- Culinary uses of lovage
- Purchasing - storage
- Ingredients - nutritional values - calories
- Health effects
- Ecological footprint - animal welfare
- Worldwide occurrence - cultivation
- Additional information
Raw lovage (Levisticum officinale) is also known as Maggi herb. This is due to its celery-like taste, which is reminiscent of vegetable broth or Maggi seasoning. Other well-known alternative names are nut stock or nut herb.
When used as an organic spice, lovage or Maggi herb increases the digestibility and flavor of food. The spicy-aromatic to bitter-sweet aroma is reminiscent of celery and yeast extract. Adding too much of this spice should be avoided, as the plant acts as a natural flavor enhancer.
Can you eat lovage raw? Almost all parts of the plant can be eaten raw. One can use leaves, roots, seeds, oil, and the lovage stalks. Petioles and young shoots can be blanched and eaten as a vegetable.
During summer, chopped raw leaves and shoot tips can be used as a fresh spice for salads, raw vegetables, vegetable dishes, vegan patties, sauces, soups, stews, etc. You can cook the larger leaves on the stalk for flavoring stews and soups and later remove them before serving.
When dried, the leaves taste like vegetable chips. Thanks to their intense aroma, they are well suited as a dry spice and taste good as an addition to herbal oil, herb vinegar, wild plant salt, pesto or spice purée. Vegan spice paste based on Maggi herb (or nut herb or nut stick) is unusual but delicious.
Is the lovage flower edible? During late summer, the raw flowers can be used as an edible decoration on dishes and as a flavoring agent; similar to the leaves. They are suitable for making a wild plant lemonade. Whole inflorescences can be prepared in batter.
During August-September (northern hemisphere) the ripe fruits can be used to flavor oil, vinegar or spirits and as a dry spice and germ seed. The seeds of the Maggi herb are used in recipes for bread, biscuits and soups.
During September–March (northern hemisphere) the roots, sometimes called rennet or liver, are finely chopped and used as a spice or pickled vegetable. Fine slices can be dried into healthy raw food chips.
Is Maggi seasoning lovage? The taste of lovage is reminiscent of the soup spice conceived by Julius Maggi, although it does not contain any components of this plant. Nevertheless, the aromatic spice plant has retained the popular name 'Maggi-Kraut' (Maggi herb) until now.
Vegan Maggi Herb recipe for Soup Seasoning
Ingredients (for several small servings): 30 g lovage leaves (organic), 30 g lovage stalks (organic), ¼ celery, 1 carrot, 1 parsley root, 1 clove of garlic (peeled), 1 onion (peeled), 2 tbsp salt, 7 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil (shorter shelf life due to the omega-3 fatty acids) or cold-pressed olive oil (for a longer shelf life).
Procedure: Roughly chop the diced raw vegetables (apart from the leaves) with 3 tablespoons of oil using a hand blender or another food processor. Mix the remaining oil well with the salt and stir into the vegetables together with the lovage leaves. Mix again to the desired consistency, pour into small glasses. Store the vegan soup seasoning in the fridge.
Recipe for Fresh Lovage Tea
To prepare the tea, pour 150 ml of boiling water over 1.5-3 g of the finely chopped lovage root and let it steep in a closed pot. After 10–20 minutes, strain the tea. Some authors recommend boiling the root pieces for 15–20 minutes.6 Drink a cup of freshly prepared tea three times a day between meals.1,2,3,4
To find vegan recipes with lovage (Maggi herb) follow the reference: "Recipes that have the most of this ingredient".
|Not only vegans and vegetarians should read this: |
A Vegan Diet Can Be Unhealthy. Nutrition Mistakes.
Lovage or Maggi herb is may be available occasionally as a fresh bundle, most likely at the local weekly market, or directly from the farmer or via a green box (subscription box, seasonal box) when the herb is in season. You may be able to buy lovage as a dry spice in some supermarkets, organic shops, or organic supermarkets. You can also find dried or freeze-dried or powdered Maggi herb in pharmacies, health food stores, or online. It is sometimes gently dried and available as raw food.
How should you preserve Maggi herb? You can cut fresh Maggi herbs and freeze them raw. Practical herb cubes are obtained by placing the raw herb in ice cube trays with a little water.
Dried herbs should be stored away from light in tightly sealed containers made of metal or glass. Plastic jars should be avoided as they negatively affect the essential oil content. You should check regularly for insect infestation.4
To be more realistic, we present the ingredients of spices and herbs per 1 g (instead of per 100 g as is usually done).
1 g lovage (nut stick) has a calorie content of 0.48 kcal. The main nutrients consist of around 0.01 g fats, 0.04 g proteins and 0.08 g carbohydrates.
