Licorice – Ancient Sweet Medicine

This is another herb that has been used in ancient China, Egypt and Greece.  It is primarily used for stomach related and upper respiratory tract related ailments.  Licorice drinks was also prepared by ancient Egyptians to honor pharaohs’ spirits.

Licorice is not only used as medicine, it is also can act as a flavoring agent with its sweetness.  One of Its components, called glycyrrhizin, is about 50 times sweeter than cane sugar.  The word “glycyrrhiza” is from ancient Greek, which means “sweet root”.  Thus, it has been used to sweeten some lozenges, herbal medicines, and even tobacco products in low dosage.  It also has been used in Chinese medicine to “harmonize” or “sweeten” many types of bitter medicines.

Due to its antidiabetic, antiulcer, laxative, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and expectorant properties,licorice has been tested alone, and combine with other medicines for its effect on many types of diseases.  There has been many positive results with more on their ways.  Diseases are:

  1. Addison’s disease or Adrenal insufficiency
  2. Aplastic anemia
  3. Atopic dermatitis
  4. Familial Mediterranean fever (FMF)
  5. Functional dyspepsia
  6. Herpes simplex virus
  7. Surprisingly even HIV

and many others.

For folk medicines, it has been added to treat persistent coughing.  It can help to shield inner throat tissues from injury during coughing.  It also help to clear the bronchial tubes and lungs. 

To make the cough relief licorice drink, you just need to dip a licorice tea bag in to a glass of hot water.  When the tea cool down, add some honey to it.  You can drink this 2 to 3 times a day for several days until the cough subside.

Beside treating cough, indigestion, stomach pains, vomiting and other digestive related ailments, it is also capable to prevent dental caries and neurodegenerative disorders. 

The active ingredient is actually in the root of this plant.  The plant is with blue flower and has a very sweet flavor.  Beside sugar, it also has many types of minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and many others.

There are also some side-effect in licorice.  There are people reported with skin rashes when they apply licorice contained cosmetic product.  Other side effects may include

  1. disruption of hormone in the body
  2. increase blood pressure
  3. lower blood potassium level
  4. fluid retention or edema
  5. cause electrolyte disturbances

All the above are in fact inter related and will lead to irregular heartbeats, muscle weakness, headache, nausea, vomiting.   It may even lead to more seriously disease like kidney damage, heart attack, stroke, muscle breakdown.

Also, excessive licorice in antacid may also cause body PH becomes too alkali which can lead to metabolic alkalosis and even seizure.

For pregnant ladies and breastfeeding mothers, licorice should be avoid for possible premature labor and hormone level alteration.

For a safer use, licorice can be “deglycyrrhizinated” and still able to maintain other goodness in it.  Thus, when shopping for licorice contained herbal tea, you will need to read the label to assure “deglycyrrhizinated” licorice is used.  Else, please follow USA FDA’s recommendation.  That is to consume only 70 to 150 grams of licorice per day.