LOVAGE (Levisticum officinale – Umbelliferae)
Lovage is a hardy herbaceous perennial, native to southern Europe, which can grow to about 2 m (6 ft) in height. It looks similar to other umbellifers (fennel, coriander, parsley, etc), with large umbels of yellowish-green flowers followed by seeds. It has a sturdy, thick and hollow stem, and its large leaves are like those of celery and, indeed, taste like them. For this reason lovage, or liveche, is also called bastard celery in France. In English, lovage is also known (hopefully) as love parsley. An old generic name for the lovage plant was Ligusticum officinalis, perhaps deriving from Liguria in Italy where the plant grows abundantly. I have also seen it growing wild in the mountains in the South of France. There is a related species, Ligusticum scoticum, which is known as Scottish or sea lovage: this grows wild around the northern coasts of Britain and the northern Atlantic coasts of America.
The principal constituents: Cineol, limonene, selinene and terpineol, with traces of guaiacol and isovalerianic and palmic acids.
in the South of France. There is a related species, Ligusticum scoticum, which is known as Scottish or sea lovage: this grows wild around the northern coasts of Britain and the northern Atlantic coasts of America.
LOVAGE ESSENTIAL OIL
Description: Although all parts of the lovage plant – root, stem, leaves and seeds – have medicinal properties, it is the roots which are distilled for the essential oil. Depending on whether the roots are fresh or dried, the lovage oil obtained can be yellow or dark brown; it is a little resinous and thick, and has a strong aroma, reminiscent of angelica with a touch of bitterness and a hint of celery.
Lovage was used by the Greeks and Romans as much for its thera¬peutic as for its culinary values. Galen, Dioscorides, Pliny and Apicius all mentioned it, and the Roman legions brought it to northern Europe and Britain. It is said to have grown in profusion in the Emperor Charlemagne’s gardens. St Hildegarde recommended it in the twelfth century for coughs, abdominal pains and heart problems. The School of Salerno praised its use in all liver complaints, echoed centuries later by Dr Leclerc who prescribed it for jaundice and all other liver disfunctions, as an infusion or tincture.
As a tisane, lovage is a natural blood cleanser and should be used for all hepatic disfunctions and for skin eruptions, gout, and rheumatism. It is also digestive. To cleanse and detoxify the body after over-indulgent festivities, drink a tisane of lovage leaves: infuse 15 ml (1 tbsp) leaves in 600 ml (1 pint) boiling water for 7 minutes, then drink several cups throughout the day. The flavour is very agreeable, more like a broth than a tea.
For liver problems, you can make up a poultice with linseed adding 8 drops of lovage oil. Place this hot on the area of the liver, keep warm, and repeat twice a day. Fast for the day as well, drinking only 1-2 cups of the above tisane, mixed with mint, at each of the three mealtimes.
Because it cleanses the blood, lovage is also good for the skin. It is said to have deodorizing properties as well.
Lovage can be bought as dried leaves, as whole seeds, or in root form; it is easy to grow in the garden to have all three, plus the delicious fresh leaves. These can be used for their yeasty celery flavour in soups stocks and casseroles when meat is short – in fact they’re most useful in vegetarian dishes and salads. The stems can be blanched and eaten as a vegetable with a cheese sauce (an old French recipe); they can also be candied like angelica. The roots can be peeled and boiled as a vegetable, but they are very strong in flavour; they were once ground and used as a bread flour. The seeds can be sprinkled on bread or biscuits before baking, and they can be ground in a mortar with rock or sea salt to make an extremely aromatic seasoning.