Levisticum officinale Koch. (Garden Lovage)

Biology and Distribution

Levisticum officinale Koch, i.e., garden lovage, a member of the Umbelliferae, is a perennial herb, 100-160 cm high, main root large, leaves di-tridigitatoinnate, flowers yellow-green compound umbel. Fruit ovoid or elliptic, lateral angular thick pinnation and back angular lower blunt pinnation, rarely long, one oil tube within angular trough.

The herb grows widely in mountainous regions in the south of France and Yugoslavia (northern latitude of 43°-45°). It was introduced and planted in more than ten countries of Europe, America, Asia, and regions north of latitude 30°-60°. It was also introduced into China from Europe and planted as a medicinal herb more than 30 years ago. Cheng (1965b) reported the biological characteristics of growth, bloom, fructification, and winter dormancy, with observations on the phenological periods of this plant.

Medicinal Value

According to the literature, its roots, Radix Levistici, have long been cropped in the old European gardens as a domestic remedy which was used to cure pulmonary tuberculosis and heart disease 100 years ago. Its extract is a fragrant stimulant, reducing internal chill sudorific, diuretic, and emmenagog. In addition, as a flavoring, it has been added in candies, pastries, cosmetics, wine, and cigarettes.

The amounts of essential oil in the herb were 0.1-0.2% in fresh roots, 0.6-1.0% in dried roots, 0.05-0.15% in fresh leaves, and 0.8-1.1% in fruits. Butylidene phthalide and hydrophthalide comprised about 70% of the essential oil in the roots, and butylidene phthalide was the same as in Angelica sinensis (). Lu Ruimian et al. (1980) analyzed ligustilide, which was considered as a new active substance in the essential oils of garden lovage; Dang Gui used TLC (thin layer chromatography) and densitometry. Fang Hongju et al (1979) studied the ingredients of essential oils in garden lovage and Dang Gui with GC/MS (capillary gas chromatography/mass spectrometry), and determined that ligustilide was the main components which was contained 35 and 45% separately in the two plants. Both the herbs have similar pharmacodynamic effects, e.g., rhythmic contraction of isolated womb of rats and contraction of isolated  digestion  segments  induced  by  acetylcholine  were inhibited  by two  essential oils. For these reasons, it has been recommended considering garden lovage as a substitute for Dang Gui in traditional Chinese medicine.

Conventional Propagation

Levisticum officinale may be propagated by seeds or rhizomes in the spring and autumn, but better results were obtained by seeding in the early autumn and by rhizomes in the early spring.

7. Sexual Propagation, (a) Bunch planting: row spacing 45 cm, ten seeds in one cave. One seedling was left after thinning, (b) Drilling: about 90 seeds were drilled per meter; depth 1-1.5 cm, covered with fine soil. The spacing in the rows was 15-20 cm after thinning out seedlings. Irrigating depending on weather, loosening the soil, hoeing up weeds, preventing and controlling of plant diseases, and eliminating pests in the growth period.

2. Asexual Propagation. Two-year-old plants were suitable for asexual propagation. After cutting off the stem and leaves, digging out whole roots, shaking off soil, and cutting off the roots that could be used for medicine, the rhizomes with tillering buds were cut into small cubes of 30 g and planted at a depth of 5-8 cm, spacing them out separately 45 cm apart, followed by covering with soil and irrigating, with great care in field management.

The roots may be harvested in the early spring or late autumn in the second or third year after sowing or planting. They were dug out, washed, desiccated and sliced for medicine. The output of fresh roots was over 3000 kg per acre.

Tissue and Cell Culture

Garden lovage has been used as a medicinal herb around the world. Recently, it has been recommended for use and has partly replaced Dang Gui in traditional Chinese medicine. With increasing demand comes the need to increase the production of garden lovage. A great number of plantlets could be produced through somatic embryogenesis in tissue culture, and in addition, some effective medicinal components may be extracted directly from cultured cells. Therefore, studies in this realm may lay the foundation for large-scale production of the herb or industrial and automatic production of useful medicinal ingredients from the cultured cells.

Callus induction and plantlet regeneration through embryogenesis of garden lovage in vitro were achieved in our laboratory several years ago. The cell clone retained the capacity for embryogenesis for more than 6 years, and the cell suspension was shown to be a good system for studying somatic embryogenesis. The process of initiation, growth, and differentiation of somatic embryos was regulated with various phytohormones and organic additives. It was observed that multicotyledon symphysial somatic embryos, symphysial plantlets, and secondary somatic embryos were produced.

Protoplasts were isolated from cultured cells. First cell division occurred in 3 days and the division frequency reached about 50% after 5 days in liquid medium. Small calli were subcultured on agar solidified medium and light yellow embryo-genie calli were induced on N6 medium under appropriate conditions of illumination and temperature. Many plantlets differentiated via embryogenesis on the fresh medium. Cytological observation of the calli revealed abnormalities in respect to nucleus morphology.