The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

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Licorice

Scientific Names

Licorice

  • Glycyrrhiza glabra L.
  • Leguminosae
  • Pea family

Common Names

  • Chinese licorice
  • Gan cao (Chinese name)
  • Kan-ts’ao
  • Kuo-lao
  • Licorice root
  • Ling-t’ung
  • Liquorice
  • Lu-ts’ao
  • Mei-ts’ao
  • Mi-kan
  • Mi-ts’ao
  • Sweet licorice
  • Sweet wood
  • Yasti Madhu (Sanskrit name)

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Parts Usually Used

Root, dried
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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Licorice is a perennial erect branching plant 3-7 feet tall; the woody rootstock is wrinkled and brown on the outside, yellow on the inside, and tastes sweet. The stem, which is round on the lower part and angular higher up, bears alternate, odd-pinnate leaves with 3-7 pairs of ovate, dark green leaflets. Axillary racemes of yellowish or purplish 3-foot-long spikes of flowers appear from June to August, depending on location.

Full sun to partial shade. The roots are dug when sweetest, in autumn of the 4th year, preferably from plants that have not borne fruit, a process that exhausts the sweetness of the sap.

Another variety of licorice is Wild Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota). It can be used like G. glabra. Wild licorice can raise blood pressure like G. glabra.
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Where Found

Found wild in southern and central Europe and parts of Asia, and cultivated elsewhere. Grows abundantly in Northern China, Mongolia, especially from the region of Kokonor.
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Medicinal Properties

Demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, emetic, emolient, pectoral, alterative, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, sedative, tonic, stimulant
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Biochemical Information

Asparagine, biotin, choline, fat, glycyrrhizin, gum, inositol, lecithin, glycosides, volatile oil, coumarins, estrogenic substances, sterols, saponins, manganese, PABA, pantothenic acid, pentacyclic terpenes, phosphorus, protein, sugar, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and E, and yellow dye.

Substances in this herb seem to produce physiological reactions of desoxycorticosterone, with associated retention of sodium and water and the excretion of potassium.
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Legends, Myths and Stories

Licorice was used as a treatment for coughs as long ago as the third century BC. When the 3,000 year old tomb of King Tutankhamen of Egypt was opened, archeologists found quantities of licorice stored with fabulous jewelry and magnificent art works. Did the boy king have a special liking for licorice?

Like the Chinese, the Hindus considered licorice a general tonic, beautifying agent, and elixir of life.

Ancient Chinese divided their drugs into 3 classes, according to their reputed properties. Licorice was of the first class because “They preserve the life of man, and therefore resemble Heaven. They are not poisonous. No matter how much you take, and how often you use them, they are not harmful. If you wish to make the body supple, improve the breath, become old in years without aging in body, then make use of drugs of this class.”

It has been stated that “Licorice sugar will not crystallize nor ferment, even when yeast is added.”

Hippocrates mentioned licorice in 400 BC; Pliny wrote 1900 years ago about the juice of licorice helping to clear the voice. It is mentioned in practically all botanical records of mankind.

In World War I, the French provided their troops with a beverage made with licorice root.

The Chinese claim to have used the herb root for more than 5,000 years. Chinese healers prescribed licorice for flare-ups of arthritis, but back then they didn’t know that licorice contained saponins, anti-inflammatory compounds similar to natural steroid hormones. Licorice stimulates the production of 2 steroids, cortisone and aldosterone.

A list of 365 medicinal herbs were compiled in China about 2,000 years ago, called the Shennong Herbal. Licorice was listed as a “superior” drug, meaning it can be used over a long period of time without toxic effects. It actually has antiviral, antiallergic and, as stated, anti-inflammatory properties.

Licorice root, considered of great importance in Chinese medicine, is sold in long, dry, wrinkled pieces. It is used in a large number of prescriptions as a corrective and harmonizing ingredient. The extract is used in the composition of cough lozenges, syrups, and pastilles.

In the United States, the National Cancer Institute is investigating triterpenoids, compounds found in licorice root, for the capability to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells and prevent tooth decay.

The Japanese are investigating glycyrrhetic acid as a possible cancer treatment.

Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza lepidota) was known to the Blackfeet tribe as “Pa ki to ki” and was a remedy for sore throat and stomach trouble. They steeped the gray leaves.

