Common Name: Licorice | Scientific Name: Glycyrrhiza Glabra

Family: Leguminosae

Part Used

Remember this

History and Traditional Uses

Dosage and Duration

Safety

In a word

Uses

Getting your supply

Dosage and Duration

Licorice can raise blood pressure when taken long term, for this reason, it is suggested that it be used for six weeks followed by a break of two weeks. It effects are felt within a few days of starting it though the longer it is used, the more the effects are felt. Three doses should be taken every day.

Dried root: one teaspoon (1gm) in a cup of boiling water, strained.

Tableted dried root: (2) 500 mg tablets

Tincture 1:5 one teaspoon (5ml)

Tincture 1:1 twenty drops

Solid extract 4:1: 250 mg
Fact Sheet 1

Licorice

Glycyrrhiza glabra

Part Used: Root

Remember this : Respiratory Drama Remover

Reasonable uses : any respiratory problem; asthma, hay fever, allergies, chronic bronchitis, chronic chest infections, coughs, colds, sinusitis, dry coughs, unproductive coughs, painful coughs, shortness of breath.

History and Traditional Uses

Licorice is an ancient herb. Favored in China for more than 5,000 years, its intensely sweet, fibrous root is still prescribed by herbalists for respiratory problems. The ancient European herbalists recommended it for any problem of the chest. In seventeenth-century England, licorice was boiled with figs to quiet coughs and chest pains.

Scientific back up

Suck on a slice of dried licorice root, and your taste buds will quickly encounter this plant’s most active compound: glycyrrhizin, a saponin that is 50 times sweeter than sugar. Structured like your body’s own natural steroids, licorice improves inflammatory conditions like asthma. Researchers have found that compounds in licorice have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, and anti-bronchitic actions. It has been found to ease coughs and clear respiratory congestion in chronic respiratory problems(bronchitis) and acute dramas’(chest colds). Scientists support the ancient belief that licorice is the respiratory tonic.

Herbalists use it to………

Lessen the severity asthma

A scandalous number of children today carry asthma inhalers to school. Herbalists find that with licorice and licorice alone the asthma improves and inhalers are used less. Even better, licorice fires up the immune system. Asthmatic kids are more vulnerable to coughs and colds and licorice helps them stay well.

Reduce hay fever and allergies

The coming of spring is not a time of celebration for the nose blowing allergy sufferer. Herbalists find that if licorice is used for two weeks before allergy season starts, and is used continously through allergy season, the need of steroids and other prescription drugs can be reduced.

Contain a cold

There is not a lot you can do once you get a cold. Or is there? Licorice is a simple but effective cold treatment that works on several levels. Firstly, it stimulates the immune system so it can more rapidly come to grips with the bug causing the cold. Even better, it acts as a gentle expectorant and powerful cough supressant. Lick colds with licorice.

Prevent colds in the vulnerable

Asthmatics are not the only folks who need to avoid getting a cold in cold season. For the elderly and the infirmed catching a cold in winter can ruin several months. Licorice, and its general respiratory tonic effect, is recommended for anyone who needs to avoid getting a cold.

Dosage and Duration

Licorice can raise blood pressure when taken long term, for this reason, it is suggested that it be used for six weeks followed by a break of two weeks. It effects are felt within a few days of starting it though the longer it is used, the more the effects are felt. Three doses should be taken every day.

Dried root: one teaspoon (1gm) in a cup of boiling water, strained.

Tableted dried root: (2) 500 mg tablets

Tincture 1:5 one teaspoon (5ml)

Tincture 1:1 twenty drops

Solid extract 4:1: 250 mg

Shopping tips

Licorice is a cheap herbal medicine and one that is readily available at the health food shop. Avoid products that contain other herbal remedies.

Safety

Use this herb with caution if you suffer from high blood pressure or water retention, and avoid it during pregnancy and while nursing.

Alternatives

Eucalyptus(Eucalyptus globulus)


Fact Sheet 2
Licorice

Scientific Name: Glycyrrhiza glabra

Part Used: Root

In a word: The Herb Balancer
Uses: Respiratory ailments, stomach ulcers, weight gain, inflammatory conditions

As I’ve said before, the top medicinal plants are special in various ways, if not downright bizarre. They tend to have some obvious peculiarity, something strange that it’s so easy to know how people were initially drawn to them. Take licorice, for example. The root contains glycorisin, a substance 50 times sweeter than sugar. How’s that for an odd fact? When you put a piece of licorice in your mouth and experience the ultra-sweet taste, you know that something is up with this plant.

Are we talking about licorice sticks? Yes, but not the ones you buy at the five-and-dime. Not so long ago, a few hundred years or thereabout, sugar as we know it did not exist. It was not that people didn’t have a sweet tooth: the white stuff was not available. Before the days of colonialism and the cane sugar plantation, folks had to rely on fruit, honey, or licorice sticks – the real variety. These sticks come from the roots of a member of the bean family, and people used to chew on them for their flavor, which is truly sickeningly sweet.

