The licorice plant is an excellent antidote for those wanting to get off of tobacco, partly due to its great digestive and pectoral properties. In the 1st century A. C. The great Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, and author, Pedanius Dioscorides, said: “The juice of licorice is useful for the hoarseness of the lungs as well as for stomach heartburn.” Licorice has been offering medicinal properties to human beings, smokers or not, for over 2000 years. Nowadays, it is part of several pharmaceutical preparations.
Licorice Plant Scientific Facts
- Other names: Licorice root, sweet licorice, sweet root.
- French: Reglisse.
- Spanish: Regaliz.
- Environment: Native of the countries of the Mediterranean area, and the Middle East, where it grows in wet, clay soils. Its growing has spread to warm regions of America.
- Description: Vivacious herb of the Leguminosae family (papillonaceae subfamily), growing up to 1.5 m high. Its leaves are formed by small oval folioles (from seven to 17). It has blue-violet flowers and legume-like fruits about two cm sized. From its main root grow many large rhizomes as thick as a finger.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The root and rhizome.
Healing Properties and Warning
Licorice contains several groups of active substances:
- Triterpene saponins, mainly glycerin, which, unlike many saponins, do not have hemolytic properties. These saponins give the plant expectorant, antitussive, anti-inflammatory, and emollient properties.
- Flavonoid substances, especially lichirhitine and small amounts of atropine, to which it owes its antispasmodic, antibiotic, digestive, and healing properties.
- Vitamins of the B group, sugars, and resins.
The most important applications of the licorice plant are the following:
- Respiratory afflictions: bronchitis, cough, bronchi catarrhs, pharyngitis, laryngitis, hoarseness, and tracheitis. It promotes expectoration, easing coughs and airways. It also has antibiotic properties against the most common pathogen bacteria of the bronchi. It is also used for tuberculosis as a complementary treatment.
- Digestive afflictions: Licorice plant has a notable action on the stomach, calming the acidity and quickly resolving the sensation of a heavy or upset stomach. It is successfully used in all kinds of dyspepsia, belching and gas, stomach aches, intestine and liver colics, and gastritis.
- Gastric and duodenal ulcer: In 1950, this sweet root was scientifically proven to heal stomach and duodenal ulcers. Many people who have recovered from these ulcers bear witness to this fact. Licorice has been proven to form a protective film over the stomach mucous membrane, then preventing the corrosive action of gastric juices from acting on this mucous membrane and allowing quick healing. At present, licorice extract is an indispensable part of several anti-ulcer medicines.
- Tobacco addiction: In cures of toxicity from tobacco, licorice renders good results besides contributing to the regeneration of the digestive and respiratory mucous membrane, its attractive flavor helping defeat the urge to smoke.
- Gynecologic afflictions: Because of its antispasmodic action, this plant is used to ease menstrual aches.
- Skin, eye, and mouth afflictions: In external applications, it is used for eczema, psoriasis, impetigo, and other dermatitis, as well as in eye baths for conjunctivitis, and mouth rinsings to treat stomatitis.
WARNING! The licorice plant contains small amounts of a steroid substance that stimulates the suprarenal glands. So, when consumed in high doses or for extended periods (more than three months), it can produce symptoms of hyperaldosteronism, fluid retention (edema) in the joints (especially the ankles) or the face, nausea, and headache, muscle cramps, and high blood pressure.
These side effects are caused by a decrease in potassium in the blood and an increase in sodium level. They quickly disappear when stopping the treatment. Prolonged consumption of the licorice plant is not recommended in arterial hypertension, pregnancy, or when corticoid-based treatments are followed.
How to use Licorice
- Infusion with 50 g of dry root per liter of water. The water must not boil; just hot water is enough since when it boils, the infusion acquires too strong a flavor. Drink three or four cups a day.
- Cold extract: Steep 40 or 50 g of ground root for one night in one liter of cold water. Strain in the morning, and drink from three to six cups daily.
- Extract: Licorice plant extract is black and is sucked in small pieces similar to pills. We do not recommend the regular use of licorice extract when sweetened with sugar. Licorice cigars (with no sugar) are better and may be mixed with extracts of other plants such as peppermint or anise.
The same infusion employed for internal use can be externally applied:
- In compresses on the skin.
- In eye baths.
- In mouth rinsings.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. Vols. 1 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 308,309. Print. [licorice plant]