LICORICE

Glycyrrhiza glabra

Common Name: Licorice, liquorice, sweet root
Family: Fabaceae
Part/s Used: Root
Energetics: Neutral 
Taste: Sweet,mildly bitter, salty, acrid 
Actions: Demulcent, expectorant, mild laxative, alterative, immunomodulator, adrenal modulator, hepatoprotective
Constituents: Glycyrrhizic acid, phytoestrogens, coumarins, flavonoids, isoflavones, essential oil, polysaccharides
Organ Affinity: Lungs, stomach, spleen, liver 
Planet: Mercury
Element: Water 
Herblore: Protection. Licorice root was buried in the tombs of the deceased to protect the soul on its journey. It expels negative energy from our lives and provides a protective barrier around the magical practitioner.

Medicinal Preparations:

Tincture: Fresh 1:2  Dry (ratio & % alcohol): 1:5 60 %
Drops: 15-60  Times a day: up to 4x 

Tea: Hot infusion/cold infusion/decoction  Ounces: 8-12   Times a day: 4x
When treating digestive ulcers, consume the decoction on an empty stomach up to one hour before meals or two hours after.

Habitat and Botanical Description: 

Licorice is an herbaceous perennial plant, graceful with a light spreading, pinnate foliage presenting an almost feathery appearance from a distance. The underground tap root contains several branches penetrating a depth of 3-4 feet. Native to the Mediterranean, licorice prefers hot weather with full sun or partial shade. The long narrow bell-shaped flowers produce an oblong legume pod that produces several seeds.

Medicinal Uses:

Licorice is a demulcent and a soothing anti-inflammatory herb for dry, irritated, and inflamed mucosal membranes of the throat, lungs, stomach, and intestines. Its sweet mucilage is lubricating, cooling, and sedating to the mucosa. Licorice is one of our best demulcent expectorants (tincture). Known as the great harmonizer, licorice can be safely added to tonics and formulas to alleviate the unpleasant taste of bitter herbs by bringing it all together and adding a sweet taste. Licorice can also be used in stimulant expectorant formulas at a low percentage (5%) to smooth out the formula by moistening and sweetening a bit. Licorice and osha make a great pair as they are constitutionally balanced as licorice softens harshness of osha. 

Licorice is soothing to the digestive tract. Commonly used for stomach ulcers, heartburn and acid indigestion. It rich, mucilaginous consistency adds a soothing quality to syrups and tea.  A sweet and safe herb for children. 

Licorice largely influences the endocrine system that protects the body against stress by enhancing adrenal cortex hormone function, protecting the body against stress, and therefore strengthening the immune system. An adaptogen used for lethargy and fatigue, revitalizing used over a period of weeks or months. The constituents of licorice similarly function the same way as the natural steroids do in the human body.

Licorice is commonly used to support, detoxify, and protect the liver. A choleretic, cholagogue, and hepatoprotective. Especially for liver diseases and drug induced liver injuries. Due to its anti-inflammatory activity and enhancement if antioxidant effects, it decreases the negative reactions to alcohol. 

Specific for heat excitation in the female reproductive system and considered and estrogenic herb or estrogen stimulating herb. The plant hormones that produce human hormones in essence help the body to produce more estrogen by providing essential nutrients that the liver and endocrine system that need to produce hormones, and generally only if your body needs estrogen.

Licorice root is very soothing to dry, irritated skin conditions. Apply a water-based preparation such as a fomentation or poultice of the decocted root.  Licorice root powder is used in ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for inflammations, burns, wounds, and general skin problems. Apply a paste of root powder mixed with water or honey.

Harvesting:

Harvest the root in autumn, after 2-3 seasons of growth. Carefully remove 2 or 3 feet around the root to expose all the roots and rhizomes at the side and unearth.  Wash the roots, trim and sort or cut into shorter lengths and dry. The older hard runners are sorted while the younger soft roots can be reserved for propagation.

Contraindications:

Best to avoid licorice in pregnancy with any conditions. If there are no conditions, pregnant women should not consume more than 3 grams daily. Avoid licorice if prone to edema, sodium retention, high blood pressure. Discontinue if licorice consumption causes palpitations.

 

Sources:

The Earthwise Herbal by Matthew Wood
Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar
Northwest School for Botanical Studies (class notes) by Christa Sinadinos
Evolutionary Herbalism Vitalist Practitioner Program (Class Notes) by Sajah Popham
The Essential Guide to Western Botanical Medicine by Christa Sinadinos