The Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus L., 1753) is a perennial herbaceous species belonging to the Lamiaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
L. europaeus species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Lycopus alboroseus Gilib .;
– Lycopus albus Mazziari;
– Lycopus aquaticus Moench;
– Lycopus decrescens K. Koch;
– Lycopus europaeus f. glabrescens Schmidely;
– Lycopus europaeus var. glabrescens (Schmidely) Briq .;
– Lycopus europaeus var. hirsutus Ghent .;
– Lycopus europaeus var. incanus DC .;
– Lycopus europaeus var. menthifolius (Mabille) Nyman;
– Lycopus europaeus var. mollis (A.Kern.) Briq .;
– Lycopus europaeus var. pubescens Benth .;
– Lycopus europaeus f. pusillus Montell;
– Lycopus europaeus var. stolonifer K. Koch;
– Lycopus europaeus var. subpinnatifidus Lej. & Courtois;
– Lycopus europaeus var. trichophora Briq .;
– Lycopus europaeus f. velutina Schmidely;
– Lycopus laciniatus Marz.-Penc. ex Pollini;
– Lycopus menthifolius Mabille;
– Lycopus mollis A.Kern .;
– Lycopus niger Gueldenst .;
– Lycopus palustris Burm.f .;
– Lycopus riparius Salisb .;
– Lycopus solanifolius Lojac .;
– Lycopus souliei Sennen;
– Lycopus vulgaris Pers ..
The term Lycopus comes from the Greek λύκος lýcos wolf and from πούς, ποδός pous, pódos foot: wolf’s foot.
The specific epithet europaeus comes from Europe for the origins of the European continent.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Gypsywort is a species of the Paleotemperate area, which has become Circumboreal and Eurasian.
In Europe it is present from the Iberian Peninsula to Russia and from Scandinavia to Greece. It is also present in Trans Caucasia, Anatolia, Mediterranean Asia and the Maghreb. It is also present in the United States.
In Italy it is a common species and is found throughout the territory. In the Alps it is present everywhere both in France (all Alpine departments), both in Austria and Slovenia. On the other European reliefs connected to the Alps it is found in the Black Forest, Vosges, Jura Massif, Massif Central, Pyrenees and Carpathians.
Its typical habitat is wet meadows, the edges of ditches, reeds and more or less aquatic environments in general and, in any case, in peaty environments that are periodically flooded and rich in nitrogen compounds. The preferred substrate is calcareous but also siliceous with neutral pH, medium nutritional values of the soil that must be wet.
This plant grows from sea level to about 1100m.
Lycopus europaeus is a perennial herbaceous plant that can grow up to 1 meter in height that grows from root to rhizome.
It has an erect and bristly stem.
The leaves are opposite, glabrous, elliptical lanceolate, toothed near the apex and whole near the base.
The flowers are hermaphroditic with a white or pink-purple corolla with purple spots.
The flowering period is from June to September.
The fruit is a microbasarium, schizocarp with 4 mericarps or nucule which, when ripe, surpass the calyx, 1.3-1.5 x 1.1 mm, subpyramidal with rounded corners and a marked horseshoe-shaped and rounded margin like a lifebuoys, flattened on one side and pale and humped on the other, hairy, glandular and sticky.
The Gypsywort is a plant that is harvested in various countries in the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
It is a plant that can be tamed and cultivated and that tolerates most types of soil as long as it is wet. It grows well in shallow water. It succeeds in the sun or in the shade.
The plant can be propagated by seed, with sowing in spring or autumn in a cold greenhouse.
When the seedlings have reached the size to be handled, they must be transplanted in the open field or in individual pots in the period from late spring to early summer.
It can also propagate by division both in spring and in autumn. The larger tufts can be replanted directly into their permanent locations, although it is best to pot the smaller tufts and grow them until they root well, then transplant them in the spring.
Customs and Traditions –
The Gypsywort, also known by various names such as: common saw-grass, water horehound, European lycopus is a plant that was first described by Carl von Linné (Linnaeus), the father of the modern biological and scientific classification of organisms living, as we know it today.
It is a plant that has medicinal properties and was used, especially in the past, to obtain a black dye.
The leaves were used in folk medicine with poultice, to treat and clean wounds. In addition, the plant was also used as an astringent, hypoglycemic and mild sedative.
Due to its high fluoride content it is indicated in the treatment of mild hyperthyroidism. In herbal medicine and naturopathy, mother tincture, obtained from the whole plant, is used in the treatment of tachycardia and hyperthyroidism.
The main constituents of this plant are lithospermic acid, flavonoids, coumarins, tannin, essential oil, organic acids and fluorine.
The medicinal properties of this plant are:
In particular, fresh or dried flowering herb is astringent and sedative and inhibits the conversion of iodine in the thyroid gland and is used in the treatment of hyperthyroidism and related disorders.
The whole plant is used in various areas as an astringent, hypoglycemic, mild narcotic and mild sedative.
It also slows down and strengthens heart contractions.
It is also used in the treatment of coughs, bleeding from the lungs and consumption, excessive menstruation, etc.
Lycopus europaeus also has edible uses; the root can be eaten raw or cooked. It was once a food in times of famine that was consumed when there were no other crops.
Among other uses, it should be remembered, as mentioned, that a black dye is obtained from the plant. According to some, it gave a permanent color and was also used by gypsies to darken the skin.
Preparation Method –
Lycopus europaeus is a plant that found, especially in the past, use both in the medicinal and food fields.
The plant is harvested at the beginning of flowering and can be used fresh or dried, as an infusion or as a tincture, while the roots can be eaten raw or cooked.
The leaves are applied as a poultice to clean dirty wounds, although this remedy should not be prescribed to pregnant women or patients with hypothyroidism.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.