Love that Lovage

Disclaimer: This information is in no way intended to be a substitute for modern medical care. Do not self-treat any medical complaint without the guidance of a licensed health care provider.

      In the early 1700s, there were few conditions that lovage wasn't claimed to cure. The esteemed Irish herbalist K'Eogh noted that this highly aromatic and giant-sized perennial "expels flatulence; clears the sight; removes spots, freckles and redness; provokes urination and menstruation; and aids digestion." It was also aptly used in love potions. While its popularity has dwindled somewhat, lovage remains a useful medicinal and culinary herb.

      Using just a pinch of lovage, you can impart the sharp flavor of celery to stuffings, creamed soups, stews and even potato salads; its seeds work well in pickling brines and dressings. In its medicinal form, lovage has been prized since the Middle Ages for treating all manner of ailments. Known primarily as a dependable yet gentle diuretic, lovage has been especially useful in reducing water retention and swelling in the feet.

      Native to Europe and southwestern Asia, the shrub now thrives where there is full sun and fertile soil. Its leaves and seeds all have therapeutic properties; they are used to remedy such conditions as menstrual pain, bronchitis, poor appetite and indigestion. Lovage is tasty, too; although quite similar to celery in its appearance and flavor, this herb is able to retain its flavor in slow-cooked soups and stews.

Plant Facts:
      This hardy perennial belongs to the Umbelliferae family, which also includes parsley, fennel and celery. Like celery, it has a hollow stem and serrated leaves. Lovage is one of the earliest herbs to appear in the garden at the beginning of spring. Its flowers grow in clusters ranging from green to yellow.

Therapeutic Effect
      As a diuretic, lovage increases urine output, relieving edema (water retention with swelling) in the feet, hands and joints and helping to clean out the kidneys. In this way, the herb may help to prevent kidney stones. Since it affects the smooth muscles, lovage can alleviate both gastrointestinal and menstrual cramps. In the digestive tract, this fosters the release of gas; at the same time, the herb spurs the secretion of digestive juices, including bile, which then promotes fat digestion. In the past, the roots and the leaves were applied to boils, and a seed infusion was said to treat pinkeye.

      The essential oil of the lovage plant is the reason it has both a diuretic action and the ability to stimulate gastric juices and bile. The oil's coumarins contribute to relief of spasms; in addition, the oil may be slightly sedative, supporting this antispasmodic effect. Lovage leaves contain vitamins A and C, and its seeds contain sodium, iron and zinc.

Medicinal Uses
      A remedial tea can be made from the roots and leaves of lovage. It is recommended to reduce fevers, aid digestion, promote circulation and relieve flatulence, used as a diuretic, and is useful in helping the kidneys eliminate toxins.

To prevent kidney stones
      Lovage tea stimulates urine production and helps to prevent gravel from piling up and forming kidney stones. If you have had kidney stones, heat (don't boil!) 2 tsp. of chopped dried lovage in 1 cup of cold water. Strain. Drink 2 cups daily.

      A tea blend featuring lovage seeds can relieve indigestion. Mix 1½ oz. each of ground lovage seeds, angelica seeds and aniseed with ¾ oz. each of ground dandelion root and catnip. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tsp. of the blend. Steep for 10 minutes, then strain. Drink 1 cup 15 minutes before and after meals likely to cause upset.

Caution! Do not use lovage if you are pregnant or have impaired kidney function! Large therapeutic doses may pose the risk of miscarriage.

Kitchen Hints

Bean and Lovage Soup Serves 6 -8

  1. In a large soup pot, saute the onion and lovage stems in the olive oil until the onion is tender and translucent.
  2. Add the beans and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 3 hours, until the beans are tender.
  3. Puree the soup in a blender in small batches along with the yeast, lovage leaves, sherry and pepper.
  4. Serve hot with about 1 tbsp. of the tomato sprinkled on top of each bow.

Plant Care:
      Lovage can grow in the same spot for 10-15 years if the soil is kept well cultivated. Dress the plants with rich compost or manure each spring and make sure to keep them watered during any dry spells. In the first year, it's wise to protect lovage from frost by heaping up soil around the base of the plant.

Harvesting and Processing
      While lovage leaves can be lightly harvested for salads and teas in the first year, the plant must be at least two years old before its roots or stems can be dug up. Once the plant is established, you can gather the roots in late fall. Wash, slice (into 1/2 inch pieces) and dry the roots on a screen in a warm and shady spot. Keep the preserved roots in a clean glass container. To dry the stems and leaves, cut and hang them upside down in a warm place, keeping away from the sun. Store them in an opaque, sealed container.

Guide to Cultivation
      Lovage can be grown from seeds or by dividing young plants, which, like seeds, are available at nurseries. Due to the large size of mature lovage, only 1 or 2 plants need to be started from seed for culinary or medicinal use. Lovage that is purchased as an established plant is suitable for pot gardening. The herb is a prolific grower and should be placed in a pot that is at least 12 inches in diameter.

Seeding and Planting

  1. In late February or early March, place a moist planting mix of peat moss and perlite in a inch container. Scatter 3-4 lovage seeds on the surface and lightly cover with 1/4 inch of the mix.
  2. Place the container in a warm spot with direct sunlight. Keep the surface of the planting mix moist by spraying with water at least once a day.
  3. When the new seedlings emerge and have grown to 3-4 inches, remove the 2 smallest seedlings and discard them. Again, keep the soil moist.
  4. When the new plants are at least inches tall and the chance of a hard freeze has passed, transplant them into a garden, selecting a spot that receives at least hours of sun. Set the seedlings 2 ft. apart.

      Lovage is propagated in the early spring primarily by seeding. Gather the seeds in late summer and fall. Propagation by root division has also proven effective. Use caution when digging up the roots, as lovage needs a plentiful supply of them to grow. Using a spade, divide the root ball into a maximum of 3 plants, and then quickly replant and water well.

Magickal Information
Folk Names: Chinese lovage, Cornish Lovage, Italian Lovage, Italian Parsley, Lavose, Love Herbs, Love Rod, Love Root, Loving Herbs, Lubestico, Sea Parsley
Planet: Sun
Love, Purification

Magickal Uses:

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      All information provided in this article is the result of research using (but not limited to) the following books and guides: Herbs for Health and Healing, Rodale; Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham; Magical Herbalism, Scott Cunningham; The Complete Guide to Natural Healing, International Masters Publishers; Earthway, Mary Summer Rain; Teach Yourself Herbs, Susie White; Natural Beauty from the Garden, Janice Cox; Nature's Prescriptions, Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing, and The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies, Joe Graedon and Theresa Graedon, Ph.D