Friday, June 30, 2017


Levisticum officinale

Lovage, soup herb, maggi herb, bouillon herb.  

Lovage is an erect, herbaceous, perennial plant growing to 1.8–2.5 m tall with a strong rootstock and pale yellow flowers. The stems and leaves smell somewhat similar to celery when crushed. The flowers are yellow to greenish-yellow, flowering is in late spring. The fruit is a dry two-parted schizocarp 4–7 mm long, mature in autumn. Lovage prefers a deep, mouldy and calcareous soil with enough moist . The plant grows well in shadow or half shadow in gardens, and it can grow in the same place in over 15 years.

The homeland of the plant is unknown, but supposedly it origins from mountain woods in Central Asia or from the northern Iran. The plant can grow in altitudes of over 200 meter above sea level. Lovage is mentioned in Charlemagne's Kapitularium and was used as a kitchen herb and a medical plant since then. Today it is naturalized in many places , in Asia, North- and South America and in Europe (incl. Denmark). The monks brought the plant to Europe in the Middle Ages, and it has been  cultivated in Europe for centuries, the leaves being used as an herb, the roots as a vegetable, and the seeds as a spice, especially in southern European cuisine.Lovage is an unusual spice herb since it prefers a light shadow and must have water in dry periods. Lovage was earlier cultivated in farmers gardens for livestock medicine, but today it ias a spice herb in the garden and strayed here and there. In the old days it was - not known for any reason - plant in church yards.

The name "lovage" is from "love-ache", ache being a medieval name for parsley; this is a folk-etymological corruption of the older French name levesche, from late Latin levisticum, in turn thought to be a corruption of the earlier Latin ligusticum, "of liguria" (northwest Italy), where the herb was grown extensively.

In modern botanical usage, both Latin forms are now used for different (but closely related) genera, with Levisticum for (culinary) lovage, and ligusticum for Scots lovage, a similar species from northern Europe, and for related species.

Folk Medicine

A bath with lovage was said to heal gonorrhea. Decoction to drink in blatter and kidney disease and in stomach trouble. Lovage in the bath water could heal reumathic ailments, gouts, menstrual pain and migraine. To wash with lovage could give a clear skin and heal mouth ulcer and boils. Pulverized root in wine was drunk against blatter stones.Decoct of lovage could cure a bad eye sight.The dried and pulverized root was a part of a diuretic drink to people, infected by the plague.

photo: gb
Harpestræng ab. 1300: promotes digestion, was given against liver disorders , stomach pain, and as a diuretic. 
1400: water decoction against blatter stone; the juice in the eyes of a patient who was paralyzed and had lost his voice. The juice gives a pretty hair and a good scent. 
Christiern Petersen 1533:beer or wine decoction for liver and spleen disorders, against roundworms , crushed seeds with beer or wine decoction from lovage, hellebore, fennel and tansy in a balm upon leprous wounds.
Henrik Smid 1546: dried and pulverized root in food for a cold stomach, promotes digestion. Wine decoction from root and seeds drives out jaundice and " the black melancholia". Crushed seeds upon bites from vipers, spiders, mad dogs, lizards and scorpions -ease the pain and drive out the poison.
A linen cloth wettened with lovage water put on a swelling of the head; face bathed with lovage water gets clear, white and pretty skin, removes red and blue spots on the body after mange and boils.
Simon Paulli 1648: crushed roots and seeds in wine for pain.

An extraction vinaigre of lovage, burnet saxifrage and Angelica root was used against plague infection.Lovage was earlier used against mental disorders.The plant was a komponent of a snaps extraction against fever (malaria). The cooked plant was put upon arthritic limbs. 1700: tea from the leaves for urination difficulties. The root was a diuretic drug. 1757: the leaves were bound and put upon bites from snakes and lizards. The leaves as a cover and a milch decoction against blood infection.

1930s: A decoction was used as a refreshing drug. A doctor said (1930s) that if the Danish population used this plant all doctors would die of hunger or  have to look out for another occupation.
The Pharmacopoeia states seeds and root in 1772. 

