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Licorice root - cut

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Excerpts from the book Nutritional Herbology

In Ancient Greece and Rome, licorice was employed as a tonic and also as a remedy for colds, coughs and sore throats. The ancient Hindus believed it increased sexual vigor when prepared as a beverage with milk and sugar. The Chinese maintained that eating the root would give them strength and endurance and also prepared special tea of it for use as a medicine.

Indeed, licorice holds a prominent place in Chinese herbology. It is the most often used herb in Chinese herbal combinations and is thought to harmonize the action of all other herbs.

In North American folk medicine, licorice is used as a cough suppressant, expectorant, laxative, and to treat various cancers. Early pharmacists used it as a flavoring and sweetening agent in many of their syrups and lozenges. Today, licorice extracts are popular sweeteners in confections for diabetics and those suffering from hypoglycemia.

In India, licorice has been used as a sweetener, aphrodisiac, emmenagogue and galactogogue.

Licorice extracts have been used in China in the clinical treatment of numerous illnesses including gastric and duodenal ulcers, bronchial asthma, infectious hepatitis, malaria, diabetes insipidus and contact dermatitis.

Presently, licorice extracts are used extensively as ingredients in cough drops and syrups, tonics, laxatives, antismoking lozenges and other preparations. They are also used as flavoring agents to mask bitter, nauseous or other undesirable tastes in certain medicines.

The most famous active principle in licorice root is a saponin-like glycoside called glycyrrhizin which is 50 times as sweet as sugar. Its use as a non-caloric sweetener is limited, however, because of the strong taste it imparts to food. It is most often employed to mask the taste of bitter medicines like cascara.

The large quantity of saponin-like substances in licorice possess a surfactant property that may facilitate the absorption of poorly absorbed drugs. This explains, in part, its traditional use as a harmonizing herb in Chinese herbology.

Glycyrrhizin is also responsible for the anti-inflammatory and antitussive properties which make it useful in treating coughs and congestions. The anti-inflammatory properties of the herb are employed as dermatological agents in middle eastern countries. Glycyrrhetenic acid is also used in the treatment of chronic adrenocorticoid insufficiency (Addison’s disease).

Glycyrrhizin increases fluid and sodium retention and promotes potassium depletion. Persons with cardiac problems and hypertension should avoid consumption of significant quantities of licorice.

Contains bitter compounds that reduce inflammation, decrease the thickness and increase the production of mucosal fluids and relive muscle spasms. In addition, licorice stimulates adrenal functions, reduces the urge to cough, is mildly laxative and enhances immune response. It has been used to treat coughs, colds, arthritis, asthma, peptic ulcers, Addison’s disease, dropsy and atherosclerosis.

Excerpts from the book The How to Herb Book

Some may remember the old fashioned, hard, black licorice candy with the brown insides. Licorice root helped flavor this candy, thus the name licorice. Because licorice has a very sweet taste, some people prefer to take it straight and not in capsules. There are benefits in doing this.

  • Is a hormone herb. A source of the female hormones estrogen.
  • Specifically used to stimulate and regulate the adrenal glands and the pancreas. These work together because adrenalin helps control insulin.
  • One of the best-known herbs used for hypoglycemia.
  • Acts as natural cortisone or as a hormone that takes the place of cortisone.
  • Helps injured voice muscles; helps voice improvement, either for hoarseness or throat damage.
  • Tonic for the intestinal tract, stimulates enzymes and peristaltic action.
  • Acts as a mild laxative.
  • Strengthens heart and circulatory system.

Has been used in the following:

  • Addison’s disease
  • Adrenal glands
  • Circulatory system
  • Coughs
  • Diabetes
  • Energy
  • Estrogen
  • Female problems
  • Hoarseness
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Sore throat
  • Vitality
  • Voice

Case history:

When R. found she had hypoglycemia, she was extremely upset. She had not used herbs up to that point in her life, but diet change alone was too slow and frustrating. She found licorice root. At first she took licorice root 3-4 times a day. By the end of six months, she only took it once in the morning. (She had changed her diet also) Because she didn’t know about capsulated herbs, she stirred a teaspoon of the powdered herb in a cup of water and drank it. (She called it licorice-flavored mud.) Within minutes after drinking it, her shaking would stop and by 15-20 minutes, she was able to continue normal activities.

