Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus) is called by many names, including water horehound, Paul’s betony, green archangel, bitter bugleweed, Egyptian’s herb, March boneset, gypsyweed, and my personal favorite: green wolf’s foot.
I first learned about bugleweed from Darrell Martin of Blue Boy Herbs in Carierre, MS. He uses bugleweed in four of his tincture blends: lung tonic, diabetes (with Fringe Tree), nervine, and heart tonic blends. You can see Darrell’s offerings here: Blue Boy Herbs.
Darryl Patton states in his book, Mountain Medicine: The Herbal Remedies of Tommie Bass, that Bugleweed is traditionally used to treat lung issues (coughs, colds, bronchitis) and nerve issues (sedative). He also says that Tommie would sometimes substitute bugleweed for boneset, and he often added it to his nerve tonics. Darryl’s book can be purchased by contacting him directly. His website is The Southern Herbalist.
In The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants, Matthew Wood suggests specific indications for the use of bugleweed. One indication that I found particularly interesting is when a person feels like “a hunted animal”, with the pulse “rapid and tumultuous”. He also suggests bugleweed for people who are unable to sleep at night, with “wide, open, staring eyes”. <– I’ve been there. You can read much more about bugleweed and specific indications by purchasing Matthew’s book; he also has a companion book, The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. Check out his new online classes at Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism.
Other information I have found online validate its use for cardiovascular issues, hyperthyroidism (such as Grave’s disease), high blood sugar, anxiety and other nervous system issues, lung conditions, and breast pain (mastodynia, or cyclic mastalgia).
Cardiovascular issues: Bugleweed is said to “increase contractions of the heart and arteries”, and strengthen the heart. I am interested in blending a heart tonic with bugleweed, motherwort, rose, hawthorn (berries, leaves and flowers) and possibly tulsi.
Hyperthyroidism: It seems bugleweed can calm an overactive thyroid; it is especially useful for symptoms such as heart palpitations and tightness of breath. Thomas Easley combines it with lemon balm and motherwort for treating Grave’s disease. I am not telling you to self-treat for hyperthyroidism. Please do your own research and talk to your doctor… be extra careful if you are already taking thyroid medication.
Diabetes: I am interested in bugleweed’s use in controlling diabetes. I have a family history of insulin resistance and high blood sugar, so I am exploring combinations of plant medicine to help support my system along with diet and exercise. Some herbs (and spices) that have my attention along with bugleweed are blueberry leaf, berberis, wild cherry, fringe tree, cinnamon, and burdock root (for inulin… elecampane also contains inulin). I have heard interesting things about holy basil (Tulsi) for high blood sugar; I have also read that self-heal (Prunella) increases insulin sensitivity, so it’s high on my list to explore further.
Nervine: Nervines are my all time favorite plant allies, and bugleweed is said to be a great one. It is considered a gentle nervine, and according to Darryl Patton, Tommie Bass said it was for nerves that had been “stretched too far”. I have seen in some texts and online that bugleweed is also classified as “narcotic”, but I have not read why or how it is used as a narcotic.
Lung issues: Because of its astringency, bugleweed is great for reducing mucous production, and I also read that it helps reduce fever, so it is often used in cough and cold blends in the place of boneset (or late blooming thoroughwort). I am curious about blending bugleweed with mullein and mountain mint for coughs and colds, maybe with some wild cherry bark for spasmy coughs. I would think that rabbit tobacco’s drying action would also be beneficial if one had too much mucous in the system.
Mastodynia: Mastodynia is breast pain; many women experience mastodynia because of high prolactin levels, especially during breastfeeding. Bugleweed may reduce prolactin levels. I encourage caution if breastfeeding; lowering prolactin levels affects milk production. Cyclic mastalgia is breast pain due to hormonal cycles (increased estrogen, I believe), and while bugleweed is often used to treat this painful condition, chastetree (Vitex) is said to be a better choice.
This particular plant was purchased from Joe Hollis at Mountain Gardens, and I am thrilled to introduce it to my property. I do not have a nice, moist spot for it, so I am going to create one. I hear that bugleweed and skullcap like to live together, so I am going to devote a large pot on my front porch to them. We’ll see how they like it.
Other resources on Lycopus virginicus
Michigan Natural Features Inventory (pdf on website)