Loavge is an aromatic herb with medicinal and culinary uses that has been utilized throughout history. This herb is nutritious, and modern research has revealed its possible use in the development of anticancer drugs.
This robust, perennial, herbaceous plant was valued in traditional European folk medicine and is still eaten as a vegetable in its native southern Europe. Lovage is a member of the carrot, or Apiaceae botanical family and it has an aromatic, earthy, flavor. Lovage is highly nutritious, being a source of antioxidants.
Lovage or Levisticum offincinale is a short lived plant that arrives in early spring and bears clusters of tiny yellow flowers in midsummer. This plant has dark green leaves, the taste and scent of which are similar to celery or parsley. Flowers are followed by brown seeds, sometimes used as a substitute for caraway seeds (Carum carvi). Lovage is related to the herbs, angelica,cicely and licorice.
Alternative names for this herb include, Cornish lovage, Maggi herb, sea parsley, Italian lovage, old English lovage, loveache and Apio de Monte (Spanish).
The origin of lovage is contentious as the herb may be from the Eastern Mediterranean region, the Middle East, or central Asia, as some experts believe. The northern European equivalent is a closely related species called Ligusticum scoticum, and it grows wild in Britain and the Atlantic coast of North America.
Lovage was valued by the Ancient Greeks, and later the Romans, as a medicinal and culinary herb, indeed the Greeks chewed the leaves and seeds to aid digestion and to relieve flatulence. Lovage is mentioned in the Roman cookery book known as Apicius, written before the fifth century AD. In the Middle Ages lovage was prepared and eaten as a leafy vegetable and was also cultivated in the gardens of monasteries. Lovage has traditionally been propagated in gardens as a natural pest controller because it attracts wasps that feed on garden pests such as tent caterpillars.
The name of this herb is a corruption of this plants genus name Levisticum, which is derived from the Latin ligusticum or Liguria; the coastal region of north western Italy, where fields of lovage once flourished. The name lovage in old French is luvesche, or in English, loveache; which refers to this herbs use in love potions and aphrodisiacs. Indeed, in days gone by it was customary to keep a sachet of lovage when visiting a secret love in the fervent hope of a return of affection.
Culinary Uses: Every part of this herb is edible and has numerous culinary uses. In Mediterranean cuisine, lovage leaves are finely chopped and added to tomato based sauces, also soups that contain potatoes, sautéed and seafood dishes. The leaves can also be frozen, or dried to increase their shelf life.
Lovage leaf stalks tend to be fibrous and should be blanched in boiling water, after which they can be used like leafy vegetables; stems are also candied and used to decorate cakes like angelica. The seeds are either ground or used whole and added to bread, biscuits, cakes and also pickled. An herbal medicinal tea is also made from the roots, leaves and or seeds.
Medicinal Uses: Lovage is infrequently used in herbal medicine, internally, for kidney stones, cystitis, colic, poor appetite, menstruation pain and to promote digestion. Externally it is used for sore throat. This herb acts as a weak diuretic and expectorant.
Nutrition: This herb is rich in vitamin C, B complex vitamin’s and the antioxidant, quercetin. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that acts as an anti-inflammatory and is believed to help prevent heart disease. The herb lovage is natures third best source of quercetin, after green tea and capers. Lovage has been used as a medicinal herb for millennia and there is positive new research into its medicinal properties.
- A 2010 study at the University of Mainz, Staudingerweg, Germany, found that lovage essential oil can inhibit the growth of head and neck squamous carcinoma cells, and so could be used to develop new anticancer drugs. Head and neck cancer is the eighth most dangerous type of cancer in the world.
- In Germany lovage is a recognized and approved herb for the treatment of urinary tract inflammation, for example Urethritis. Although, herbalists recommend those with kidney damage or who are pregnant, especially during the first trimester, to not use lovage.
- Lovage essential oil contains numerous intriguing chemical compounds, many of which have not yet been fully investigated. Carvacrol is a natural antibiotic, or herbal germ fighter, that has been shown in clinical studies to destroy viruses. Other compounds found in lovage include coumarines; which have antioxidant effects, and beta-sitosterol; thought to lower LDL cholesterol and improve prostate health.
Primary image from flickr.com, image credit.
Lovage (Levisticum officinale) image credit flickr.com.