Licorice is used in great quantities in modern tobacco mixtures.
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Uses

Beneficial for hypoglycemia, bronchitis, consumption, colitis, cystitis, general debility, stomach ulcers, diverticulosis, indigestion, gastritis, bladder, kidney ailments, stress, colds, coughs, laryngitis or hoarseness, sore throats, relieves thirst, fevers, nausea, and inflammation. Cleanses the colon, lowers blood cholesterol, promotes adrenal gland function, decreases muscle or skeletal spasms, and increases fluidity of mucus from the lungs, coughs, hoarseness, mucous congestion, and bronchial tubes. Has estrogen-like hormone effects; changes the voice.

A strong decoction makes a good laxative for children and may also help to reduce fever. Add licorice to other medicines to make them more palatable.

Externally, used as an ointment for eczema, psoriasis, burns, boils, sores, ulcers, and redness of the skin. Made by adding 2% of licorice juice to an antibiotic formula.

Studies show licorice root stimulates the production of interferon.

Deglycerrhizinated licorice may stimulate the body’s defense mechanisms that prevent the occurrence of ulcers by increasing the amount of mucous-secreting cells in the digestive tract. This improves the quality of mucous, lengthens intestinal cell life and enhances microcirculation in the gastrointestinal lining. Licorice derivatives have been recommended as a standard nutritional support for peptic ulcer sufferers in Europe.

Licorice is 50 times sweeter than sugar.
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Formulas or Dosages

Decoction: use 1 tsp. rootstock with 1 cup water. Take 1 cup a day.

Licorice mixed with wild cherry, and flaxseed makes a wonderful cough syrup.

For sore throat, phlegm, hoarseness, coughs, and bronchial irritations, the following Chinese formula should be sipped slowly:

  • Kan-ts’ao (licorice root) 1/2 oz.
  • Chih-ma (flaxseed) 1 oz.

Boil in 1-1/2 pints of water for 10 minutes, strain. Dose: 1 cup of hot tea, 3 to 4 times a day. Sip slowly.
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Nutrient Content

Manganese, phosphorus, protein, sugar, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and E.
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How Sold

Powder

Capsules: take 1 capsule to up to 3 times daily.
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Warning

Do not use licorice root if you have high blood pressure, liver disease, or low levels of potassium. The increased production of aldosterone can raise blood pressure; believed to cause retention of fluids; in large quantities, licorice can sap potassium and calcium from the body, which is extremely dangerous. Not to be taken by people with a rapid heartbeat or those taking digoxin-based drugs. Avoid in cases of osteoporosis, hypertension, and swelling around the heart. Licorice is contraindicated in cases where there is a tendency towards fluid retention, edema with high blood pressure. It should be used moderately for women, who tend to retain water more than men. Application should not continue for more than 4-6 weeks.

Women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) should not use licorice during PMS, due to its ability to cause water retention or bloating.

Licorice-flavored candy does not offer the same benefits as preparations from the root, but can cause an increase in blood pressure.
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Resource Links

LiveStrong.com: Licorice Extract for Age Spots

LiveStrong.com: What Are the Health Benefits of Licorice Tea?

LiveStrong.com: Herbs to Fade Discoloration

University of Maryland Medical Center: Licorice

U.S. National Library of Medicine: Licorice

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Licorice

National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine: Licorice

Drugs.com: Licorice

PubMed.gov: Innovations in natural ingredients and their use in skin care.

PubMed.gov: Effect of glycyrrhizin on the activity of CYP3A enzyme in humans.

PubMed.gov: Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: a review of the epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment options in skin of color.

PubMed.gov: Hypnotic effects and binding studies for GABA(A) and 5-HT(2C) receptors of traditional medicinal plants used in Asia for insomnia.

PubMed.gov: Modulation of Matrix Metalloproteinase and Cytokine Production by Licorice Isolates Licoricidin and Licorisoflavan A: Potential Therapeutic Approach for Periodontitis.

PubMed.gov: Glycyrrhizic acid and 18beta-glycyrrhetinic acid inhibit inflammation via PI3K/Akt/GSK3beta signaling and glucocorticoid receptor activation.

PubMed.gov: Inhibition of LXRalpha-dependent steatosis and oxidative injury by liquiritigenin, a licorice flavonoid, as mediated with Nrf2 activation.

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Bibliography

Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

Buy It! The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1988, fifth printing, 1994

Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

Buy It! Old Ways Rediscovered, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, published from 1954, print 1988

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Buy It! Secrets of the Chinese Herbalists, by Richard Lucas, Parker Publishing Company, Inc., West Nyack, NY, 1987.

Buy It! Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D., Simon & Schuster/Fireside, Rockefeller Center 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, NY

Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

Buy It! The Healing Plants, by Mannfried Pahlow, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 250 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge, NY 11788, 1992

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