Licorice root tastes great! Because its main constituent glycyrrhizin is 50 times sweeter than sugar, it is used widely in the food industry. At one time in Germany, licorice was a more popular gift than chocolate—it was reputed to sexually arouse women!
The plant also contains various sugars (up to 14%), starches (30%), flavonoids, saponoids, sterols, amino acids, gums, and essential oil.
The most common medical use for licorice root is for treating upper respiratory ailments including coughs, hoarseness, sore throat and bronchitis. When used as a cough suppressant, licorice root can be as effective as codeine, but safer. Rhizomes in licorice have a high mucilage content which, when mixed with water or used in cough drops, sooths irritated mucous membranes. Licorice also has anexpectorant effect which increases the secretion of the bronchial glands.
Licorice root helps cleanse the colon, support lung health and promote adrenal gland function. Licorice root is suggested for the treatment of the spleen, liver and kidney. The Japanese use a licorice preparation to treat hepatitis. Glycyrrhizin stimulates the secretion of the adrenal cortex hormone “aldosterone.”
Today, herbal preparations that contain licorice root are used to treat stomach and intestinal ulcers by lowering acid levels and coating the stomach wall with a protective gel. Rarely used alone, licorice is a common component of many herbal teas as a mild laxative, a diuretic and for flatulence. It has also been known to relieve rheumatism and arthritis, regulate low blood sugar and to be effective forAddison’s disease. Because the root extract produces mild estrogenic effects, it is useful in treating symptoms of menopause, regulating menstruation and relieving menstrual cramps.
Licorice has also been used in poultices for treatment of dermatitis and skin infections. It helps open the pores and is used in combination with other cleansing and healing herbs as an emollient.