Lovage or Levisticum officinale, sometimes called sea parsley, smellage, maggi plant, and love parsley, is a fragrant plant related to parsley and angelica, with a strong scent similar to celery. Unlike its popular relatives, lovage is not well-known in western countries. Across Europe and certain parts of Asia, however, lovage is a must-have ingredient for stews, broths, and pickles. Though in North America we aren't familiar with the health benefits of this plant, it is nevertheless a potent natural remedy that, historically, helped people with a wide array of ailments.
If you have a case of the sniffles, try lovage. The eucalyptol in this herb helps clear the airways, reduce lung irritation and promote healing. Lovage has been used since the dawn of time to ease respiratory conditions like bronchitis, but it’s also useful for mild coughs and colds. Its expectorant properties enable it to help loosen phlegm. Sinusitis is yet another condition improved with lovage, particularly as the eucalyptol helps reduce inflammation and reduces the pain of swollen sinuses. Lovage tubers are used in Chinese medicine to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of rhinitis. Experts believe the quercetin in the plant inhibits the release and flow of histamines through the body, toning down allergic reactions.
Historically, people used lovage for its stomachic properties. It helps tone the stomach, increase appetite, and generally improve the functions of the stomach and the rest of the digestive tract. The mechanism behind this is not yet fully understood, but the plant may boost the appetite and tone the stomach by promoting the release of gastric secretions.
Due to its carminative properties, lovage alleviates bowel irritation and eases movement through the intestines. This helps address flatulence and colic. In rural Europe and Asia, many families still follow the age-old practice of giving children lovage to eat when they have wind. Lovage is cultivated on these continents extensively. As a hardy perennial, it also grows in the wild, so it's very accessible in rural areas.
The leaves, fruit, and roots of lovage serve as spasmolytic remedies in Chinese medicine. In other words, they help relax the smooth muscles of the body. Traditionally, lovage brews treated cramps and spasms of the hands and legs. As a cardiovascular relaxant, lovage may also soothe spasms in the blood vessels; particularly the arteries. This, by extension, may alleviate some symptoms of cardiovascular disorders.
Lovage is an effective diaphoretic remedy, meaning it causes the body to sweat. It’s also a good febrifuge or fever-reducer and can help the body cool down by encouraging this sweating. With intermittent and sudden fevers of unknown cause, when taking medicine may not be an option, lovage is a great alternative. Rather than stopping both the fever and the sweating, lovage allows you to carry on flushing toxins out of the body through sweat even as the fever comes down.
Lovage roots contain an aquaretic volatile oil, which helps pass water without electrolyte loss. As such, they have been used to prevent kidney stones and alleviate cystitis. Taken orally, lovage infusions act as "irrigation therapy" in the treatment of lower urinary tract infections. That said, people with kidney conditions or pregnant women should avoid lovage tea.
The quercetin in lovage is a flavonoid believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Aside from helping fight the swelling (hence, pain) that come with UTIs, lovage can treat many other internal and external inflammations including sore throats, canker sores, pleurisy, gout, and joint pain. Lovage can also reduce the inflammatory response many people experience from eating processed meat.
Experts do not recommend lovage during pregnancy, but it’s a lady-friendly natural remedy at other times. Painful menstruation and slow labor are just some of the health issues for which lovage has offered relief since time immemorial. Also, lovage is a highly touted emmenagogue, stimulating blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus, which is especially important for women with hormonal disorders like infrequent or irregular menstruation. Lovage leaves are traditionally eaten raw, in salads, or dried and brewed in a tisane to release their full potency.
Several branches of alternative medicine use lovage. Homeopaths, for instance, once used it to remove facial spots and freckles. In aromatherapy, essential oils of the leaves, seeds, and roots are independently extracted, and each has a unique smell. The root scent is herbaceous and spicy, like a blend of angelica and celery. It soothes the nerves and may have a positive effect on various bodily ailments.
Lovage has been used as a culinary ingredient since ancient times. The leaves serve as an herb, perfect for pickles and broths, and also to decorate soups, pies, and meat cakes. The seeds serve as a spice. The roots (rhizomes, to be more precise), which are the shape of carrots, are eaten raw or cooked.
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