At that time, R. didn’t know that licorice root would help the throat too, so an unexpected surprise was an old voice injury was greatly healed because of the constant bathing of the throat with licorice.

Excerpts from the book Herbal Antibiotics

Licorice, made famous by the rubberoid candy of the same name (which these days may contain no licorice because of overdose problems), is a rather remarkable herb. Though I don’t primarily think of licorice as an antibacterial herb, the list of organisms against which it is specific is comprehensive and well documented. Generally, it is an immune system stimulant that has impressive antibacterial activity and potentiates the action of other herbs. One distinct advantage of licorice is its sweetness. Fifty times sweeter than sugar, licorice, when used in herbal combination, helps brighten the awful taste of some herbal formulations, making them more palatable for children and for adults with a strong inner child. (Stoics usually like their herbal preparations bitter.)

Unlike many herbs, licorice has a long history of clinical human trials; its side effects and strengths are well documented. It is specific for upper respiratory infections, coughs, colds, and ulcerations anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, especially the stomach. It is highly useful for helping repair damaged adrenals, and this helps restore overall system health and vitality. There is good evidence that it stimulates the thymus gland, one of the most important organs in the immune system, in that extremely large doses in rats begin to destroy that organ and it decreases substantially in weight. Scientific studies have shown that licorice increases the generation and activity of white blood cells, stimulates interferon production in the body, and enhances antibody formation. Several trials have shown that it also possesses a distinct immunomodulator activity. That is, if the immune system is overactive, licorice calms it down; if underactive, it pumps it up.

Licorice has shown distinct antifatigue and antistress activity, and in vivo studies have shown strong activity against cancerous tumors and some protection from the effects of radiation. Perhaps it is best known for its estrogenic effects, which make is a useful herb for menopause, and its antiulcer activity, making it an herb of choice for both stomach and duodenal ulceration. Because it stimulates expectoration and is powerfully healing for mucous membrane systems, it has a long history of use for upper respiratory infections.

The best way to use licorice is in combination with other herbs, especially for bacteria for which it is specific. Used in proper doses in moderation, licorice is one of the most powerful members of the herbal family. It may be used for restoring immune function or in active disease conditions. It is especially useful for any mucous membrane infection, cancer, radiation treatment, general fatigue, or immune suppression.

Because of the many potential side effects from overuse or large doses, caution should be exercised in its use.

Excerpts from the book The ABC Herbal

Licorice is a wonderful herb for children. The Chinese use it as a catalyst in many of their formulas. It stimulates and builds the adrenal glands, which help the body cope with stress. It also stabilizes blood sugar levels. Like adults, children get cranky, irritable and even depressed when their blood sugar levels drop. The adrenals are the home of the body’s "fight." Strong adrenals mean that children will have more power to face the challenges of life, both emotional and physical.

Licorice contains glycyrrhizin, a substance which is many times sweeter than sugar. Because of its natural sweetness, Licorice is very helpful in masking the taste of many bitter herbs in a liquid formula without destroying their therapeutic effects. Therefore, it is a useful addition to many children’s formulas.

Related Remedies

Tid Bits You'll Want to Know:

Cautions: Avoid using excessive amounts of Licorice internally during pregnancy or nursing.

Uses: Our favorite use is in teas but we also use it in food recipes. Like many other bulk herbs, we add it to soups/stews, etc. in small amounts for added nutrition and fiber without affecting the flavor. Licorice can be used to benefit men, women (including before, during or after pregnancy, and nursing) and children. It can be used as often as you would like.

Voice of Experience: Licorice is a food, as such; keep it in the kitchen with all other food ingredients. We add it to dishes in small amounts so as to add nutritional value to the dish without changing the flavor. Most often we add it to remedies to make them more palatable and sweet. It makes for an incredibly nutritious way to sweeten recipes.

Storage: It should be kept in an airtight container and stored in a dark, dry, and cool place.

Questions?: Check out Frequently Asked Questions.

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