Lovage: A Mediterranean Tradition

Lovage is a relative of parsley with seeds, leaves, and roots that can be used to flavor foods and treat medical conditions. It originated in Greece but its cultivation has spread throughout Europe into Asia and the United States.

Lovage was widely used by both the ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans for both its medicinal and seasoning properties.

The ancient Greeks chewed lovage leaves as a way to help with digestion and to ease flatulence.

The Romans are partly responsible for its spread throughout Europe. They cultivated it in Britain and now it grows as a wild plant there. The herb is mentioned in the Apicius, which is a collection of Roman recipes. Historians believe that the recipes it contains where collected in the period from the 4th century to the 5 century AD.

The herb’s name comes from its genus name, which is Levisticum. The name of the genus indicates that it comes from Liguria. Liguria is a region in Italy where fields of lovage once flourished.

Flavor profile of lovage

Lovage has a flavor very similar to that of celery but more intense; in fact, the spice sold as celery seeds is actually lovage seeds. Along with the strong celery flavor, there are also hints of anise. The flavor tends to linger, which makes this herb perfect for flavoring stocks and dishes with long cooking times.

Health benefits of lovage

Lovage offers a variety of health benefits as it contains numerous minerals and vitamins along with other health-boosting compounds.

  • Vitamins: A 100 g serving of lovage contains 84 percent of your daily-recommended vitamin A intake. Vitamin A is important for bone health and for healthy eyes. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that helps to fight damage from free radicals. Lovage is also a good source of vitamin C with a 100 g serving providing almost half of your daily-recommended intake.
  • Minerals: Lovage contains a significant amount of both calcium and iron. It provides 15 percent of the daily-recommended intake of both minerals. It also contains potassium and you get a little less than 10 percent of the daily amount from a 100 g serving.
  • Quercetin: Lovage contains high levels of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that has anti-inflammatory benefits. Lovage is the third best source of this antioxidant behind green tea and capers.

Lovage is useful for treating a range of health conditions including:

  • Cancer: Research has shown that lovage contains an essential oil that is effective for inhibiting the growth of squamous carcinoma cells on the head and neck. This ability shows the herb’s potential for use in anticancer medication.
  • Urinary tract ailments: Lovage is used to treat urethritis in Germany and is an aquaretic, which is a diuretic that does not cause the loss of electrolytes.
  • Respiratory ailments: Lovage is used in traditional medicine as a means of loosening phlegm in the lungs. You can also use it to relieve lung inflammation and to speed up healing.
  • Bacterial infections: Lovage has antimicrobial benefits; it has been shown to be effective in fighting E. coli as well as salmonella.

Common uses for lovage

Throughout Europe, Lovage is used for everything from soups and stews to salads. Lovage seeds are used to flavor pickles and vinegars; they can also be crushed and sprinkled on breads. Lovage goes well with fish and Italians use it in tomato-based sauces along with oregano and garlic.