Far beyond being a treat, however, licorice was, and in some countries still is, used to bring on health and a robust appearance, so much so that too much can cause weight gain. If you are trying to lose a few pounds, licorice is not the plant for you. Conversely, if you want to put on a few, it is what you’ve been looking for.

Licorice is nothing new. In fact, it was mentioned by Oribasius and Marcellus in the fourth century A.D., and by Paul of Aegina in the seventh. By the time the 15 th century rolled around, Italy was famous for its superior licorice – in 1574, Mattioli noted that pastilles flavored with its juice were brought every year from Apulia. Indeed, the record of this substance indicates that it has been an article of domestic and medicinal use for centuries. According to some historians, licorice was stored in King Tut’s tomb. (Remember, the pharaohs only traveled to the next life with the best and most necessary stuff.)

In the Arab world, the consensus is: whatever ails you, use licorice. The extensive list of indications includes fever, respiratory ailments, and gastritis. One Arab use is to take licorice root, carob pulp, and raisins, grind them all together, and freeze them into a healthful sherbet. As the other two ingredients, carob and raisins, are also powerful health plants, the combination is a winner.

In China, licorice is felt to boost the body, any body: long-term usage leads to clear eyes and vibrancy. The Chinese believe that the herb enters through the lung and spleen channels, and as such is specifically good for both. They see licorice as a herbal helper, if you will, and they use it in most of their prescriptions to add power to the other herbs they contain. For example, if you are taking angelica for female complaints, the addition of licorice will make the angelica all the more effective. In Chinese medicine, as we have discussed, health is defined as the body in balance. Herbs are used to bring balance back, and licorice is considered the balancer of herbs. It’s termed a corrective, a fancy word which means that the plant corrects what’s wrong with you, whatever that may be.

The claims for licorice being a universal healer or panacea are so numerous that the scientific community has spent a considerable piece of lab time trying to figure out what in the plant makes it so good for the body. The list of chemicals they’ve isolated in the sweet root goes on and on. I will spare you the details, but researchers have verified many of the so-called old wives’ tales surrounding the plant. Their scrutiny has backed up what the villagers already knew.

Being a man and never having had to deal with a monthly period, I cannot even imagine what a bother erratic menstruation can be. A traditional treatment for irregular cycling, licorice has been proven to induce the production of estrogen, the hormone that regulates estrus.

We all know that a stomachache can be debilitating – it’s hard to sit in an important meeting when all you want to do is lie down and die. At the risk of sounding like an idiot, I’ll say that the stomach is a really important organ. Without nourishment, we starve to death, and the stomach is the instrument that introduces nourishment into the body. I bother making such a remedial statement because the way many people treat their stomachs suggests that they’re not in touch with this fact. Be good to your stomach, and your body will be good to you. Licorice is considered one of the best plants for the overall health of the stomach and is used universally to treat stomach ulcers.

Chinese scientists have proven that licorice extract actually does cure ulcers, and it does so through two means. First, it absorbs the acid content in the stomach, making it much more pH-balanced, and second, it relaxes the stomach and intestines, thus relieving spasms. They have found licorice to be, are you ready, 90 percent effective in the treatment of ulcers. Apparently the best course of action is to take the powdered root at the onset of an attack, rather than waiting until it is full-blown. Sounds like preventative medicine to me, and ulcer sufferers might be wise to follow this Chinese advice.

A folk cure for cancer in a number of cultures, licorice has been proven to inhibit the growth of sarcoma 45 and Ehrlich ascites cells. Aside from its ability to inhibit actual cancer cell growth, the plant is used to boost the body so that it can fight off degenerative conditions, of which cancer is certainly one. In the case of debilitating diseases, it has been shown that licorice administered in the early phases of the disease leads to weight gain and improvement of strength, blood pressure, and general well-being. The key here again is to take licorice early, as a preventative, to avoid going all the way down the tubes.

The notion that licorice fights inflammatory conditions due to arthritis or rheumatism is universally held. As it turns out, the plant contains a number of chemicals which have proven to be anti-inflammatory in lab animals. Scientists are now making a connection between inflammatory diseases and allergic reactions, and in Asia licorice is used to treat allergies with great success. The active ingredients in licorice have been shown to decrease allergic reactions in guinea pigs. For the inflammatory disease sufferer who also has allergies, the plant is considered supreme (especially if they’re guinea pigs).

In Macer Floridus , a ninth-century herbalist declares, “No medecyne helpith swether pe instrumentis of pe lunges, ne of pe brest, pan dop liquorice.” More succinctly, no plant is better for the lungs than licorice. Science has born this out. An ingredient in licorice is said to be comparable to codeine for coughs. At one time, singers used to chew the root to strengthen the throat and protect their sources of income, and asthmatics took the same plant to help them breathe. A modern study shows that the symptoms of patients suffering from bronchial asthma were relieved within three days after the administration of powdered licorice.

