You might not have heard much about lovage, but this herb has been long used to benefit skin health, lung and kidney function, allergies, inflammation and many other health conditions. All parts of the plant are safe to eat and can be used in cooking as a vegetable, herb or spice.
Lovage (Levisticum offinale) is easy to grow and inexpensive. The plant is originally from around the Mediterranean and was once widely grown throughout Europe. It’s time for this under-used herb to regain the attention it deserves.
Health Benefits of Lovage
1. Prevents Kidney Stones
A key way to prevent kidney stones is to drink and flush plenty of water through your body. Lovage is what’s called and aquaretic. It helps your internal flushing process by encouraging urination without electrolyte loss.
2. Lung Support
Lovage has been used traditionally to loosen and clear phlegm in the lungs and relieve coughing and sore throat. The plant also contains the chemical compound eucalyptol, which has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect in bronchial asthma.
3. Healthy Skin
It’s recognized that lovage can sooth or reduce swelling and edema. Lovage can be used to help skin conditions like psoriasis, dermatitis and acne. You can apply the fresh leaves directly to affected skin or make a salve out of dried lovage.
4. Antibacterial Properties
Research has found that lovage can be an effective treatment against bacterial infections. In a University of Birmingham study, lovage had the strongest antibiotic effect against bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and H. pylori compared to 21 other plant extracts.
5. Helps Digestion
One of the most common uses for lovage is to relieve gas, bloating, colic in children and other stomach and digestive disorders. It’s thought that the anti-inflammatory effect of lovage is what helps to ease and support the intestinal tract. For instance, lovage contains the anti-inflammatory compound limonene, which one study showed has a significant anti-inflammatory effect on colitis in rats.
6. Joint Health
The anti-inflammatory properties of lovage can also assist with joint disorders such as gout, arthritis and rheumatic swelling.
7. Inhibits Allergies
Lovage contains another important anti-inflammatory called quercin, which has been shown to be especially beneficial for allergy treatment. Quercin inhibits histamine release and reduces skin irritation caused by environmental sensitivities, as well as itchy eyes, runny noses and other potential allergy symptoms.
8. Menstrual Support
A traditional use of lovage is to help with issues around menstruation, such as cramps and bloating. It’s thought the high nutrient density in lovage may be partially behind its benefits during that time of the month.
How to Grow Lovage
Lovage is a low maintenance addition to your garden. It grows in clumps similar to celery that can reach up to 6 feet tall and wide. It prefers sun or partial shade and evenly moist soil, but is tough enough to handle a variety of conditions. Lovage will bloom in July and August with attractive yellow flowers in an umbel shape similar to carrots or parsley.
Lovage is a perennial that’s hardy to zone 3, so you can plant it in ornamental or vegetable beds and it will return every year. You can also use it as a container plant on a balcony or deck.
Start lovage from seed or take a division from a friend. It’s best to sow fresh seeds directly in the ground in fall and water them in well. If you’re sowing seeds in pots, this can be done in early spring.
How to Use Lovage
If you’re taking lovage for medicinal purposes, you can find lovage capsules or tinctures in many natural health stores or buy them online. Take lovage supplements as directed on the package, which is typically once or twice daily.
You can steep one tablespoon of fresh leaves or stems in 1 pint of boiling water for 7 minutes to make an infusion. It’s recommended to drink several cups throughout the day, or as advised by your health care provider.
Lovage also makes a great addition to various meals. You can use the fresh leaves and young stems like celery in soups, stews, sauces and salads. The roots can be shredded or steamed and used as a vegetable. The seeds provide a unique flavor similar to fennel or anise. They are excellent in breads or simmered into a curry or other spicy dish.