The content of vitamin A (6.67 µg/1g) is particularly noteworthy.9 Significantly more vitamin A can be found in raw fenugreek leaves (21 µg/1g), fresh sorrel (12.5 µg/1g) or in meadow chervil ( 9 µg/1g). Comparable amounts can be found in curry leaves (6.3 µg/1g) and significantly lower levels in fresh parsley (4.21 µg/1g) or in raw narrow-leaved willow herb (2.86 µg/1g).9,10
The ingredients that determine their effectiveness include 0.4-1.7% essential oil as well as coumarins, furocoumarins (also furanocoumarins), phenolic carboxylic acids and falcarindiol.11
The fresh fruits contain 0.9% and the root 0.4-1.7% essential oil - with up to 70% alkylphthalides.12 Depending on the maturity and age of the plant, the composition of the oil differs. The characteristic odor is made up of alkylphthalides, including ligustilide. They determine the effectiveness of the medicinal plant.1
In addition to the essential oil, the ingredient sotolon is crucial for the aroma of the lovage plant.8,13 This is responsible for the typical Maggi smell.8 Sotolon is a strong flavoring substance, which in low concentrations resembles maple syrup, caramel or burnt sugar; in high concentrations it resembles curry powder, lovage or fenugreek smells.
You can find the total ingredients of lovage, the coverage of the daily requirement and comparison values with other ingredients in our nutrient tables above.
Is lovage healthy? There are numerous in-vitro and in-vivo studies and the diverse results have so far only been verified in a few clinical studies.8 A small study on 18 patients with cystinuria concluded that lovage (nutwort) has a protective effect on kidneys and reduces the formation of kidney stones.3 Placebo-controlled human studies for a herbal combination preparation with centaury and rosemary have repeatedly shown a significant effect on urinary tract infections. One of the placebo-controlled studies (involving 659 patients) showed a significant benefit of the drug, demonstrating avoidance of antibiotic use.8 In addition to goldenrod (Solidago spp.), birch (Betula spp.), parsley (Petroselinum crispum), and celery (Apium graveolens), lovage is a strong diuretic medicinal plant.2
A pronounced antibacterial effect of the lovage essential oil against numerous bacterial strains could be proven in several in-vitro studies.6 In vitro, synergistic effects of the extract with antibiotics against Salmonella typhimurium were demonstrated.14 Another study proves effects against Mycobacteria and various fungal strains.2 In 1937, an increase in the amount of urine in rabbits and mice was observed after the infusion of lovage.15 Some authors explain the diuretic effect as a result of terpene derivatives in the essential oil.4,7,16 In vitro, ligustilide was confirmed to have an antispasmodic effect.11, 17 Ligustilide could also be responsible for anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. In two mouse models, 10 mg ligustilide per kg showed the same analgesic results as 200 mg acetylsalicylic acid per kg.18
Several in vivo studies in rats have shown the learning-enhancing and neuroprotective effects of lovage extract. The explanation lies in the increase in a neuronal "growthfactor" and neurogenesis in the hippocampus.13 Scientists determined the "growthinhibiting" effects of an ingredient (butylphthalide) in vitro and in vivo on rats.12 The antidiabetic aspects of lovage were examined in an animal study. Administration of hydroalcoholic stem and leaf extract before a glucose challenge significantly reduced blood glucose levels for 14 days. This improved other critical levels, e.g., lipid profile, "insulin hormone" etc. of diabetic rats.19
Dangers - intolerances - side effects
Furocoumarins can promote skin disease (photodermatosis) under the influence of long-lasting or strong UV radiation. When lovage is used therapeutically, no phototoxic, photocarcinogenic or photomutagenic effects are to be expected, especially if the medicinal plant is used as a tea, as the furocoumarins have a low water solubility.2,4,8,12 To be on the safe side, intensive sunbathing and UV radiation should be avoided during prolonged use.11
The falcarindiol it contains has a fungicidal, antibacterial and toxic effect, but it occurs in such small doses that it is of no further concern. It does not cause contact allergies - unlike the falcarinol found in ivy.4
Preparations made from lovage roots should not be used in acute inflammatory diseases of the renal parenchyma4,8 (main kidney tissue); nor in the case of impaired renal function.4 Irrigation therapy is contraindicated in the case of edema due to impaired cardiac and renal activity.8
There are currently no studies on the safety of use in children and adolescents or during pregnancy and lactation, which is why the HMPC (Herbal Medicinal Product Committee) does not recommend corresponding applications for these groups of people.3,8
Possibility of confusion
Information on confusion with other non-toxic and poisonous Umbelliferae can be found in our text on the edible wild plant Goutweed under the subtitle ‘Danger of confusion’.