When researchers noted all the references to the plant’s power to cure infectious diseases, they started looking for antibiotic properties in the licorice stick, and – surprise, surprise – they discovered an ingredient called triterpenoid glycyrrhetic acid which indeed kills bacteria. Another chemical, hispaglabridin, was also found to be potent against bacteria. We’ve all seen these cold formulas advertised on TV with seven million and one different actions: cough suppressant, decongestant, etc. Well, licorice is a cold formula made by Mother Nature herself which has all of the above, plus an antibiotic.

Licorice sticks, the real kind, can be purchased from your local herb seller or readily grown. Incredibly hardy, the plant is an attractive shrub which rarely gets larger than an azalea bush. One-year-old plants are easily available from mail-order sources. Remember, though, that the part to use is the root, and if you are planting for roots, you need to make sure you can readily get them out of the ground as they can be as long as 16 feet. The best course is to prepare a special bed by mixing a huge bag of peat moss in with the garden soil so that the soil is light and fluffy. Then, when it’s time to harvest, you can actually pull the roots out with not trouble. After you trim off the roots, stick the plant back into the ground, and it will grow anew.
Fact Sheet 3
Licorice

Scientific Name: Glycyrrhiza glabra
Part Used: Root

In a word: Athlete’s energy plant

Uses: General Tonic to be used when exhaustion kicks in, great for athletes and those keeping an olympic schedule

As I’ve said before, the top medicinal plants are special in various ways, if not downright bizarre. They tend to have some obvious peculiarity, something strange that it’s so easy to know how people were initially drawn to them. Take licorice, for example. The root contains glyccyrhisin, a substance 50 times sweeter than sugar. How’s that for an odd fact? When you put a piece of licorice in your mouth and experience the ultra-sweet taste, you know that something is up with this plant.

Are we talking about licorice sticks? Yes, but not the ones you buy at the five-and-dime. Not so long ago, a few hundred years or thereabout, sugar as we know it did not exist. It was not that people didn’t have a sweet tooth: the white stuff was not available. Before the days of colonialism and the cane sugar plantation, folks had to rely on fruit, honey, or licorice sticks – the real variety. These sticks come from the roots of a member of the bean family, and people used to chew on them for their flavor, which is truly sickeningly sweet.

Far beyond being a treat, however, licorice was, and in some countries still is, used to bring on health and a robust appearance, so much so that too much can cause weight gain. If you are trying to lose a few pounds, licorice is not the plant for you. Conversely, if you want to put on a few, it is what you’ve been looking for.

Licorice is nothing new. In fact, it was mentioned by Oribasius and Marcellus in the fourth century AD, and by Paul of Aegina in the seventh. By the time the 15 th century rolled around, Italy was famous for its superior licorice – in 1574, Mattioli noted that pastilles flavored with its juice were brought every year from Apulia. Indeed, the record of this substance indicates that it has been an article of domestic and medicinal use for centuries. According to some historians, licorice was stored in King Tut’s tomb. (Remember, the pharaohs only traveled to the next life with the best and most necessary stuff.)

In the Arab world, the consensus is: whatever ails you, use licorice. The extensive list of indications includes fever, respiratory ailments, and gastritis. One Arab use is to take licorice root, carob pulp, and raisins, grind them all together, and freeze them into a healthful sherbet. As the other two ingredients, carob and raisins, are also powerful health plants, the combination is a winner.

In China, licorice is felt to boost the body, any body: long-term usage leads to clear eyes and vibrancy. The Chinese believe that the herb enters through the lung and spleen channels, and as such is specifically good for both. They see licorice as a herbal helper, if you will, and they use it in most of their prescriptions to add power to the other herbs they contain. For example, if you are taking angelica for female complaints, the addition of licorice will make the angelica all the more effective. In Chinese medicine, as we have discussed, health is defined as the body in balance. Herbs are used to bring balance back, and licorice is considered the balancer of herbs. It’s termed a corrective, a fancy word which means that the plant corrects what’s wrong with you, whatever that may be.

The claims for licorice being a universal healer or panacea are so numerous that the scientific community has spent a considerable piece of lab time trying to figure out what in the plant makes it so good for the body. The list of chemicals they’ve isolated in the sweet root goes on and on. I will spare you the details, but researchers have verified many of the so-called old wives’ tales surrounding the plant. Their scrutiny has backed up what the villagers already knew.

Being a man and never having had to deal with a monthly period, I cannot even imagine what a bother erratic menstruation can be. A traditional treatment for irregular cycling, licorice has been proven to induce the production of estrogen, the hormone that regulates estrus.

