Latin name: Levisticum officinale
Common names: Lovage
A food, which may result in allergy symptoms in sensitised individuals.
Lovage probably originated in Central Asia. It is a hardy herbaceous perennial herb belonging to the Apiaceae family, along with carrot, celery, caraway, coriander, dill, parsley, etc. Lovage is an especially close relative of celery, but is 4 times the size. The herb has been cultivated since the time of Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), when it was an herbal remedy for sore throat as well as an aphrodisiac. Lovage was one of the most common flavours in Roman cooking.
The plant grows 180 cm tall and 60-90 cm wide. It has greenish-yellow lacy flowers borne in clusters. The seeds and other parts of the plant have a unique, yeast-like flavour.
The seed is used raw or cooked, whole or ground, as a flavouring in cakes, soups, and salads. The root has a strong, savoury taste and may be used as a flavouring or as a vegetable. The leaves and stems may be eaten raw or cooked. A tea is made from the dried leaves but can also be made from the grated root. An essential oil from the root is a commercial food flavouring. Lovage oil is a flavourant for preserves, condiments, sauces, and other foods.
Lovage is sometimes a folk remedy. It is employed against headaches, and as a diuretic and tranquiliser.
No allergens from this plant have yet been characterised.
An extensive cross-reactivity among the different individual species of the Apiaceae could be expected to occur frequently, (1) and has been reported clinically. (2, 3) Other members of this family include anise, caraway, carrot, celery, dill, fennel, and parsley.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that lovage may induce symptoms of food allergy in sensitised individuals; however, no studies have been reported to date; it is possible that allergy to lovage, which is closely related to the significantly allergenic carrot and celery, occurs more frequently than has been reported.
The plant contains furanocoumarins, which may result in phototoxicity reactions. (4) Indeed, photosensitivity from harvesting lovage has been described. (5)
Present in a herbal product, lovage may increase the risk of bleeding or potentiate the effects of warfarin therapy. (6)
Maple syrup urine disease is an autosomal recessive inherited disorder of amino acid metabolism. The disease produces a characteristic sweet aroma, reminiscent of maple syrup, in the body fluids (e.g. urine) of affected patients. The substance responsible for the odour is 4,5-dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2[5H]-furanone (sotolone), a compound also present in fenugreek and lovage. (7)
Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman.
- Yman L. Botanical relations and immunological cross-reactions in pollen allergy. 2nd ed. Pharmacia Diagnostics AB. Uppsala. Sweden. 1982: ISBN 91-970475-09.
- Lopez M, Schwartz H, Helbling A, Lehrer S. Anaphylaxis to carrot: crossreactivity of carrot specific IgE with spices from the Umbelliferae family. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1991;87:530(Suppl 1 Pt2).
- Stäger J, Wüthrich B, Johansson SGO. Spice allergy in celery-sensitive patients. Allergy 1991;46:475-8.
- Ojala T, Vuorela P, Kiviranta J, Vuorela H, Hiltunen R. A bioassay using Artemia salina for detecting phototoxicity of plant coumarins. Planta Med 1999;65(8):715-8.
- Ashwood Smith MJ, Ceska O, Yeoman A, Kenny PGW. Photosensitivity from harvesting lovage (Levisticum officinale). Contact Dermatitis 1992;26(5):356-7.
- Heck AM, DeWitt BA, Lukes AL. Potential interactions between alternative therapies and warfarin. Am J Health Syst Pharm 2000;57(13):1221-7.
- Podebrad F, Heil M, Reichert S, Mosandl A, Sewell AC, Bohles H. 4,5-dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2[5H]-furanone (sotolone)--the odour of maple syrup urine disease. J Inherit Metab Dis 1999;22(2):107-14.