Lovage Root (Gao Ben)

Ligusticum RootWhen it comes to lovage root herb, medicinally it doesn’t necessary means Ligusticum sinense (Gao Ben). But more often it refers to Szechuan lovage root (Chuan Xiong) instead. To tell them apart, the former is commonly known as Chinese lovage root due to it is a special species of plant in China. And because its middle part, between root and seedling, looks like straw, sometimes it is also called straw weed. As a matter of fact, its Chinese name of Gao Ben is literally translated to “root of rice straw” in English.

What is lovage root (Chinese)?

Medicinally it refers to the dried rhizome and roots of Ligusticum Sinensis Oliv. Or Ligusticum jeholense Nakai et Kitag., the plants in family Umbelliferae. Other common names of this herb include ligusticum root, rhizoma et radix ligustici, ligusticum sinense root, ligustici rhizoma, ligusticum rhizome and root, and so on. It is native to China and mainly produced in Shaanxi, Gansu, Henan, Sichuan, Hubei, Hunan and other provinces. And Ligusticum jeholense Nakai et Kitag. is mainly from Liaoning, Jilin, Hebei, and other places. The best harvesting time is in autumn when leaves are withered or in next spring when seedlings come out. Next remove the dirt, dry in the sun or on the fire, slice into pieces, and use raw.

Lovage rhizome is in the shape of irregular nodular cylinder, slightly twisted, 3 to 10cm long, 1 to 2cm in diameter, and with branches. Surface is brown or dark brown, rough, and with longitudinal wrinkles. It is lightweight, hard, easily broken, and with yellow or yellow-white, fibrous cross section. It has fragrant odor and spicy, bitter, and slightly numb flavor.

Main chemical constituents are 0.38% to 0.65% volatile oil in Ligusticum Sinensis and 1.5% in Ligusticum jeholense. And volatile oil mainly contains 3-Butylphthalide, Cnidilide, neo-Cnidilide, β-Phellandrene, trans-Ocimene, α-Phellandrene, α-pinene, Limonene, Terpinolene, Elemicin, Myristticin, γ-cadinene, lavandulol, methyleugenol, and so on.

Lovage root benefits

It has an agreeable aromatic smell. As a result, it was once used as spice called Ligusticum incense by ancients, according to “Compendium of Materia Medica”, written by Li Shizhen. In addition, it has a lot of health benefits, in particular its healing property for parietal headache. Actually this herb is the must-have ingredient in curing parietal headache formulas. As one of medical herbs with awesome healing properties, the uses for lovage are much wider over time. Actually for easier applications, today it has been made into lovage root tea, powder, extract, essential oil, tincture, and more. So, what make it with that amazing healing property? And modern pharmacology has something to tell.

Modern pharmacological actions of lovage herb

1. Its neutral oil has sedative, analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, its neutral oil can inhibit intestinal and uterine smooth muscle, significantly slow down the oxygen consumption rate, prolong survival time of mice, increased tissue hypoxia, and counteract posterior pituitary hormone-induced myocardial ischemia in rats;

2. Its alcohol extract has antihypertensive effect and antibacterial effect on common pathogenic dermatophytes;

3. Ligustilide, phthalide and its derivatives can relax tracheal smooth muscle in experimental animals, and thus it has a significant role in relieving asthma.

Popular herbal remedies on root of lovage

As for Chinese medicine, this herb is acrid in taste and warm in properties. And it covers bladder. Its key functions are expelling wind-damp and eliminating cold to stop pain. Important lovage root uses and indications are common cold due to wind-cold, parietal headache, pain in rheumatoid arthritis, scabies, cold-dampness diarrhea, abdominal pain, mounting conglomeration, and more. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 10 grams in decoction, tea pills, or powder.

1. Shen Zhu San. Shen Zhu San comes from Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary). This formula is principally designed for wind-cold cold and parietal headache. And other major herbal ingredients include Qiang Huo (Notopterygium), Cang Zhu (Atractylodes), Chuan Xiong (Sichuan Lovage), and so on.

2. Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Wan. Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Wan is from Qi Xiao Liang Fang (Effective and Good Prescriptions). This prescription is primarily formulated for spinalgia, stiff neck, uprush headache, and more. Other main herbs are Notopterygium, Du Huo (Angelica Root), Fang Feng (Ledebouriella), Man Jing Zi (Vitex Fruit Seed), and so on.

3. Chu Feng Shi Qiang Huo Tang. Chu Feng Shi Qiang Huo Tang comes from Nei Wai Shang Bian Huo Lun (Clarifying Doubts about Injury from Internal and External Causes). It is mainly used for wind and damp complication and joint pains around the whole body. Rest major herbs are Notopterygium, Ledebouriella Root, Atractylodes, and more.

Potential lovage root side effects and contraindications

Acute toxicity test, by Karber’s method, obtained that the median lethal dose to mice was 70.17 ± 4.95g/kg (calculated by crude drug) by intragastric administration with lovage root neutral oil in 72 hours. And according to TCM, this herb shouldn’t be used in case of headache due to deficiency of blood.

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