The history of licorice as a medicinal plant dates back thousands of years. From treating gastric ulcers to stopping a coughing fit to raising your blood pressure and boosting your exhausted adrenals, licorice does all that and more. The name ‘licorice’ is derived from the Greek (glukurrhiza), meaning “sweet root”. Its active principle glycyrrhizin (a sweetener between 30 to 50 times as sweet as table sugar) has a number of therapeutic effects.
In the Gastrointestinal tract it helps with the healing of intestinal ulcers, aids digestion, acts as mild laxative, and is an anti-spasmodic (for conditions such as crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and ileitis). It has also been shown to lower liver enzymes demonstrating it’s liver protective effects. (GL and GA reduce alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) values in the serum) (1).
Its action on the Cardiovascular system is to raise blood pressure. It therefore needs to be used with caution for those with a propensity for high blood pressure and not to be used long-term without the care of a health practitioner.
It is a wonderful support for exhausted Adrenal glands. By enhancing cortisol activity, glycyrrhizin helps to increase energy, ease stress and reduce the symptoms of ailments sensitive to cortisol levels, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromylagia. Apart from cortisol, licorice possess many other therapeutic properties by its effects on the Endocrine system (2).
In the Respiratory system it has a soothing and healing action, reducing irritation and inflammation and an expectorant effect, useful in irritating coughs, asthma and chest infections. (Isoliquiritigenin, a flavonoid from licorice has been shown to relax tracheal smooth muscles).
Caution: The European Commission 2008 report suggested that “people should not consume any more than 100mg of glycyrrhizic acid a day, for it can raise blood pressure or cause muscle weakness, chronic fatigue, headaches or swelling, and lower testosterone levels in men.” Always consult a qualified, licensed health care practitioner before beginning the use of any herbal/nutritional supplement.