If you’ve travelled to Europe and ate a soup, a stew or a salad that tasted like nothing you’ve ever tried before, chances are that it contained lovage. The flavour of lovage (Levisticum officinale) is usually described as being somewhere between parsley and celery, also a bit minty and fresh, but the truth is that lovage has a completely unique taste and smell. And while in the U.S. it is rarely used, in the areas around the Danube Delta (Romania), for example, it is a sacrilege to make a fish soup without lovage, in the Netherlands it is an indispensable ingredient in a traditional asparagus dish, Hungarians add it to their traditional goulash and Britons prepare a lovage alcoholic cordial that is said to help with digestion.
But what is lovage?
The origins of the plant are still a matter of discussion for historians. While some place it in Europe and south-western Asia, others think it came solely from the south-eastern Europe, while others consider that it was native only to Asia and that it was later naturalised in Europe. Regardless of its origin, though, lovage is now a staple herb for the southern European cuisine.
Lovage is a perennial herbaceous plant that looks similar to parsley. It grows taller, though, the leaves are larger and have fewer leaflets. All the parts of the plant are edible: the stems, the leaves (either fresh or dried), the roots and the seeds. The stems and leaves are usually used in soups and stews, the roots can be grated in salads and the seeds are used as a spice.
How to grow lovage
Lovage can be grown from seeds, which have to be sown in autumn or in spring. The soil has to be wet and you’ll need to cover the seeds only superficially, so that they can germinate easier and faster. Lovage prefers moist, well-drained and humus-rich soils. Also, be careful not to plant it directly in the sun; it grows better in partial shade. It will germinate and start to grow in about 10 days, but it might take until next season for the plant to fully mature. After they’ve started to grow, only save that plants that look stronger and healthier keeping in mind that you need to maintain a distance of around two feet between plants, as they will grow bigger with each year. Grown in the garden, your lovage will live for up to 7-10 years.
Health benefits of Lovage
Lovage has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties, notes regarding its therapeutic benefits having been found in writings belonging to the ancient Roman and Greek civilizations.
Here are some of the most important medicinal properties of this highly underused plant:
Skin diseases and rheumatism
Lovage can be used externally to treat certain dermatological diseases, such as psoriasis, skin ulcers or eruptions or acne, but also to relieve rheumatic pain. The crushed leaves are applied to the skin, on the affected areas. They have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and skin soothing properties. They also stimulate the blood circulation in the capillaries, thus supporting the natural healing processes and improve the tone and appearance of the skin.
Lovage is considered to be an aquaretic, which is a type of diuretic that helps with the excretion of water without causing electrolyte loss. This is why lovage juice comes highly recommended in detoxification and weight-loss programs. In this case, at least 200ml of fresh lovage juice should be consumed daily.
For this purpose, lovage can be brewed or infused as herbal tea and consumed immediately after each meal. It has carminative properties (reduces gas formation) and it is effective in regulating digestion, stimulating the appetite, relieving abdominal discomfort, reducing bowel irritation and promoting normal bowel movements.
A natural remedy for menstrual cramps
Lovage tincture is effective in regulating the menstrual cycle. To prepare the tincture, use fresh lovage root (collect it either in early spring or late autumn), grate it and then put it in a glass bottle or jar. Pour over it 50% alcohol, leave it to macerate for two weeks, then strain it. Lovage tincture can help soothe severe cramps, prevent bloating and stimulate the menstrual flow.
Relieve gout symptoms
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, lovage is considered to be a natural remedy for joint pain caused by gout or rheumatism. For this purpose, it can be used both internally (in infusions, fresh juice or tincture) or externally, in herbal compresses.
Lovage contains eucalyptol, a natural active chemical compound that can help reduce lung irritation. Additionally, lovage can help loosen phlegm in the lungs, reduce lung inflammation and irritation and improve breathing.
Lovage contains quercetin, a natural active compound that can help fight the symptoms of allergies by inhibiting histamine release and reducing the body’s allergic reactions such as runny nose, itchy eyes or skin irritation.
Though further research is needed on this topic, Levage has shown encouraging results in destroying dangerous organisms such as E. coli, Salmonella, H. pylori or H. influenzae.
Helps prevent and eliminate kidney stones
Lovage helps reduce the inflammation and pain in the lower urinary tract associated with kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Also, because it is a diuretic, it can help eliminate kidney stones, but for this purpose it must be used with caution. If you suffer from renal lithiasis, ask your healthcare provider about the possibility of using lovage as a natural alternative to your conventional treatment or as a complementary therapeutic method.
Lovage is considered to be a diaphoretic, which means that it can induce perspiration, and that can help the body cool. While lovage can be effective for a mild fever, if you experience high fever, you should immediately go to the emergency room to prevent any dangerous complications.