Pets: If the dog or the cat keep on placing its "cards" in an unwanted place, then make a strong decoct of lovage  and pour it on the spot, which makes the animal go elsewhere. The dog or cat can also be washed with lovage to avoid it getting  vermins or mange.

photo: gb
photo: gb
Lovage belonged in the old days to one of the most used remedies of the veteranian, and from this reason it was found in most farmer gardens from before 1900s. Since the antique Greek  writer Pedanios Dioskurides had described it as a universal medical means in the 1. century AC it was soon spread ampong the monks in the Middle Ages, and it came to Denmark with the monks in the 1100s. The whole plant was used, sometimes a bouquet bound around the cow's tail to protect it against evil spirits, other times cooked in water as lovage water or cooked together with sod and salt to a porridge which was given to sick cows. 

1800s: lovage was used as a preventive agent against all disease among the cattle, especially root and leaves were used for the cow's sickness  A sick cow got lovage root, salt and sod cooked together into a porridge, the animal had to be beaten with a coffin key between the horn while it was eating the porridge. In spring the cows had a tuft of grass with lovage - this would keep them healthy.
In late summer the cattle had a bottle of lovage water and was smeared with tar upon the mule.

1900s: Still in 1924 is mentioned the use of lovage against foot and mouth disease. Lovage tea was used against tympania, the root was a drug for cow premature abortion.

Lovage was a part of a means for the lung- and liverdisease of the horse and against leap worms.
 Lovage also used for sheep's disease.

Food: Lovage is a popular spice herb, used instead of bouillon and to spice the cooking water with the potatoes etc. Can also be a diuretic tea. The roots, which contain a heavy, volatile oil, are used as a mild aquaretic. Lovage root contains furanocoumarins which can lead to photosensitivity. In Romania it is also used dried and with seeds to conserve and to add flavour to pickled cabbage and cucumbers. The leaves can be used in salads, or to make soup or season broths, and the roots can be eaten as a vegetable or grated for use in salads. Its flavor and smell can be described as a mix of celery and parsley, but with a higher intensity of both of those flavors. The seeds can be used as a spice, similar to fennel seeds. In the UK, an alcoholic lovage cordial is traditionally mixed with brandy in the ratio of 2:1 as a winter drink. In Romania, the leaves are the preferred seasoning for the various local broths, much more so than parsley or dill. In the Netherlands it is the only non salt ingredient of a traditional asparagus dish.

The dried and pulverized root is (like pepper) a wonderful root for preparing food.  Young stems and leaves can be eaten; a couple of leaves good in the kale soup. A decoction of chopped leaves for cooked plaice and cod. Root and leaves have a strong spicy taste almost as a bouillon.

Leaves, chives and dill, dried in a spice vinegar.  Crushed root or plant as a spice in minced meat, sauce and sausage. The etheric oil of the root in perfume and perfumed tobaccos.   

In 1942 (during WWII) a poultry slaughterhouse in Denmark used lovage for producting chicken soup -  and lovage was cultivated on large areas for this purpose.

In England the young shots of the root  are made into candy. Lovage is also used as a spice in the liquor industry.

photo gb

Superstition: Lovage in the bath water incites to love making. A bouquet of lovage hang above the door chase away the devil. Lovage hang by the house door kept away the black death, and if one chewed a lovage root the plague could not infect a human.
In the times of the plague it was beneficial to hang lovage in front of the doors and keep the root in the mouth as a protection against infection. Lovage was a universel cure against witchcraft. 

The plant was put under the doorstep of the stable which brought luck to the cattle and it was a protection against spell in the cattle.

A wise woman in Himmerland put lovage root and fly rowan and a note with a spell at the doorstep of a stable which brought the farmer good luck with his cattle.

Wolves get together when someone blows in a lovage stem. Roots and other parts of lovage put in the forest make wild animal approach.

Brøndegaard, Folk og Flora, bd. 3, Dansk Etnobotanik 1978. 
Danske Klosterurter, Anemette Olesen, 2001
Krydderurter i haven, Anemette Olesen, 1998
Wikipedia, Danish and English

photos: grethe bachmann

photos: wikipedia

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