- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
- What Else to Know
Generic Name: lycopus
Brand and Other Names: bugleweed, gypsywort, Virginia bugleweed, water horehound, wolfstrappkraut, Lycopus americanus, L. virginicus, L. europaeus
Drug Class: Herbals
What is lycopus, and what is it used for?
Lycopus is a genus of approximately sixteen species of flowering plants in the mint family, native to Europe, North America and East Asia. Extracts from many of the lycopus species are used as an herbal remedy for insomnia, cough, anxiety, palpitations, overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and many other conditions. Lycopus juice yields a black dye that was supposedly used by gypsies to tan their skin, hence given the name gypsywort. Lycopus plant extracts are available over the counter (OTC) in the U.S.
The therapeutic effects of lycopus are believed to be from the various compounds it contains, including tannins, terpenoids, phenolic compounds, flavonoids and organic acids such as rosmarinic acid, lithospermic acid and chlorogenic acid, which may have antithyroid effects and reduce the levels of thyroid hormones. Studies indicate lycopus may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and analgesic properties, however, there is insufficient scientific evidence to back most of its uses.
In hyperthyroidism, lycopus appears to reduce the activity of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and its ability to bind to TSH receptors on thyroid cells and stimulate them to produce the thyroid hormone, thyroxine. Lycopus may also be useful in reducing thyroid activity in Graves’ disease, an autoimmune form of hyperthyroidism, by inhibiting the ability of the autoantibodies to bind to TSH receptors and stimulate them.
Suggested uses of lycopus include:
- Do not use lycopus if you have underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
- Do not use lycopus if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Lycopus may reduce blood sugar levels. Use with caution if you have diabetes and are on antidiabetic medication, concurrent use of lycopus can result in dangerously low level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
What are the side effects of lycopus?
There aren’t enough scientific studies to know what the side effects of lycopus might be. Limited available data do not show any significant side effects with recommended doses.
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:
- Serious heart symptoms include fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness;
- Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady;
- Severe nervous system reaction with very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, and feeling like you might pass out; or
- Serious eye symptoms include blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of lycopus?
There isn’t enough reliable information to know what might be an appropriate dosage for lycopus. Suggested dosing:
- 0.2-2 g/day whole herb orally
- Commercially available preparation: 2 tablets (40 mg) orally once daily
- There is no information on lycopus overdose. Report your symptoms to Poison Control.
What drugs interact with lycopus?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Lycopus has no listed severe interactions with other drugs.
- Serious interactions of lycopus include:
- thyroid desiccated
- Moderate interactions of lycopus include:
- Mild interactions of lycopus include:
- insulin aspart
- insulin detemir
- insulin glargine
- insulin glulisine
- insulin lispro
- insulin NPH
- insulin regular human
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- There isn’t enough reliable information on the safety of lycopus use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Lycopus might affect hormones and milk production. Avoid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Never take any herbal supplement, including lycopus, without first checking with your healthcare provider, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
What else should I know about lycopus?
- Lycopus is likely safe for most adults if taken orally in recommended doses.
- Use lycopus exactly as per label instructions. Natural products are not necessarily safe always and following suggested dosing is important.
- Check with your healthcare provider before taking any herbal supplement, including lycopus, particularly if you have any health conditions or if you are on regular medications.
- Herbal products often contain many ingredients. Check labels for the components in the lycopus product you choose.
- Lycopus is marketed as an herbal supplement and is not regulated by the FDA. Products may differ in formulations and strengths, and labels may not always match contents; exercise caution in choosing your product.
- Store lycopus safely out of reach of children.
- In case of overdose, seek medical help or contact Poison Control.
Extracts from many of the lycopus species are used as an herbal remedy for insomnia, cough, anxiety, palpitations, overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and many other conditions. Do not use lycopus if you have underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Do not use lycopus if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Limited available data do not show any significant side effects with recommended doses of lycopus.
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You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.