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Lovage or Love’s Ache

Levisticum officinale photographed by H. Zell

Levisticum officinale photographed by H. Zell

The lovage plant (Levisticum officinale) has been cultivated for medicinal and culinary use for many years – so long, in fact, that the exact native region of the plant is unknown because humans were so swift to spread it across the globe. With a taste reminiscent of celery, the leaves, roots, and seeds have been used as a folk medicine for ailments from kidney stones to migraines. Contemporary research shows the root has high diuretic properties and its tea is effective for expelling gas in both children and adults.

But the entomological breakdown of the name shows that the plant was known for its abilities in love. From Wikipedia:

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]  Italian [it is] levistico or sedano di monte, French livèche, Romanian leuştean, Hungarian lestyán, Russian любисток lyubeestok, etc. In Bulgaria, it is known as девесил deveseel. The Czech name is libeček, and the Polish name is lubczyk, both meaning ‘love herb’. The name in Swedish is libbsticka. The official German name is Liebstöckel, literally ‘love stick’.

Indeed, lovage has been noted as an aphrodisiac since ancient times – the Emperor Charlemange even planted the love herb throughout his garden.  Apparently, a potion brewed from the roots of the plant and given to a woman would “melt” her frigid disposition and make her agreeable to… well, let’s call it wooing. Soaking in a warm bath sprinkled with lovage leaves would leave you irresistible to others.
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