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Bugleweed

Lycopus americanus

Herbs gallery - Bugleweed

Common names

  • American Bugleweed
  • Cutleaf Bugleweed
  • Gypsywort
  • Sweet Bugle
  • Virginia Bugleweed
  • Virginia Water Horehound
  • Water Bugle
  • Water Horehound

Although the common water horehound belongs to the mint family, its leaves do not have any aroma, whatsoever. This herb bears leaves having large curved teeth on their periphery and this alone differentiates the common water horehound from the other different species belonging to the genus Lycopus. This herb produces small flowers that emerge from its leaf axils during the period between July and September. The common water horehound is generally found growing in moist meadows or damp places close to streams or ponds. The fruits of this herb are a great food for the water fowl.

The species Lycopus americanus (also called L. americanus) is a perennial plant that grows up to a height of 0.5 meter or 1 foot 8 inches. The flowers of this herb are hermaphrodite (having both sex organs) in nature and are usually pollinated by flies and bees.

This herb is the most commonly found bugleweed in North America and generally grows on the banks of streams and in marshy lands. L. americanus, also called gypsywort and horehound, has a preference for plenty of water and shady locales. Although this herb belongs to the mint family, it does not possess the mint-like flavour or aroma. Bugleweed is a perennially growing plant having creeping runners that give rise to leaves in the form of rosettes. In fact, the entire herb turns out to be something like a carpet or mat on the floor and hence it is often used in the form of a ground cover.

Generally, the leaves of bugleweed are oval shaped and glossy having a close resemblance to the spinach leaves. This herb produces flowers of various hues, including white, blue and pink. The flowers appear in the form of whorls in the axils of the leaves.

There are various species of common water horehound and they are differentiated depending on some technical details. Sometimes, the plants are known as bugleweeds, as their flowers remind one of a bugle. While the leaves of bugleweed have somewhat prominent teeth, leaves of other species belonging to the genus do not have such coarse leaves. The name of this genus has been derived from two Greek terms - 'lycos' denoting a wolf and 'pous' meaning a foot. Together they refer to the leaves of some species, which have resemblance to the footprint of a wolf. As many as 10 different Lycopus species are found in the eastern region of North America alone and nearly all of them are extremely similar in appearance. This makes it difficult to identify them individually.

Parts used

Leaves, stems, flowers, roots.

Uses

The entire bugleweed herb is used in the form of an astringent, gentle narcotic, hypoglycemic and also as a gentle tranquilizer. This herb also helps to slow down as well as strengthen the contractions of the heart muscles. If has been found that the bugleweed plant is extremely valuable in treating hyperthyroidism. In addition, this herb is also employed in the treatment of conditions like coughs, hemorrhages from the lungs, too much menstrual flow and even consumption (an old term for wasting away of the body, especially from pulmonary tuberculosis). However, pregnant women should avoid using the bugleweed plant.

Bugleweed is mainly beneficial for people with overactive thyroid, particularly when the symptoms of this condition comprise palpitations, shortness of breath and trembling. This herb encloses lithospermic acid, which is believed to lessen the intensity of specific hormones, particularly the thyroid hormone called thyroxine (T3). This plant chemical also stops the antibodies from attaching to as well as breaking or exhausting the cells in a thyroid gland that is overactive. As bugleweed helps to restrain the levels of estrogen, it also alleviates cyclic breast pain in the case of women.

Bugleweed is known to have vasoconstriction and nerve soothing effects and these attributes of the plant makes it effective in alleviating excruciating situations involving tension as well as irritability. Bugleweed, however, does not enclose salicylates and, hence, it may be used to provide relief from pain in people who are sensitive to it. It is worth mentioning here that bugleweed is particularly beneficial for cats suffering from overactive thyroid problems.

Bugleweed is said to be a member of Dame Venus and in case the good values of the plant makes you be in love with it, you ought to keep a syrup prepared from it for internal use. In addition, you should always keep a salve and a plaster prepared from the herb for emergency external use. A decoction prepared with the flowers and leaves of the herb in wine and used internally helps to liquefy the condensed blood in people who sustain internal injuries due to a fall or by any other means. In fact, the decoction is extremely effective for treating all internal wounds, stabs or thrusts in the body or the bowels.

