Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has been used by herbalists around the world for thousands of years. From China, where it has been used to heal sore throats, treat respiratory and digestive problems it made its way westward. Hippocrates, the Greek physician Dioscorides as well as the German abbess/herbalist Hildegard von Bingen all swore by the powerful healing properties of this sweet tasting root.
The plant itself is perennial, reaching 2 meters in height from a root system of taproots and branch roots. It can be found in southern Italy, Spain, Russia and other countries east of the Mediterranean. While it still grows wild, it is now extensively cultivated to meet global demand and to protect the plant.
The materia medica of the American Botanical Council indicates that licorice is in the FDA ‘s list of herbs generally regarded as safe.
Parts used are the rhizome and root.
Licorice has widely been used to
- relieve coughs, sore throats, break up congestion
- soothe the digestive tract
- support adrenal function and combat stress fight disease-causing bacteria and the fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections
- stimulate and strengthen the immune system
- strengthen and balance the female reproductive system
Licorice is 50 times sweeter than sugar and is added to chocolate to extend the sweetness of sugar. It is also used by brewers to give body and color to porter and stout. Did you know that licorice is an ingredient in the Irish ale “Guiness” and used to flavor the Italian liqueur “Sambuca”? It is used in the make up of many other products, but interestingly the popular candy “licorice” does not contain licorice root but gets its flavor from a distant cousin “anise”.
To make a decoction that can be taken for coughs, colds and to soothe stomach ulcers, put 1 1/2 oz of licorice root in 1 1/2 pt of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain and drink as required.
While licorice is considered safe, it is not recommended during pregnancy and for those with liver conditions, severe kidney disfunction or suffering from hypertension. If taking prescription drugs, it is always advisable to consult with your physician first before taking any herbals medicinally.