Liquorice

Glycyrrhiza glabra

Description

Liquorice has been used since ancient times to treat chronic digestive disorders such as duodenal ulcers, bloating, flatulence, and gastritis. Liquorice is also an age-old remedy for liver disorders – in the East it is still prescribed for hepatitis, nausea and vomiting. Modern medical research has confirmed many of the medicinal qualities of liquorice, especially its effectiveness as a demulcent (soothing agent) and spasmolytic. It is useful to treat dry and wet coughs, and contains anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic substances that can soothe the symptoms of asthma.

Parts used

Liquorice roots are used in herbal medicinal preparations.

Constituents

The active ingredients in Glycyrrhiza glabra are glycyrrhetic acids, which act as anti-inflammatories; saponins, which have expectorant and secretolytic properties; and compounds that have antiviral, antibacterial, cytotoxic, anti-oxidant and antihistaminic effects on the body.

Medicinal uses

Glycyrrhiza glabra is prescribed to:

  • Treat sore throat, cough and bronchial catarrh. This antitussive expectorant loosens and helps to expel congestion in the upper respiratory tract.
  • Helps treat infections in the upper respiratory tract.
  • May help treat the symptoms of asthma.
  • May help treat ulcers.
  • Applied externally, liquorice gel can help relieve symptoms of itching, swelling and redness.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Liquorice appears to be safe when taken in prescribed amounts for a specified period. However, an increased daily intake or prolonged use of liquorice root can cause an imbalance of fluid and the mineral potassium in the body, which can lead to heart rhythm problems, high blood pressure, oedema (collection of fluid under the skin), fatigue, headache and muscle weakness. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding. Liquorice may also interfere with the action of certain medications. As always, consult your healthcare practitioner before embarking on a course of natural herbal remedies.

Flora Force Products containing Glycyrrhiza glabra

Domestic & culinary uses

Extracts of liquorice are used to flavour sweets and soft drinks, and in some countries the root is chewed as a mouth freshener. Unlike anise, which has a similar flavour, liquorice is not generally used in domestic cuisine.

DID YOU KNOW?

Liquorice root contains glycyrrhizin, a substance that is 50 times sweeter than sucrose. That’s why powdered liquorice root is used as a sweetener in soft drinks and some herbal teas.

Cultivation

Liquorice is a perennial plant that grows in southern Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean. In South Africa, liquorice will grow in full sun or light shade in deep fertile, well-drained, moisture-retaining soil for good root production. It tolerates alkaline as well as maritime conditions. You’ll find more information about growing liquorice at www.herbgarden.co.za/mountainherb/article_liquorice.htm

Acknowledgements & credits

Compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer

References

    1. Hikino H. et al. Recent research on oriental medicinal plants. In Economic and medicinal plant research. 1985. London, Academic Press. 1: 53–85.
    2. Saxena, S. Glycyrrhiza glabra: Medicine over the millennium. 2004. Punjab, India.
    3. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Liquorice. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/881.html
    4. Van Wyk, B-E. and Wink, M. Medicinal Plants of the World. 2004. Briza Books, Pretoria, South Africa.

Photos

  1. Burdock photo by Homer Edward Price (Common Burdock with beeUploaded by Amada44)
[CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.