Licorice – Glycyrrhiza glabra, G. uralensis – Fabaceae

It turns out that sucking on a licorice stick is a great way to take your medicine.

I’ve been formulating with this herb these last few weeks and doing quite a bit of research on it this past year. Licorice has an amazing array of therapeutic uses and a safe history of use that extends back for several millennia. Here’s a bit of what I’ve discovered about the uses of this delicious root thus far.

Licorice is a highly regarded adaptogen with thousands of years of recorded use in China, the Middle East and Europe. It was written about in China as far back as 3,000 B.C., where it was used to “strengthen the bones and sinews, enhance muscle growth and strength and heal wounds.”

The Greek botanist Theophrastus mentioned licorice in his classic work entitled Enquiry into Plants written in the third century B.C. He proclaimed the roots to be sweet and wrote that they were being used specifically for those with dry coughs and respiratory illness.

Dioscorides, one of my favorites of the ancient herbalists, who wrote De Materia Medica, gave licorice its Latin genus name, Glycyrrhiza, which literally means “sweet root.” He used it for those who suffered stomach distress, and also to heal the throat, liver and kidneys. These uses for licorice roots are still in practice today.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine licorice is referred to as the peace-keeper. The Chinese class it among their superior herbs, which is very similar to the definition of adaptogens today. It is very commonly added in small amounts to Chinese herbal formulas and is considered exceptionally useful to stop diarrhea, relieve fatigue, stimulate the appetite and soothe gastric irritation.

Throughout Europe licorice is used to treat dry cough, dry mouth, wheezing and lung problems such as asthma and bronchitis. It is also used to counter bacterial infection and as a gargle for sore throat. Licorice is known to counter toxic poisoning from pesticides, herbicides, lead and pharmaceutical drugs.

Licorice is considered a nootropic agent, which is a substance that acts on the mind, improving cerebral circulation and enhancing memory and mental function. It is excellent added to formulas intended to benefit the brain and mental functioning, improve memory, clarity, concentration and focus. It is said to help harmonize the body/mind/spirit connection.

Licorice offers antiviral properties, is an effective antihistamine and acts as an anti-inflammatory with its rich stores of steroidal precursors. The roots also offer an abundance of antioxidants, are demulcent, expectorant, and have demonstrated considerable tumor inhibiting properties.

Licorice is a supreme liver tonic. It heals liver damage, is hepatoprotective and is called for in treating hepatitis and cirrhosis.

It is an excellent herbal choice for countering stress and repairing the damage stress causes in the body. Licorice is effectively used to treat adrenal insufficiency, modulate elevated blood sugar levels, and ease the frequency of colds and flu.

It is a proven immunomodulator and therefore of special benefit to those with any autoimmune disease, cancer or chronic fatigue syndrome. In cases of over-reactive immune system licorice will reduce the excessive immune response. Where immune function is low, licorice will help to boost the sluggish response.

These tasty roots promote the production of estrogen in the body and so have long been used to balance hormones and reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes and other discomforts of menopause. Licorice roots offer special health benefits to breast tissue and have been used to plump up and beautify the breasts for centuries.

Licorice offers significant benefits for those suffering with any kind of digestive dysfunction. It works to heal irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases, including Chrohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It is an excellent remedy for any inflammation or irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, gastritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers, ileitis, leaking gut syndrome and is a very good digestive tonic. It is exceedingly soothing to the entire digestive system.

Licorice is also an important herb to use for all allergy related skin problems. It helps boost the body’s natural steroid production and counters inflammation and irritation. It can be used topically to treat skin sensitivity, itching, rashes and inflammation, and also taken internally.

Contraindications – Licorice roots have been safely used for thousands of years. However, there are some cautions. It is best avoided by those with hypertension. Excess use can cause a condition known as hyperaldosteremia, where a person retains sodium, loses potassium and develops high blood pressure. Moderation, and use as directed is advised.

Recommended dosages:

Tincture – 10-20 drops three times daily
Standard infusion – 4 oz. twice daily internally or use as a wash or soak.
Syrup/honey – 1 tablespoon 2-3 times daily

Caution –Do not use with potassium-depleting diuretics, digoxin or MAO inhibitors.

Note: Licorice reduces the toxicity of steroids such as prednisone.

For MOFGA/USDA Certified Organic licorice tincture visit our website: http://www.blessedmaineherbs.com/tinctures1.html

About gailfaithedwards

Gail Faith Edwards is an internationally recognized Community Herbalist with over thirty years experience. She is the author of three books about herbs and herbal medicines; Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause and Through the Wild Heart of Mary; Teachings of the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary and the Herbs and Foods Associated with Them. Gail has taught Herbal Medicine in India and Italy, at the Yale School of Nursing, the University of Maine and College of the Atlantic among others. She is the founder of Blessed Maine Herb Farm and Director of the Blessed Maine Herb Farm School of Herbal Medicine. She is the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of two.
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6 Responses to Licorice – Glycyrrhiza glabra, G. uralensis – Fabaceae

  1. Joanne Day says:

    Gail,

    I have hypertension which is being controlled and, as such, has not given me any problems. I would love to be able to use your extracts of Licorice as I believe it would help my GI, autoimmune, and asthma/allergy problems. Do you think I could use this Licorice extract carefully and maybe in lower doses? Thanks.

    Love,
    Joanne

  2. Marqueta says:

    Dear Gail,

    Thank you so much for this post (and for reminding me that I need to get using that pound of licorice I ordered a while back)~ I have been noticing the wild licorice in our area, and it has been calling to me . . . :)

    Love,

    Marqueta

    • Marqueta, you are fortunate to have wild licorice growing nearby! Enjoy using that pound of licorice…my daughter Rosa served me a cup of licorice and ginger tea yesterday that was delicious. Thanks for leaving a comment. Blessings, Gail

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