Licorice is one of the most extensively used medicinal and flavoring herb in Ayurveda and medical sciences across the world. It is the root of the Glycyrrhiza Glabra plant and is commonly known as “sweet wood” for the sweet aroma and flavor it imparts. It is a herbaceous perennial legume native to regions in southern Europe and India.
Licorice is one of the highest consumed of all herbs. It is a source of pharmacological compounds that get added to many anti-depressants, anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory medicines. With a variety of uses and cures, it finds applications for the majority of health ailments.
Licorice in Ayurveda
Its scientific name is Glycyrrhiza Glabra. In Ayurveda, it is known as Yastimadhu. Its common names are Licorice or Liqourice.
It has Madhura Rasa (Sweet Taste), Guru and Snigdha guṇa (Heavy and Oily) with Sheeta Verya (Cooling Potency). It is Tridoshic in nature and balances all three Doshas.
Licorice Health Benefits
Licorice contains high level of antioxidants, flavonoids, and phytoestrogens. The sweet extract of glycyrrhizin is a powerful antioxidant and healing substance.
Healing and Anti-inflammatory properties
- Antioxidants and bioactive compounds help in treating ulcers, irritation, inflammation and spasm in the digestive tract.
- The substances also help in preventing the breakdown of adrenal hormones making these hormones more available to the body.
- It lowers cholesterol level and improves cardiac health.
Supports Liver Health
- It aids in treatment of chronic hepatitis C.
- It decreases liver inflammation and the elevated levels of aspartate transaminase (AST), alanine transaminase (ALT) and gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT).
- It increases bile flow, lowers the risks of Hepatitis, and supports the health of the liver.
Licorice, by boosting levels of interferon, a chemical essential for fighting against attacking viruses, enhances the immunity. Antioxidants such as estrogens, phytoestrogens, and glycyrrhizic acid, suppress the growth of many bacteria such as influenza A.
Licorice helps to cure blockage and coughing by thinning the mucus in the airways, in turn helping to flush out phlegm and other mucus bits. Not only does licorice help in relaxing bronchial spasms but also soothes sore throat.
Fatigue and Fibromyalgia
The glycyrrhizin, which boosts the cortisol activity, in turn helps in increasing energy, eases stress and overall functions to reduce the symptoms of ailments subjected to increased cortisol levels, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromylagia. The impact on adrenal gland also helps in reducing stress and other associated problems.
The phytoestrogens present in helps in easing various symptoms of PMS, such as irritability, bloating and breast tenderness.
Commonly used as a confectionery, licorice provides a major breakthrough in the oral health industry. By chewing the root, the chemicals help in preventing bad breath and also bacterial growth around the teeth.
Licorice is a great rejuvenator and promotes hair health. It stimulates hair growth and can be safely applied in hair preparations for treatment of different types of Alopecia.
Topical preparations of the decoctions and medicated oil preparations from Licorice remove dead skin layers. It also relieves symptoms of hair dryness, pricking sensation of scalp, and burning sensation of scalp.
- It has inhibitory effect of formation of dental plaque.
- It also has inhibitory effect against many gram positive and gram negative bacteria.
- It has inhibitory effect on Streptococcus pyogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi, and thermo-resistant bacilli.
- In vitro studies showed its inhibitory effect against Plasmodium falciparum, malaria parasite.
- An isoflavonoid Glabridin present in the herb showed inhibitory effect against yeast, filamentous fungi, and drug resistant mutants of Candida albicans. This supports the use of Licorice mouthwashes in treatment of Candida lesions in HIV patients.
- Paste of Licorice and Sesame Seeds or Tila mixed with ghee is used for wound healing.
- Payasa (rice-milk) prepared with Licorice and mixed with ghee should be taken in hoarseness of voice.
- Pressed snuff of Licorice mixed with honey or Pippali (Piper longum Linn.) mixed with fine sugar.
Caution with Licorice Consumption
As a common flavoring agent and for its sweet taste, it is extensively used in candies, chewys, and in food. While nowadays Anise is used instead as a flavoring agent for licorice candies, their consumption is prescribed to be controlled.
High amounts of Licorice can cause Pseudoaldesteronism. It is characterized with sodium retention, hypokalemia, hypertension and edema. It is suggested that the herb is consumed in quantities of not more 70-100 grams in a day.