We all know that a stomachache can be debilitating – it’s hard to sit in an important meeting when all you want to do is lie down and die. At the risk of sounding like an idiot, I’ll say that the stomach is a really important organ. Without nourishment, we starve to death, and the stomach is the instrument that introduces nourishment into the body. I bother making such a remedial statement because the way many people treat their stomachs suggests that they’re not in touch with this fact. Be good to your stomach, and your body will be good to you. Licorice is considered one of the best plants for the overall health of the stomach and is used universally to treat stomach ulcers.

Chinese scientists have proven that licorice extract actually does cure ulcers, and it does so through two means. First, it absorbs the acid content in the stomach, making it much more pH-balanced, and second, it relaxes the stomach and intestines, thus relieving spasms. They have found licorice to be, are you ready, 90 percent effective in the treatment of ulcers. Apparently the best course of action is to take the powdered root at the onset of an attack, rather than waiting until it is full-blown. Sounds like preventative medicine to me, and ulcer sufferers might be wise to follow this Chinese advice.

A folk cure for cancer in a number of cultures, licorice has been proven to inhibit the growth of sarcoma 45 and Ehrlich ascites cells. Aside from its ability to inhibit actual cancer cell growth, the plant is used to boost the body so that it can fight off degenerative conditions, of which cancer is certainly one. In the case of debilitating diseases, it has been shown that licorice administered in the early phases of the disease leads to weight gain and improvement of strength, blood pressure, and general well being. The key here again is to take licorice early, as a preventative, to avoid going all the way down the tubes.

The notion that licorice fights inflammatory conditions due to arthritis or rheumatism is universally held. As it turns out, the plant contains a number of chemicals that have proven to be anti-inflammatory in lab animals. Scientists are now making a connection between inflammatory diseases and allergic reactions, and in Asia licorice is used to treat allergies with great success. The active ingredients in licorice have been shown to decrease allergic reactions in guinea pigs. For the inflammatory disease sufferer who also has allergies, the plant is considered supreme (especially if they’re guinea pigs).

In Macer Floridus , a ninth-century herbalist declares, “No medecyne helpith swether pe instrumentis of pe lunges, ne of pe brest, pan dop liquorice.” More succinctly, no plant is better for the lungs than licorice. Science has born this out. An ingredient in licorice is said to be comparable to codeine for coughs. At one time, singers used to chew the root to strengthen the throat and protect their sources of income, and asthmatics took the same plant to help them breathe. A modern study shows that the symptoms of patients suffering from bronchial asthma were relieved within three days after the administration of powdered licorice.

When researchers noted all the references to the plant’s power to cure infectious diseases, they started looking for antibiotic properties in the licorice stick, and – surprise, surprise – they discovered an ingredient called triterpenoid glycyrrhetic acid which indeed kills bacteria. Another chemical, hispaglabridin, was also found to be potent against bacteria. We’ve all seen these cold formulas advertised on TV with seven million and one different actions: cough suppressant, decongestant, etc. Well, licorice is a cold formula made by Mother Nature herself which has all of the above, plus an antibiotic.

Practitioners’ Advice

Licorice is an excellent tonic plant for those needing a little boost in vitality. Athletes use it to improve their game. Corporate workers use it to give them a competitive edge over their competitors. Working mothers use it to improve their stamina and endurance. People recovering from debilitating illnesses use it to increase their vitality, well being, and to speed their convalescence. Licorice can be seen as a strengthening plant and those in need of a little strength should think about adding this stabilizing herbal medicine to their regimen.
Fact Sheet 4
Licorice

Scientific Name: Glycyrrhiza glabra

Part Used: Root

In a word: Respiratory cure all
Uses: Respiratory disorders: cough, asthma, sinusitis, allergies, bronchitis

Licorice is the dream plant for those who have a respiratory tract problem. I have yet to see an over-the-counter medication or prescription drug outperform licorice in getting a respiratory tract in working order.

We are not talking about the red or black strips of sugary candy sold as licorice sticks at most confectioners. Those are medicinally worthless; they contain no natural licorice whatsoever. In fact, they tend to be flavored with anise. So why do they call the stuff licorice? In the days before food had a shelf life longer than many people’s life spans, there was once an item called a licorice stick. These dark, sticklike roots were produced by the licorice plant, which is a member of the pea family. Why did pharmacists stock these sticks and why did children beg their moms to buy them? The leguminous plant, Glycyrrhiza glabra , contains a substance, glycyrrhizin, which is 50 times sweeter than sugar. Sugar as we know it today is a relatively new development; 400 years ago, the only sweet tastes came from fruit and honey. The extreme sweetness of licorice makes it a real oddity, and people loved it. Due to its peculiar sweetness, licorice was used in many medicines to mask the unpleasant taste of the other ingredients. This is still a common practice in china today.

