Licorice

Licorice

Licorice is a magical plant that not only has 50 times the natural sweetness of refined sugar but is also an incredible herb; it is calming, nourishing, soothing, moistening, balancing and rejuvenating. A bit like the effect of putting a pinch of salt in your food to bring out the best flavours, licorice makes a formula more effective. Because of this quality, licorice is considered to enhance the power of synergy between the different herbs in a blend and is used in many classic formulas as a harmonising herb.

Whilst its calorie-free sweetness is important, licorice is not all about its sweet flavour. Licorice is a strong adrenal tonic providing enduring strength to the whole body as well as nourishment to the nervous system.

Licorice brims with cooling and soothing qualities that act as a balm to hot, dry and irritated tissues in the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems as well as the skin. In the digestive system, licorice's inherent alkalinity is particularly suited to fiery digestion characterised by hyperacidity, heartburn and constipation.

Licorice is a potent anti-inflammatory and has a direct action upon liver cells soothing excess heat stored in the liver and any damage caused by drugs or viral infections. This anti-inflammatory activity supports an immunemodulating effect protecting the thymus and adrenal glands from the negative effects of stress.

A Little Bit Of Chemistry

Licorice root contains the triterpenoid saponins glycyrrhizic acid (GA) (the sweet compound), polysaccharides, over three hundred flavonoids, flavanones (such as liquiritin and liquiritigenin), and chalcones (such as isoliquiritin and isoliquiritigenin). After being digested licorice potentiates the action of the steroid hormone, cortisol. In this way licorice supports the hypothalamicpituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, sparing cortisol by increasing the enzyme 5-beta-reductase, the enzyme that inactivates cortisol, and therefore prolonging its half-life. By increasing the production of mineral corticoids, licorice helps convert cortisol to cortisone on demand, and assists in the restoration of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels (an essential sex hormone precursor).

The Great Plant

Licorice belongs to the Fabaceae family, the same family as peas and beans. Like its leguminous relatives it has pinnate leaves (leaflets arranged on either side of the stem), distinctive flowers and fruits that resemble miniature pea pods. In total there are 18 different species of licorice that belong to the Glycyrrhiza genus.

Licorice's Health Benefits

Energy & Hormones

  • Vitalising energy reduces fatigue
  • Normalises hormones & balances
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Sexual potentiser & increases semen
  • Benefits the eyes
Immunity

  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Liver protectant
  • Treats sore throats
  • Benefits coughs and breathing difficulties
  • Heals ulcers and wounds
Nervous system

  • Benefits the nervous system
  • Improves memory
  • Supports peaceful meditation

Safety

There is a small chance that high levels of GA used over a long period of time can affect electrolyte balance leading to some fluid retention. It has an ACTH-like effect causing retention of sodium thus potentially raising blood pressure. The precautionary consensus amongst experts that a safe level of licorice consumption for most people is at least 2.5g per day. The 'safe' amount of 2.5g per day is arrived at by determining that consuming about 100mg/day of GA avoids any blood pressure increasing effects even in the most sensitive individuals. The typical GA content of licorice is in the range of about 4% for Glycyrrhiza glabra (European licorice).

Interesting Facts And Figures:

The Latin genus name for this plant, Glycyrrhiza, was chosen by Dioscorides, a Greek physician. In ancient Greek 'glukos' means 'sweet' and 'riza' means 'root'.


View our list of Herbs in Ayurveda

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Ayur~ meaning Life. ~Veda meaning Science or Knowledge.