Use as a medicinal plant
The HMPC has classified lovage root as a traditional herbal medicinal product (§ 39a AMG). The root is used to increase the amount of urine as a flushing therapy. Thus, it has a supportive effect on mild urinary tract problems.3,4,8 It is important that you drink at least two liters of water per day during therapy.11
According to the European Pharmacopoeia, the term lovage root (Levistici radix) includes root components and whole or cut, dried rhizome parts of Levisticum officinale W.D.J. Cook.3,8 Whole plant parts must contain at least 0.4% essential oil and cut at least 0.3% essential oil.8
Cut roots are used to prepare tea. The daily dosage is 4-6 g divided into two cups a day.3,8 Powdered root is taken in dragees and aqueous extracts in drops.3 The usual dose of a tincture is 0.5-2 ml three times a day.2
The duration of use should be limited to two to four weeks. If symptoms worsen, such as urinary retention, cramps, blood in the urine and fever, or if the symptoms of the disease do not improve despite use, a doctor must be consulted.8
Traditional medicine - naturopathy
The BGA (Federal Health Office in Germany) lists digestive complaints such as a feeling of fullness, belching and heartburn as indications on the package inserts for preparations and medicines containing Maggi herb.7 Detailed confirmatory studies are lacking, but the slightly bitter taste justifies its use.1,8
Some authors mention supporting effects externally for poorly healing wounds and internally for relaxation in the gastrointestinal area, for bloating, for inflammatory urinary tract diseases,1,6 indigestion, stomach complaints,6 rheumatic complaints, menstrual disorders, migraine and gout7 (common names: gout root, gout stick). The use of lovage as an expectorant in the case of mucus buildup8,12 has not been scientifically substantiated.8 In Iranian folk medicine, lovage is said to have positive properties in relation to fat metabolism; but this has not been scientifically documented.19
In contrast to industrial flavor enhancers, organic Maggi herb is a natural and healthy flavoring agent. Regionally sourced lovage leaves or homemade soup seasoning (see our short recipe above) are a sustainable Maggi substitutes and thus help to keep the ecological footprint low. Small businesses that switch to solar panel systems and in-house water treatment are more and more common. In addition, local organic herbs guarantee short supply chains and careful use of resources.21 When shopping, you should ideally look for organic herbs, because synthetic fertilizers or pesticides are not used in this way of farming. Insect and weed killers are often used in conventional agriculture and have been shown to have a negative impact on important pollinators, other living beings and human health.22,23
Real lovage offers bees and other insects a medium nectar content and little to no pollen content20 (scale for nectar value and pollen value: none, low, medium, high, very high).
The center of origin of lovage is western Asia. In Europe, the cultivation can be traced back to a period of more than a thousand years and in North America lovage has been known since modern times.3,4,7 In these countries one can sometimes find wild stands of the cultivated plant.3
The perennial grows up to 2 m tall and has hollow stems5. It grows on nutrient-rich, deep and moist soil3 - but rarely grows in the wild.6 The lower leaves are longer; leaves that are higher up the stems are shorter, and those at the top of the plant are located directly on the sheaths. While the lower leaves are threefold long and the middle is less divided, the upper ones are simple.7 The yellow-green flowers are tiny and appear in double umbels about 8 cm wide, followed by ovoid green fruits.5
Careful identification is necessary to avoid confusion with poisonous umbellifers.7 The scent of the plant is helpful. Rubbing the leaves or roots releases the essential oil with its distinctive celery-like odor.3,8
The main flowering period is from July to August.6,7 Maggi herb can be harvested during the entire "growing" phase, with the ideal time being before flowering.
Cultivation - harvest
How to plant lovage? Propagation takes place in autumn by sowing seeds or dividing the rhizomes and roots. Possible pests that can attack the leaves are leaf miners.5
When can you harvest lovage? The leaves and the tender, juicy stems are cut off in early spring - before many other herbs. You can dig up the roots and rhizomes for decoctions, tinctures or extracts from the third year onwards. The ripe seeds of the lovage plants are harvested in autumn and dried for use in decoction.5
The medicinal plant is obtained exclusively by cultivating different varieties. The main growing areas include the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and some Balkan countries.4,8
The three-year rootstock with finger-width roots is harvested in the fall for commercial processing. The roots are left to dry whole at 35-45 °C so that they lose as little essential oil as possible.8
Levisticum officinale is commonly associated with the genus Levisticum within the Umbelliferae family (Apiaceae).