There are two kinds of licorice used in medicine, G. glabra , which is the European variety, and G. uralensis , which is the Chinese variety. Licorice has been used in domestic medicine for centuries. It seems that the Greeks first got their hands on the sweet roots from the Scythians. Theophrastus, a Greek writing in the third century B.C., noted the Scythian root’s value in treating asthma, dry coughs, and anything else troubling the respiratory system. King Tut’s tomb was said to be loaded with licorice. (Perhaps he was an asthmatic and didn’t want to spend eternity coughing and wheezing!)

Dioscorides, another ancient writer on herbal medicine, called the plant glycyrrhiza . This means “sweet root,” which indeed licorice is. The Romans called the plant liquiritia , which became the English word licorice. The Roman writers Celsus, Scribonius, and Largus all mention the plant; like the Greeks, they found the root to be amazingly effective in quieting an irritated respiratory tract.

It seems likely that the Romans carried licorice with them on their moves northward to countries where coughs and colds due to harsh weather were so common. Licorice was used in Germany during the Middle Ages. The English king Henry IV kept a good supply in his pharmacy, as records dating to 1424 indicate. An Italian medical writer named Saladinus states that licorice could be found in all the pharmacies in 15 th century Italy. In the 1450 Frankfurt Book of Drugs , licorice appears once again. From the 1500s onward, the licorice-producing industry became centralized in southern Italy. Though other European countries grew the plant, the Italian root was said to be the best for both medicine and candy. As a cough treatment, licorice has been in active use for at least 2,300 years, and that’s because it works.

One of the oldest extant herbals, Macer Floridus de Viribus Herbarum , contains the following notation on licorice:

For the brest, for the lunges. Liquorice sodden in watir til it be nesshe and than pressed well and oft dryed is clethid chylum whan it is dried pus. This wole helpe pe lunges and abate the stifnessis and diseases of it. No medecyne helpith swether the instrumentis of the lunges, of the brest, than doth liquorice. These instrumentis helpith liquorice wonderly nat in turmentyng, as doth cost, neither in fretyng, as doth aloe, but in softe likynnge.

What this ninth-century herbalist is saying is that no drug was as effective as licorice in healing the lungs. Thank you, Macer!

On the Chinese front, we see a similarly long history of licorice’s use for much the same purpose – healing the chest and quieting the dreaded cough. The root is mentioned in the Divine Husbandman’s Classic of the Materia Medica , written in 206 B.C. during the Han Dynasty. Licorice is one of the most popular medicinal herbs in china; in fact, few traditional formulas give it a miss. The Chinese consider it to be antitussive, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, and a mild laxative. In the chest department, it is used to treat coughs, consumption, laryngitis, pharyngitis, sore throat, bronchitis, and chronic bronchitis.

The Chinese have found at least ten anti-inflammatory flavonoids in licorice, along with an acid, glycyrrhetic acid, that has been proven to be both antibacterial and antitussive. This triple combination makes licorice perfect for the job at hand. In fact, licorice’s anti-inflammatory abilities are so strong that they are used to heal all manner of irritated tissues be they inside or outside the body. The action is very much like that of a steroid such as cortisone. The good news with this steroid-like action is that it doesn’t come packing the immune-suppressing side effects of chemically synthesized steroids. People who are attempting to get off the steroid merry-go-round often use licorice to help wean their bodies off the drugs.

Practitioners’ Advice

When you need a good night’s rest, there is nothing like being awakened by the sound of your own coughing every time you are about to drift off to sleep. The American annual retail sales for over-the-counter cough medicines hover around 4 billion dollars; if there ever was a testimony to the need for something herbal in the medicine cabinet for coughs, this would be it.

There is actually nothing wrong with coughing per se; it is the body’s way of moving stuff out of the lungs. The problem is that most coughs are unproductive, meaning that you cough, but nothing comes up or out. One of my favorite medical writers from the beginning of the century, Lyman Watkins, M.D., had this to say on the matter:

Cough is a spasmodic, expulsive effort of the respiratory organs. It arises from irritation, either direct or remote, of the sensitive nerve endings in the respiratory mucous membrane. Cough is a symptom, not a disease, it is, however, a very frequent and often the only evidence of morbid conditions, therefore remedies for its relief have always occupied a prominent position in therapeutics.

The reason so many coughs are unproductive, and by that we can assume not really necessary, as Horton suggests, is that the nerve endings placed in the lungs to detect when coughing is necessary become irritated in the process. The initial, productive coughing inflames the lung tissue. This inflammation compresses the nerve endings that send messages to the brain indicating that more coughs are in order. The coughing that first served to get mucus out of the lungs eventually serves only to further irritate the lung tissue in a vicious cycle. Cough syrups and drops, nonprescription and otherwise, work to soothe the stimulated nerves and irritated tissues of the respiratory tract.

This is where licorice excels. It has been found to be as effective as codeine at quieting these nerves at the root of all this unproductive coughing. So, when a cough becomes irritating and non-productive, call in the licorice. It will speed the recovery from coughs and colds and flu’s to boot.

