Licorice is the original herbal sweetener with many additional benefits.
Cough and sore throat
Upset stomach and hyperacidity
To improve liver function
To sweeten and harmonise other herbal blends
Licorice comes in several forms. Perhaps the easiest to try are the licorice sticks found in natural health stores. Chew one of these and the sweetness comes through straightaway, with slight hints of bitterness following behind and a finish that leads to more salivation. To accentuate these nuanced tastes one needs to try a more concentrated extract, when the ‘sour’ salivary after-reaction is more pronounced.
All around the world the actions of traditional medicines were understood by their immediate sensory impacts. Click on each of licorice’s key qualities below to learn more:
Clearly it is the sweetness of licorice which dominates its properties, ensuring that it is the most widely used ingredient in herbal mixtures around the world. As well as making the tastes of other herbs more acceptable (especially for children), those who have experienced this mix agree that licorice harmonises the combined effects of other ingredients in the blend.
Licorice is most often used in home remedies to make other herbs more palatable, especially when given to children. All medicine traditions agreed that its harmonising role was much more extensive than this and it is possibly the most widely used ingredient of folk remedies in the world.
The most common specific uses of licorice are for immediate relief of coughs, sore throats and for upset stomach and digestion. Other uses cited here may involve a more strategic approach as symptom changes are often slower to show.
Licorice is emollient, demulcent and nutritive. It naturally produces mucilage which soothes inflamed mucous membranes throughout the body, with a particular affinity for the respiratory tract, digestion and urinary system. It encourages a healthy inflammation response and, through coating hot and irritated membranes, allows time for damaged cells to regenerate and repair effectively.
It strengthens and supports the nervous system and adrenal glands through the production of constituents that mimic those found in the adrenal cortex. It will modify the body’s own stress response to prevent the onset of adrenal exhaustion and impart a tonifying effect through the body.
It is also an effective hepatoprotective, supporting the regeneration and repair of damaged liver cells, particularly in chronic conditions such as cirrhosis and hepatitis.
The licorice constituent glycyrrhizin is 500 times sweeter than sucrose.
Moderate licorice consumption is likely to be safe for the vast majority of people. Regular high levels of licorice consumption, especially in the form of licorice candy, have been associated with raised blood pressure. The best calculation is that regular intake of 12g per day over a long period could cause such a problem.
Similar concerns have been raised in relation to regular high doses taken during pregnancy and this should be avoided, especially if there is associated high blood pressure.
Licorice may interact with corticosteroids and certain types of (potassium-depleting) diuretics and laxatives and again if these are being prescribed it will be wise to keep any regular consumption at low levels and check with your prescriber. Long term regular use of high doses may not be wise if you have osteoporosis.
Traditional Ayurvedic characteristics are