Lovage is also known by the names loving stock, Maggikraut (Maggi herb), real lovage, mountain lovage, love tube, lovage stem, lust stock (lusstock) stem, lust sticks, lavas, nut stock, nut herb, nerve herb, gout root, gout stick, liver stick root, bear mother, uterus herb, bath herb, stick herb, rennet root, water herb, foliage sticks, sauerkraut root, soup praise or Maggi pepper. Incorrect spellings are: Liebstöckl and Maggie Kraut.
The English name for this ingredient is lovage.
Latin alternative names are Angelica levisticum ALL., Ligusticum l. L., Hipposelinum l. (L.) BRITTON & ROSE, Levisticum l. KARSTEN, Levisticum paludapifolium (LAM.) ASCH., L. officinale var. vel subsp. cultum THELLUNG, L. vulgare HILL/REICHB., Angelica paludapifolia LAM., Selinum levisticum (L.) E.H.L.KRAUSE.
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|2.||Yarnell E. Botanical medicines for the urinary tract. World J Urol. 2002;20(5):285-293.|
|4.||Blaschek W. (Herausgeber). Wichtl –Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka. Ein Handbuch für die Praxis. Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH; 6. Auflage. 2016.|
|5.||Bown D. Kräuter. Die grosse Enzyklopädie. Anbau und Verwendung. München: Dorling Kindersley; 2. Auflage. 2015.|
|6.||Fleischhauer SG, Guthmann J, Spiegelberger R. Enzyklopädie. Essbare Wildpflanzen. 2000 Pflanzen Mitteleuropas. Aarau: AT Verlag; 1. Auflage. 2013.|
|7.||Pahlow M. Das grosse Buch der Heilpflanzen. Gesund durch die Heilkräfte der Natur. Hamburg: Nikol Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG; 8. Auflage. 2019.|
|8.||Achmüller A. HMPPA-Monographien. Levisticum officinale. Liebstöckel. ÖAZ 19/20:38-40.|
|10.||USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Nährstofftabellen.|
|11.||Schilcher H, Kammerer S, Wegener T. Leitfaden Phytotherapie. München: Elsevier GmbH; 3. Auflage. 2007.|
|12.||Spektrum.de Levisticum officinale.|
|13.||Blank I, Schieberle P. Analysis of the seasoning-like flavour substances of a commercial lovage extract (Levisticum officinale Koch.). Flavour Fragr J. 1993;8(4):191-195.|
|14.||Medicinal plant extracts with efflux inhibitory activity against Gram-negative bacteria. International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents. 2011;37(2):145-151.|
|15.||León A, Del-Ángel M, Ávila JL, Delgado G. Phthalides: distribution in nature, chemical reactivity, synthesis, and biological activity. In: Kinghorn AD, Falk H, Gibbons S, Kobayashi J (eds). Progress in the Chemistry of Organic Natural Products 104. Vol 104. Springer International Publishing; 2017:127-246.|
|16.||Kozlowska W, Wagner C, Moore EM, Matkowski A, Komarnytsky S. Botanical provenance of traditional medicines from carpathian mountains at the ukrainian-polish border. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:295.|
|17.||Afarnegan H, Shahraki A, Shahraki J. The hepatoprotective effects of aquatic extract of Levisticum officinale against paraquat hepatocyte toxicity. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2017;30(6(Supplementary)):2363-2368.|
|18.||Miran M, Feizabadi MM, Kazemian H, Kardan-Yamchi J, Monsef-Esfahani HR, Ebrahimi SN. The activity of Levisticum officinale W.D.J. Koch essential oil against multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberclosis. Iran J Microbiol. 2018;10(6):394-399.|
|19.||Ghaedi N, Pouraboli I, Askari N. Antidiabetic properties of hydroalcoholic leaf and stem extract of levisticum officinale: an implication for α-amylase inhibitory activity of extract ingredients through molecular docking. Iran J Pharm Res. 2020;19(1):231-250.|
|20.||Ministerium für Ländlichen Raum und Verbraucherschutz Baden-Württemberg. Bienenweidekatalog. Verbesserung der Bienenweide und des Artenreichtums. 6. Aktualisierter Nachdruck. Stuttgart. Oktober 2019.|
|21.||Heuschrecke.com BioBeitrag: Verantwortlicher Umgang mit CO2. 19. Juni 2022.|
|22.||EFSA (European Food Safety Authority): Adriaanse P, Arce A, Focks A et al. Revised guidance on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp. and solitary bees). EFSA Journal 2023; 21( 5):7989.|
|23.||Gill HK, Garg H. Pesticides: Environmental Impacts and Management Strategies. In: Pesticides - Toxic Aspects. InTech Open. 2014.|