Beyond this use in acute respiratory drama, licorice can be used in all the chronic respiratory problems. This includes asthma, allergies, hay fever, sinusitis, bronchitis, and laryngitis. Licorice is anti-inflammatory in nature and will reduce the inflammation so prominent in these chronic respiratory afflictions. In these cases it should be used daily for some months for an improvement in respiratory health!

QUICK REVIEW
History:
European ‘cure all’ for respiratory problems

Science: Contains compounds that improve respiratory function

Practitioners’ opinion: Effective in all respiratory complaints

Directions: Tincture (1:5, 25% alcohol): 5ml 3 times daily
Chapter from Backyard Medicine Chest

Licorice

Is that TB or what?

Coughs

Glycorrhiza Glabra

Nothing like needing a good nights sleep and every time you just about drift off you are awakened by your own coughing. The American annual retail sales for over the counter cough medicines hovering around 4 billion dollars, if there ever was a testimony for the need for something in the medicine cabinet for coughs this would be it. You may be horrified to learn there is nothing wrong with coughing, its the bodies way of moving stuff out of the lungs. The problem is most coughs are unproductive, meaning your just cough and nothing comes up or out. Heres one of my favorite medical writers from the beginning of the century had to say about coughing, in case you aren’t clear on what a cough is, ” “Cough is a spasmodic , expulsive effort of the respiratory organs. It arises from irritation , either direct or remote, of the sensitive nerve endings in the respiratory mucous membrane. Cough is a symptom, not a disease, it is , however, a very frequent and often the only evidence of morbid conditions, therefore remedies for its relieve have always occupied a prominent position in therapeutics.”

The reason you keep coughing long after there is nothing left to cough up is this. The nerve endings placed in the lungs to detect when coughing is necessary become irritated or agitated and in this irritated state misfire messages to the brain that results in unnecessary coughs. The initial coughing, though productive, results in the lung tissue becoming irritated and inflamed. The nerve endings placed in this tissue get squeezed due to this inflammation and whammo all kinds of messages to cough get fired out. Initially the coughing served to get mucous out of the lungs, eventually it only serves to further irritate the lung tissue and result in more coughing. It becomes a vicious cycle. How will this madness end?

Cough syrups and drops, over the counter and otherwise work to sooth the irritated tissues of the respiratory tract. With the tissue calmed down the nerve endings responsible for all the coughing get a break and the net result is you dont cough as much. Most cough remedies either treat the nerves in the respiratory tract or the tissue, the main aim being to get the nerves to stop firing the cough now message out to the brain. Our next plant, licorice is the dream plant for people hacking their lives away. I have yet to see an over the counter medication out perform licorice in suppressing cough!

When we talk about licorice we are not talking about the red strips of sugary candy sold as licorice sticks at most confectioners. Those are medicinally worthless and in fact they contain zero natural licorice. In fact they tend to be flavored with anise so its hard to know how that red stuff ever got the name licorice. In the days before food had a shelf life longer than many peoples life span, there was once a creature called a licorice stick and they were in fact sticks produced by the licorice plant. The sticks were really the roots of the licorice plant, a member of the pea family. Why did people keep these sticks in the pharmacy and why did children beg their moms to buy them some of the black roots? The leguminous plant, glycorrhiza glabra, contains a substance -glycyrrhizin, which is in fact fifty times sweeter than sugar. People chewed on the root and an extremely sweet flavor floated around the mouth. Sugar as we know it today is really a relatively knew development in the history of the world. 400 years ago the only sweet tastes came from fruit and honey. The extreme sweetness of licorice was a real oddity and people loved it to death. I know this is a hard concept to take in, there was no white sugar around and sweet things were a dear commodity. Due to this peculiar sweetness licorice was used in many a prescription to mask the unpleasant taste of the other medicines included. This is still a common practice in China today.

There are two brands of licorice used in medicine, G.glabra which is the European variety and G.uralensis which is the Chinese variety. Glabra was been used in domestic medicine for a major piece of time. It would seem that the Greeks first got their hands on the sweet roots from the Scythians. Theophrastus, a greek writer writing in the third century BC talks of the Scythian root being remarkable in treating asthma, dry coughs, and anything else troubling the respiratory organs. King Tuts tomb was said to be loaded with licorice, perhaps he was an asthmatic and didn’t want to spend eternity coughing and wheezing.

Dioscorides, another ancient writer writing on herbal medicine called the plant glycorrhiza, glukos meaning sweet and rhiza root, the sweet root, which we have already established it indeed is. The plant was formerly called liquiritia in Latin and it became corrupted to licorice in English. I dont know what happened to the G, must have disappeared as the plant was carried form Athens to Rome . In Rome the writers Celsus, Scribonius, and Largus all mention the plant. The Romans also found the root to be amazingly effective in quieting an irritating cough.

