Botanical name: Lycopus virginicus
© Steven Foster
Parts used and where grown
The leaves and flowers of this plant from the mint family are used medicinally. Both
bugleweed and its European cousin, gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus), grow in very wet
Bugleweed has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
The modern applications of bugleweed, unlike many medicinal plants, do not match its
traditional use. Historically, bugleweed and related species were used to treat coughs and as
a sedative.1 Today, the main use of this herb is for treating mild
Lithospermic acid and other organic acids are believed to be responsible for
bugleweed’s activity. These acids decrease levels of several hormones in the body,
hormones2 and the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4).3 Bugleweed
inhibits the binding of antibodies to the thyroid gland.4 These antibodies can
cause the most common form of hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease. All these actions may
help explain bugleweed’s benefit in people with mildly overactive thyroids.
How much is usually taken?
The German Commission E monograph recommends 1–2 grams of the whole herb per
day.5 Intake of tincture should be limited to 1–2 ml three times a day.
Bugleweed is often combined with other herbs used to treat mildly overactive thyroid function,
including lemon balm (Melissa
officinalis) and gromwell (Lithospermum ruderale).
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Excessive intake of bugleweed by people with thyroid disease or use by healthy people may
cause a potentially harmful decrease in thyroid function. Thyroid disease is dangerous and
should only be treated under the supervision of a healthcare professional. However, long-term
use of bugleweed is considered safe for people with hyperthyroidism.6 Bugleweed
should not be taken by people with
hypothyroidism. Bugleweed should also not be used during pregnancy and breast-feeding.7
Are there any drug
Certain medicines may interact with bugleweed. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.
1. Wren RC, Williamson EM, Evans FJ. Potter’s New Cyclopaedia
of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. Essex, UK: Saffron Walden, 1988, 47–8.
2. Wagner H, Horhammer L, Frank U. Lithospermic acid, the antihormonally
active principle of Lycopus europaeus L. and Symphytum officinale L.
Arzneim Forsch 1970;20:705–12.
3. Winterhoff H, Gumbinger HG, Vahlensieck U, et al. Ednocrine effects of
Lycopus europaeus L. following oral application. Arzneimittlforschung
4. Auf’mkolk M, Ingbar JC, Kubota K, et al. Extracts and
auto-oxidized constituents of certain plants inhibit the receptor-binding and biological
activity of Graves’ immunoglobulins. Endocrin 1985;116:1687–93.
5. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete
Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative
Medicine Communications, 1998, 98–9.
6. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield
Publishers Ltd., 1988, 328–9.
7. Brinker F. Inhibition of endocrine function by botanical agents. I.
Boraginaceae and Labiatae. J Naturopathic Med 1990;1:10–8.