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Bugleweed

Uses

Botanical names:
Lycopus virginicus

Parts Used & 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 areas.

Traditional Use (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 hyperthyroidism.

How It Works

Botanical names:
Lycopus virginicus

How It Works

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, particularly thyroid-stimulating 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 to Use It

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).

Interactions

Botanical names:
Lycopus virginicus

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

Certain medicines interact with this supplement.

Types of interactions: Beneficial Adverse Check

Replenish Depleted Nutrients

  • none

Reduce Side Effects

  • none

Support Medicine

  • none

Reduces Effectiveness

  • none

Potential Negative Interaction

  • Dessicated Thyroid

    Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus, Lycopus europaeus) and lemon balm(Melissa officinalis) may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones. Check with your doctor before taking these herbs with thyroid hormones.6

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Levothyroxine

    Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus, Lycopus europaeus) and lemon balm(Melissa officinalis) may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones. Check with your doctor before taking these herbs with thyroid hormones.7

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Liothyronine

    Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus, Lycopus europaeus) and lemon balm(Melissa officinalis) may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones. Check with your doctor before taking these herbs with thyroid hormones.8

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Liotrix

    Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus, Lycopus europaeus) and lemon balm(Melissa officinalis) may interfere with the action of thyroid hormones. Check with your doctor before taking these herbs with thyroid hormones.9

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.

Explanation Required

  • none

The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Botanical names:
Lycopus virginicus

Side Effects

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.10 Bugleweed should not be taken by people with hypothyroidism. Bugleweed should also not be used during pregnancy and breast-feeding.11

References

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 1994;44:41–5.

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. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Institute, 1997, 21, 29–30.

7. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Institute, 1997, 21, 29–30.

8. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Institute, 1997, 21, 29–30.

9. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Institute, 1997, 21, 29–30.

10. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd., 1988, 328–9.

11. Brinker F. Inhibition of endocrine function by botanical agents. I. Boraginaceae and Labiatae. J Naturopathic Med 1990;1:10–8.

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