It seems likely that the Romans carried licorice with them on their moves northward where coughs and colds due to the weather were so common. There is record of licorice being used in Germany during the Middle Ages. The English King Henry the IV kept a good supply in his pharmacy as records dating to 1424 indicate. An Italian medical writer Saladinus states that it could be found in all the pharmacies in 15th century Italy . In the Frankfurt book of drugs dating to 1450 licorice appears once again. From a very early day, the 1500′s and forwards the licorice industry became centralized in southern Italy . Though all countries grew it to an extent the Italian root was said to be the best both in terms of medicine and candy. So we are dealing with a cough medicine in active use for at least 2300 years, do you think it could just be a hoax? No way, licorice is fabulous for quieting a cough and that’s all there is to it.

One of the oldest herbals still existing is “Macer Floridus de Viribus Herbarum”, which I think is the catchiest title yet, in this herbal much was said about licorice. Unfortunately you will have to suffer through some really old english, but its a fun little exercise. For the brest , for the lunges.

Liquorice sodden in watir til it be nesshe and than pressed well and oft dryed is clethid chylum whan it is dried pus. This wole helpe pe lunges and abate the stifnessis and diseases of it. No medecyne helpith swether the instrumentis of the lunges, the of the brest , than doth liquorice. These instrumentis helpith liquorice wonderly nat in turmentyng, as doth cost, neither in fretyng, as doth aloe, but in softe likynnge. In translation, the herbalist writing in the ninth century said that no drug was as effective as licorice in healing the lungs. Thank you Macer!

Gerard writing in the 16th century, some seven centuries later had similar comments to make. ” The root of licorice is good against the rough harshness of the throat and breast;it openeth the pipes of the lungs when they be stuffed or stopped, and ripeneth the cough, and bringeth forth flegme. It is good against hoarseness, difficulty of breathing, inflammation of lungs, the pleurise, spitting of blood or matter, consumption or rotteness of the lungs, all infirmities and ruggedness of the chest. It takes away inflammations, mitigateth and tempereth the sharpness and the saltness of humors, concoceth raw humors, and procureth easie spitting”. European herbalists of all flavors felt licorice was tops in lung healing.

On the Chinese front we see a similarly long history for much the same purpose, healing of the chest and the dreaded cough. It is mentioned in the Divine Husbandmans Classic of the Materia Medica written in the Han dynasty. It is perhaps one of the most popular medicinal herbs in China , in fact very few traditional chinese formulas give it a miss. They consider it to be anti-tussive, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, and a mild laxative. In the chest department it is used to treat coughs, consumption, laryngitis, pharyngitis, sore throat, and finally bronchitis, and chronic bronchitis.

The Chinese have found at least 10 anti-inflammatory flavanoids in licorice, along with an acid glycyrrhetic acid, which has ben proven to be both anti-bacterial and anti-tussive. This triple combination makes licorice perfect for a cough-remember coughing is due to irritated nerve endings. The anti-inflammatory flavanoids reduce the inflammation causing the cough!

Indeed licorices anti-inflammatory abilities are so strong inside and outside the body they are used the heal all manners of irritated tissues- be it eczema or a sore throat. The action is very steroid like, acting much the way cortisone does. The good news with this steroid like action doesn’t come packing with the immune suppressing side effects traditional steroids have. People attempting to get off the steroid merry-go-round often use licorice to help wean their bodies off the drugs.

When it comes to using licorice when you have a cough it couldn’t be easier. You simply take one teaspoon of the root, ground or whole, and boil it with two cups of water until the water has reduced to one cup. You can drink as much as is necessary-most find that 4 cups per day is sufficient. The American FDA has rated this one GRAS so you its perfectly safe.

Prescription:

One teaspoon root+ added to two cups water+ boil until one cup has evaporated+ strain+ drink. 4 times per day.

Tincture: 4ml + added to one cup water + drink three times per day.

Getting your supply:

1. Purchase whole licorice roots or ground licorice from the health food store.

2. Grow it yourself. Licorice is a perennial plant and quite an adaptable on at that. It will take a wide variation of temperature and when planted in a sunny location it will always succeed. It is raised for the root and in planting it one has to make preparations for easy root removal. Licorice roots ten to go deep and can be difficult to get out of the soil. Add equal parts of manure and peat moss to the soil and work both in very well prior to planting your licorice starter plant. The plants can be had from mail order herb nurseries and with the plant in hand and the soil prepared its only a matter of sticking the plant in the dirt and watering on a regular basis. You will have to grow the plant for two seasons before there is anything to harvest, and it can be harvest every two years.

Chapter from Thirty Plants That Can Save Your Life

Licorice

As I keep saying, these top medicinal plants are special plants, if not bizarre. The fact that they are pointed out as such globally illustrates humanity agrees with this point. As well as use, they tend to have some obvious peculiarity, something so unlike other plants, people were drawn to the plant. Some feature was so odd that people took notice of the plant, and the discovery process took place. Take licorice for example. The root contains glycorisin, a substance 50 times sweeter than sugar. How’s that for an odd fact? When you put a piece of licorice in your mouth, and taste the ultra sweet taste, you just know something is up with the plant.

