In the 19th century, the Eclectics held bugleweed in high regard for its effectiveness in cardiovascular disorders and compared its action to digitalis. It was believed to increase contraction of the heart and arteries and was therefore a valuable remedy in cardiac conditions characterised by weakness, irregularity, palpitations, dyspnea and anxiety. It was also widely used for chronic debilitating pulmonary conditions for its anti-tussive and expectorant capabilities.
Modern research studies have demonstrated that the aerial parts of Buggleweed, the extract and the tea, act as:
diuretic (facilitates removal of excess body fluid and reduces blood pressure)
increasing force of myocardial contraction and reducing heart rate
Opposes the effect of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and acts as thyroxine antagonist
Antitussive (stops coughing)
Sedative (induces relavation and sleep)
Astringent (stops bleeding)
A number of recent studies have sought to explain the antithyrotropic activity of Lycopus spp. A number of studies suggest lithospermic acid and other organic acids such as rosmarinic acid, chlorogenic acid, ellagic acid and luteolin-7 beta-glucosidases are the active inhibitory components responsible for such anti-thyroid activity.
Lycopus virginicus is considered in European herbal medicine as having antithyroid and sedative activity [2, 4]. Traditional Western herbal medicine use therefore has focused largely on hyperthyroidism especially Graves’ disease with cardiac involvement, and thyrotoxicosis with dyspnea, and associated symptoms of tachycardia, tremor, rapid pulse and exophthalmia [4, 5, 10, 11]. Being less powerful than orthodox thyroid drugs it is therefore recommended for mild thyroid hyperfunction and associated disturbances of the autonomic nervous system, and can be used long-term .
As yet, there are no published reports of the clinical efficacy of L. virginicus for this indication but is empirically effective for treating patients with Graves’ disease and other forms of hyperthyroidism . Due to its effect on the autonomic nervous system, other Traditional Western herbal medicine uses of L. virginicus include restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, palpitations and nervous tachycardia [2, 5]. L. virginicus is also said to decrease the production of mucus and is therefore useful in conditions of copious sputum production such as pneumonia and bronchitis, and is also useful in haemoptysis, chronic cough and irritating or wet cough [2, 5, 11].
Contra-indications and Cautions
Lycopus (Bugleweed and Gipsywort) is contraindicated in conditions of thyroid hypofunction such as hypothyroidism and myxedema, and in enlargement of the thyroid, such as goitre without functional disorder . It is contraindicated in pregnancy because of its potential antigonadotropic activity, and in lactation as it potentially decreases milk production [4, 12].