This herb is also an excellent remedy for treating all types of sores and ulcers, irrespective of the fact that they are new or old and chronic. It is also effective for healing fistulas and gangrenes. Wash and rinse the affected area and apply the crushed leaves of the herb or the juice of the leaves externally for relief. When a lotion or salve prepared from bugleweed leaves is applied with some amount of alum or honey to sores inside the mouth or the gums, irrespective of how bad the condition may be or for how long the problem has been plaguing, it works excellently as well as effectively. The lotion is also useful for treating sores and ulcers that may occur in the private parts of both men as well as women.

The extract obtained from bugleweed is also known to be effective, especially when prepared from the stems, leaves, and flowers.

While only some scientific research has been undertaken on the benefits of bugleweed extract, it has been discovered that this herb is useful for people with hyperthyroid problems.

As mentioned earlier, bugleweed encloses lithospermic acid and when the herb is taken internally, this compound acts to lessen a number of hormones produced and secreted by the thyroid glands, including thyroxine or T4. This extract is extremely beneficial for people having an overactive thyroid gland. It works to prevent the exhaustion or breaking down of the cells inside the thyroid glands.

When blended with the herb gromwell, the combined extract of bugleweed and gromwell is effective in curing thyroid ailments. There is similar evidence that combining lemon balm with the mixture containing bugleweed and gromwell extracts may prove to be useful in curing thyroid diseases.

Bugleweed extract has many other uses; for instance, it works to keep estrogen at moderate levels in our body. This action may prove to be useful in relieving cyclic breast pain in women. In addition, this extract also aids in alleviating the usual type of breast pain, also called mastodynia.

In the form of a pain relief medication, bugleweed extracts work excellently. This extract soothes the nerve reactions and, at the same time, it is an effective vasoconstrictor. Precisely speaking, bugleweed extract is useful in alleviating general pain and uneasiness. It also helps to lessen tension and get rid of irritability.

Habitat and cultivation

The bugleweed plant is found in several places in North America, ranging from Newfoundland to British Columbia in Canada and southwards in California, Texas, Florida and Utah.

This herb is most appropriate for most soil types, including sandy (light), loamy (medium) and clay (heavy) soils. The ideal pH for growing bugleweed is basic or alkaline, acid and neutral. This plant thrives well in light shade (semi-woodlands) and/ or in sunlight. Bugleweed has a preference for damp or moist soil.

Bugleweed flourishes in wet meadows or in damp places close to streams or ponds.

Bugleweed is generally propagated by its seeds, which are ideally sown in a cold frame either in spring or autumn. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently, you need to prick them individually and plant them in separate pots and keep them in a greenhouse during the first year of their existence. Once they have survived the winter and grown larger, you should plant them into their permanent positions outdoors during the early part of summer.

Alternatively, bugleweed may also be propagated by means of root division undertaken either during the spring or in autumn. While you can easily replant the larger root clumps directly into their permanent places outdoors, it is advisable to plant the smaller clumps in small pots and continue growing them in a cold frame till the time they have established roots. These plants may ideally be transplanted into their permanent places outdoors during the spring.

Constituents

Bugleweed contains phenolic acids: (caffeic, rosmarinic, chlorogenic, and ellagic acids); pimaric acid, methyl ester.

Usual dosage

As an herbal medicine, bugleweed is taken in the form of a tea, tincture and is even available in capsule form. Most commonly, it is used in the form of a tea and most rarely taken in the form of capsules. You can prepare this herbal tea by adding one to two teaspoons of bugleweed to one cup (250 ml) of boiling water and allow the herb to infuse for about 15 minutes.

Side effects and cautions

Similar to other plants in the mint family, bugleweed is safe for use, provided it is used prudently. Taking bugleweed in excess of the recommended dosage may possibly result in a harmful decline in the functioning of the thyroid glands. Nevertheless, it has been found that using bugleweed for a prolonged period is safe for those with hyperthyroidism - both humans and animals. However, women should not use bugleweed during pregnancy. Even nursing mothers are advised to stay away from this herb.

Use of bugleweed is also known to have some adverse side effects. For instance, this herb may bring down your blood sugar levels drastically. If people suffering from diabetes continue using bugleweed for an extended period, they may have low blood sugar. Therefore, it is necessary to closely monitor their blood sugar levels. In the case of some diabetic patients, their physicians may require adjusting the dosage of their medications. Prior to undergoing any surgery, you need to stop taking bugleweed, at least two weeks before the operation. People with hypo function, enlarged thyroid or receiving medications for thyroid should not use this herb.

Collection and harvesting

Generally, bugleweed is harvested as soon as the herb begins to bloom. This herb can be used fresh or dried up for later use. The herb can be used to prepare a tincture or an infusion.

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