was at a daily dose of 4 to 8 g. The tincture should be administered at 0.5 to 2 mL 3 times daily. The tea is prepared by decocting 2 to 3 g of the root in a closed cup of water for 15 to 20 minutes. The tea should be consumed 3 times daily.Yarnell 2002
Pregnancy / Lactation
Documented adverse reactions include emmenagogue effects. Generally, avoid use.Ernst 2002 A combination of lovage with other phytochemicals marketed as Canephron N was found to be safe and well tolerated during pregnancy, with no teratogenic effects; however, the dosage and component of lovate contained in this product would need to be taken into consideration.Naber 2013
Because lovage root contains coumarin derivatives, it may increase the risk of bleeding in patients receiving anticoagulants such as warfarin.Heck 2000
Furocoumarins in plants of the Umbelliferae family may cause photosensitivity, resulting in dermatitis.Blumenthal 1998 A case report described a 27-year-old woman who developed intense itching and erythema within hours of harvesting lovage on a sunny day. She developed bullae and vesicles within 36 hours of exposure that later turned into hyperpigmented spots on the exposed areas.Ashwood-Smith 1992
Another case report described contact dermatitis caused by lovage essential oil. A 31-year-old female developed sharply demarcated, red, and scaly patches on her arms and right shoulder 2 weeks after applying lovage and fifth Chakra essential oils. Topical and systemic steroids resulted in resolution of the patches. Patch testing confirmed the reaction.Lapeere 2013
Research reveals little or no information regarding toxicology with the use of lovage.
- Angelica levisticum Baillon.
- Hipposelinum levisticum Britt. and Rose
- Oenanthe aquatica (L.) Lam.
- Water Fennel
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