I'd never experienced lovage until I started working in Spain, where I've used the leaves in Catalan sauces and other dishes and experienced the herb in restaurant meals.
Lovage fruits (often incorrectly named "lovage seeds")
Probably Central Asia.
Today, lovage is commonly found (and sometimes cultivated) in Southern and Central Europe.
Of this plant, the leaves are most common as a spice. However, the root and fruits have the same taste and may be used if a stronger taste is desired. The root is used as a diuretic drug and may be available in a pharmacy, but the fruits are not traded.
Apiaceae (parsley family).
Both the English "lovage" and German liebstöckel seem to the contemporary ear to contain an element meaning "love", but this is just a product of folk etymology. Instead, the two words are related to almost all names of lovage in current European languages, e.g. French livéche, Norwegian løpstikke, Finnish lipstikka, Czech libeček, Hungarian lestyán, Ukrainian lyubystok and Greek levistico (cf. botanical genus name levisticum). These names are derived from the Latin ligusticum, shortened from ligusticum apium "Ligurian celery", because lovage was (and still is) particularly plentiful in the Liguria area of Italy.
For the derivation of apium, see celery. English "lovage" originates from Middle English loveache, which in turn was loaned from Old French luvesche. The German name maggikraut "maggi herb" refers to the condiment maggi sauce, popular in the 1960s and 1970s and made from a concentrated, salted solution of browned and partially hydrolysed proteins in water with additional flavouring. There are some analogous names in tongues of Central and Eastern Europe, e.g. Croatian magi-začin "maggi condiment" and Slovak korenie maggi "maggi spice". Species name officinalis refers to a "drug", "medicine" or "plant".
Some names compare lovage with celery on account of the similar aroma, e.g. Croatian selen "celery", French céleri perpétuel "permanent celery" and both Italian sedano di montagna and Spanish apio de montaña "mountain celery" (on account of the plant's current cultivation in the Alps).
Species name officinale refers to a "drug", "medicine" or "plant".
Lovage is a traditional spice in Southern Europe, where its usage dates back to antiquity. Lovage was one of the most prominent flavours in Roman cuisine. Today, lovage is appreciated in Southern and Central Europe, but it has not found many friends outside of this region. Its characteristic flavour fits well to sour pickles or aromatic vinegars and beef stock is commonly flavoured with lovage leaves. In Germany, lovage is a popular flavouring for potato dishes.
The contemporary distribution of lovage, encompassing the Alps and Southern Germany, can be traced back to the early Middle Ages when the plant was established under Charlemagne's Capitulare de Villis.
Although the fruits of lovage can be used as a spice, they are not traded. Sometimes, however, ajwain fruits are mislabelled as "lovage seed".