Lovage is a conspicuous plant, and not just because of its delicious, aromatic scent, but even more so because of its size! At about 2m tall it is not easily overlooked. In Medieval times it was a commonly used kitchen herb. Like so many others, it had arrived in Britain with the Romans a few centuries earlier.
Lovage is a member of the Carrot family, and like Parsley, Fennel, or Coriander, famous for its highly aromatic essential oils. In the kitchen, Lovage its flavorful edible leaves are used in salads, stews, soups and sauces, but in fact, all of its parts are edible. The seeds can be used like fennel seeds and the young stems are candied like those of Angelica. The root is dug up in September and cooked as a vegetable. In Cornwall, a popular cordial called 'Lovage' was served with Brandy as a tasty ‘winter warmer’. It has recently been revived but although very tasty, Lovage is not the main ingredient.
Although medical herbalists have mostly abandoned the use of Lovage in their medical practice, it has been issued with a positive Commission E monograph. In the past, all parts of the plant were used for similar medicinal purposes, but the root has the highest essential oil content. The oil relaxes the smooth muscles especially those of the stomach and digestive tract. It has been used to treat intestinal colic, acid reflux, and the like. Its other common use is as an expectorant for catarrhal conditions of the upper respiratory tract. Another interesting property that has been discovered more recently is its ‘aquatic action’ - which is to say that it promotes the flow of urine and the excretion of uric acid without depleting the body’s electrolytes.
Thanks to its lovely name, lovage has a long history of use in love spells and added to the bathwater it was said to make the bather ‘irresistible’. never mind that the name is the result of an etymological confusion.
Its powerfully aromatic scent was believed to fend off demons and it was fed to cattle to protect them against evil spells (e.g. that reduce the flow of milk). Culpeper calls it a ‘herb of the Sun in the sign of Taurus.’