Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), Levisticum officinale W.D.J. Koch.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Lovage, Levisticum officinale W.D.J. Koch., a perennial herb native to the mountainous regions of northern Europe and naturalized in the eastern United States, has been grown over the centuries for its aromatic fragrance, its fine ornamental qualities, and to a lesser extent, its medicinal values. All parts of the plant., including the roots, are strongly aromatic and contain extractable essential oils. The plant has been alternatively classified as Ligusticum levisticum L. Hipposelinum levisticum, Britt. and Rose, and Angelica levisticum Baillon.

Ecologically, the reported life zone is 6 to 18 degrees centigrade with 0.5 to 1.5 meters annual precipitation and a soil pH of 5.0 to 7 8 (4.1-31). Lovage thrives in deep, moist, rich soils and can grow in full sun or lightly shaded areas.

Centers of lovage cultivation are located principally in central Europe, where the plants are collected and the essential oils extracted by steam distillation. The fresh roots, which produce an oil similar to angelica's when crushed and distilled, are generally first harvested from two-to three-year-old plants. Subsequent harvests take place every third year. Chemical constituents of lovage oil are mainly phthalides and terpenoids, including n-butylidene phthalide n-butyl-phthalide, sedanonic anhydride, d--terpineol, carvacrol eugenol, and volatile acids (14.1-9).

The variations in aroma and fragrance among the different parts of the plant allow each portion of the plant to be utilized somewhat differently. The volatile oil extracted from the roots is highly valued for use in perfumery, soaps, and creams, and it has been used for flavoring tobacco products. The seeds and seed oil are used for flavoring agents in confectionery and liqueurs. The stems are used for candied products, and leaves are added to salads, soups, and stews because of their pungent, celery-like flavor.

As a medicinal plant, lovage has been used as a carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, stimulant, and stomachic; and also as a treatment for jaundice. Current medicinal applications include use as a diuretic and for regulation of menses. Several coumarins have been identified in lovage oil (1.1-94, 7.2-2, 14.1-9).

Scotch lovage, Ligusticum scoticum or Levisticum scoticum, native to coastal areas of northwest Europe and England, is sometimes used as a vegetable, but is not economically important. Because of similar development, black lovage, Smyrnium olisatrum L., and bastard lovage, Laserpitium latifolium L. are sometimes mistaken for lovage. Water lovage, Oenanthe crocata L., is a poisonous plant of the Apiaceae family (11.1-49).

Lovage is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a natural seasoning and flavoring agent (21 CFR section 172.510 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997