Used medicinally since Roman times, licorice is still popular in Chinese herbal medicine. The “licorice candy” sold In the United States usually is flavored with anise oil and doesn’t actually contain licorice. Besides serving as a flavoring and sweetener for bitter drugs, licorice is an ingredient in some tobacco products, chewing gums, candies, beverages, toothpastes, and shampoos.
Most licorice remedies come from the roots of Glycyrrhiza glabra, a perennial low growing shrub native to the Mediterranean region. Spanish licorice is the most common variety, but G. glabra plants are widely cunivated in the United States, Russia, Spain, Turkey, Greece, India, naly, Iran, and Iraq.
The plants are graceful, with light, spreading, pinnate foliage, presenting an almost feathery appearance from a distance. The leaflets (like those of the False Acacia) hang down during the night on each side of the midrib, though they do not meet beneath it. From the axils of the leaves spring racemes or spikes of papilionaceous small pale-blue, violet, yellowish-white or purplish flowers, followed by small pods somewhat resembling a partly-grown peapod in form. In the type species glabra, the pods are smooth, hence the specific name; in others they are hairy or spiny.
The underground system, as in so many Leguminosae, is double, the one part consisting of a vertical or tap root, often with several branches penetrating to a depth of 3 or 4 feet, the other of horizontal rhizomes, or stolons, thrown off from the root below the surface of the ground, which attain a length of many feet. These runners are furnished with leafbuds and throw up stems in their second year. The perennial downward-running roots as well as the long horizontal stolons are equally preserved for use.
Common doses of licorice
Licorice comes as:
- capsules (100 to 520 milligrams)
- tablets (7 milligrams oflicorice root plus 333 milligrams of garlic concentrate)
- liquid extracts
- tobacco products
- chewing gums
- throat lozenges
Some experts recommend the following dose:
- For peptic ulcer, take 200 to 600 milligrams orally daily for no more than 4 to 6 weeks. Or make a tea by placing 2 to 4 grams oflicorice in 1/2 cup of boiling water and simmering for 5 minutes. Cool and strain the tea, then drink three times daily after consuming food.
Uses of licorice
- Addison’s disease (a life-threatening endocrine disorder)
- Cold sores
- Common cold
- Eczema (a type of skin inflammation)
- Mouth sores
- Stomach pain
licorice root can be chewed or made into tea. It is frequently found in cough preparations and candies, often combined with anise seed. Consumption of licorice is believed to aid in healing stomach ulcers. Tea made from licorice and other anti-spasmodic herbs is often taken for menstrual cramps.
Side effects of licorice
Call your health care practitioner if you experience any of these possible side effects of licorice:
- muscle weakness
- swelling (from salt and fluid retention)
Licorice also may cause:
- heart failure (with overdose)
- high blood pressure
- a muscle disorder called rhabdomyolysis
Combining herbs with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Tell your health care practitioner about prescription or nonprescription drugs you’re taking, especially:
- Procan SR
- steroids such as Prednisone
- topical steroid salves and lotions.
Don’t use licorice when taking:
- drugs that lower blood pressure
Important points to remember
- Don’t use licorice if you have high blood pressure; irregular heartbeats; or cere brovascular, kidney, or liver disease.
- Don’t use this herb if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding.
- Be aware that licorice can be poisonous when used in high doses for long periods.
- Know that a single large dose of licorice is less likely to make you sick than long term use of smaller amounts.
- Keep in mind that symptoms of licorice poisoning may be subtle. Report headache, lethargy, swelling, and irregular heartbeats to your health care practitioner.
What the research shows
Researchers have studied licorice extensively as a treatment for peptic ulcers. They’ve found that it performs no better than established drugs, may cause more side effects, and can be poisonous if taken in large doses for a long time.
However, glycyrrhetic acid, a chemical made from the licorice plant, shows promise in enhancing the effects of steroid preparations applied to the skin.
Other names for licorice : –
Other names for licorice include Chinese licorice, licorice root, Persian licorice, Russian licorice, Spanish licorice, and sweet root.
Products containing licorice are sold under such names as Full Potency Licorice Root Vegicaps, Licorice ATC Concentrate, Licorice and Garlic, Licorice Root Extract, Licorice Root Tea, Natural Arthro-Rx, Solaray Licorice Root, Tea with Mint, and Tummy Soother.