- Family Labiatae
- Lycopus virginicus
- Sweet Bugle, Water Bugle, Virginia Water Horehound, Gypsywort, Gypsyweed
- Take only under professional supervision.
- Do not take during pregnancy.
- Contraindicated in hypofunction of the thyroid or if there is thyroid enlargement without function disturbance.
- Do not take with other thyroid medication.
- Sudden discontinuation of preparations can lead to a rebound effect, causing increased TSH and prolactin secretions and an increase of the hyperthyroid symptoms.
A perennial member of the mint family, bugleweed is common throughout North America, thriving close to water and growing to about two feet in height. It has a square stem with lance-shaped leaves and whorls of whitish flowers.
In the 19th century Anglo-American Physiomedicalist tradition, the herb was regarded as an astringent and calming to the nerves also given for loose coughs, internal bleeding, and urinary incontinence.
It was once considered to be a mild narcotic.
The European counterpart, gipsywort (L. europaeus) has a more colourful history. Both plants have a deep black juice which has traditionally been used for fabric dyes. It derived its name from the practice of gypsy fortune-tellers in England, who used the juice to darken their skin so that they looked more like Africans to make their tales more believable. Medicinally, it was used to treat high fevers as those accompanying malaria.
- phenolic acids (including derivatives of caffeic, chlorogenic, and ellagic acids)
- Aerial parts
- The lithospermic acid and other organic acids in bugleweed may work to lower levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), or it may block the TSH receptors and prevent the hormone from entering the thyroid gland to stimulate production of other hormones.
- Substances in bugleweed also appear to decrease the pituitary gland’s production of prolactin, a hormone that can stimulate breast changes in men.
In the past, the herb has been used to treat coughs, anxiety, fevers, palpitations, mildly overactive thyroid (as in Graves’ disease), to ease breast enlargement and tenderness in men, a sedative, and to control bleeding as in nosebleeds or heavy menstruation. In Graves’ Disease, the thyroid gland produces excessive hormones, resulting in accelerated metabolism with such symptoms as rapid pulse, weight loss, sensitivity to heat, excessive sweating, fatigue, and physical changes, including the development of an enlarged thyroid (goiter) and bulging eyes. Bugleweed appears to influence the metabolism of iodine, which the thyroid uses to make its hormones. Only a very small amount is needed to decrease thyroid function. However, that amount understandably varies from individual to individual. Treating thyroid disease is not something that should be left to the lay person.
Today, it is still prescribed as a treatment for an overactive thyroid as well as for a racing heartbeat that often accompanies that condition. Danger of an enlargement of the thyroid occurs only when the herb is taken in very high dosages.
It is also taken for nervousness, insomnia, and to treat PMS (premenstrual syndrome).
Since it is an aromatic astringent, it helps reduce the production of mucus.
A related species, L. europaeus (Gypsywort), is taken for palpitations and anxiety and has been used to lower fevers.