While commonly thought of as a popular candy, the herb Licorice is derived from the from the roots and stems of the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra, and is never used in candies. Licorice is one of the mainstays of traditional Chinese medicine, and has been used for over 3,000 years as a tonic to rejuvenate the heart and spleen, and as a treatment for ulcers, cold symptoms, and skin disorders.
Modern herbalists commonly utilize licorice in treating adrenal insufficiencies such as hypoglycemia and Addison’s disease, counteracting stress, and in purifying the liver and bloodstream. In combination with other herbs it is recommended as a demulcent to soother mucous membranes, and as an expectorant useful in treating flu, colds, respiratory disorders and bronchitis.
Medical researchers have isolated several active substances in licorice root including glycosides, flavonoids, asparagine, isoflavonoids, chalcones and coumarins. Primary of these is Glycyrrhetinic acid, a natural anti-inflammatory compound that led to the successful development of drugs used in the treatment of duodenal and gastric ulcers, as well as ulcers of the mouth and genitals.
Another licorice compound, glycyrrhizin, has been shown to possess anti-viral properties effective against the polio virus, herpes zoster, herpes simplex, and the HIV virus. Both compounds have also been found to inhibit cancer cells in vitro, though clinical studies on humans have not been conducted.
Other derivatives of licorice have elicited a host of active ingredients that seem to act as anti-depressants and, if that weren’t enough, inhibit the enzymes that cause tooth decay. All in all licorice is a very impressive herb that is well supported by medical research and clinical data.
Persons with a history of congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and liver disorders should not use licorice compounds. If you are pregnant or nursing, consult your health care professional before using this product. People with a history of renal failure or those currently using cardiac glycosides may wish to avoid use of Licorice as a precautionary measure.