Are we talking about licorice sticks? Yes, but not the ones that you know, a different liquorice stick. In order to appreciate this one we need to back up on the history chart and get our bearings.

Not so long ago, a few hundred years or there about, sugar as we know it did not exist, not that people didn’t have a sweet tooth, the white stuff we all know so well was just not available. For a sweet fix, people had to rely on fruit and honey. Sounds a little drab but that was the reality of the situation. Cane sugar is a relatively knew phenomena, only in the days of colonialism and the sugar plantation did people have access to sweetness at every convenience store. Before this it was much more rare, and hard to get a hold of. So picture this, you live in let’s say England , the year is 1750, and you want something sweet to put in your mouth. Your options look like this, you can bake a pie, go out and harvest a bee colony for some honey, or you can pull up a licorice root, also known as a licorice stick.

Enter the licorice stick. You will notice I said go out and dig up a licorice stick, and being astute you know the licorice sticks we see at the five and dime are not dug out of the ground so you know we are talking about something different. The licorice stick I am referring to is the root of a member of the bean family, a root that contains a chemical that is fifty times sweater than sugar as we know it. In the days of old, when people wanted something sweet, one option was to reach for a liquorice stick and chew on it to release the shockingly sweet taste. As time passed, the real liquorice stick became obsolete and the ones we know today, made of sugars and gums replaced the real thing. But there is, in fact, a real licorice stick, and it is truly sickeningly sweet.

The roots that kids used to beg for is our next magically medicinal plant. Far beyond its use as a treat, it was, and is in some countries still used to bring on health and a robust appearance. So much so, that using it too much can cause build up of bulk and weight. Some how it triggers the body to bolster itself physically to the point of weight gain. If you are trying to loose weight, licorice is not the plant for you, and conversely, if you want to gain some weight, licorice is just what you’ve been looking for.

Licorice, the dried rhizome and root of glycyrrhiza, is mentioned by Oribasius and Marcellus in the 4th century, and by Paulus Aegineta in the 7th. It was known in the time of Dioscorides, and was commonly known in Europe during the Middle Ages. Its price in England , in the day of Henry III, was equal to that of grains of paradise. It was one of the articles paying duty to aid in the repairing of London Bridge in the day of Edward I, 1305. Saladinus, in the fifteenth century, mentioned it as an Italian medicine, and it was commonly known in the city of Frankfort in 1450. Mattioli, 1574, states that the juice, in the form of pastilles, was brought every year from Apulia . Indeed, the record of this substance is to the effect that it has been an article of domestic use, as a “sweet wood” for chewing, as a constituent of medicinal pastes, and in the form of a common water extract, since the earliest times. It is found in large quantities in the localities where it is cultivated, in Sicily, Italy, and Spain, while in moderately recent years we have seen immense amounts of licorice roots annually collected in the valleys of the Hermes and the Kayster, where probably it has grown wild from all times. According to Rose, quantities of licorice were stored in King Tut’s tomb. The pharaohs only got buried with the best stuff, a good endorsement for this plant.

In Arabia , the consensus is whatever ails you, use licorice. The list of indications is rather extensive, hoarseness, cough, any respiratory ailments, gastritis, stomach pains and cramps, fever, uterine cramps, and congestion. What we see right away is the use of licorice in maintaining health in the part of the body that runs from the mouth all the way down to the stomach. This theme we will see over and over again. An Arabian use is to take licorice root, carob pulp, and raisins, grind them all together and freeze to make a healthful sherbet. The other two ingredients, carob and raisins are also powerful health plants and the combination is a winning one.

In China , licorice is believed to boost the body, any body, and that the long term usage leads to clear eyes and a vibrancy. They believe that the herb is entered through the lung and spleen channels, and as such they are specifically good for both. Interesting to note that most of the herbs used worldwide for general tonic purposes are said to enter through the spleen channel by the Chinese. This is an independent thought. The Chinese use licorice in most of their herbal prescriptions to add power to the other herbs they contain. They see licorice as an herbal helper, if you will. For example, if one is taking angelica for female complaints, the addition of licorice will make the angelica all the more effective in treating the complaint. In Chinese medicine, as we have discussed, health is defined as the body being in balance, and when the body gets out of balance, disease is manifest. Herbs are used to bring balance back, and licorice is considered to be the balancer of herbs. Licorice is termed a corrective, a fancy word that means the plant corrects what is wrong with you, whatever that may be.

The claims of licorice being a universal healer, or panacea are so numerous the scientific community has spent a good piece of lab time trying to figure out what in the plant makes it so good for the body. The list of chemicals isolated in the sweet root goes on and on, I will spare you the details. Researchers, attempting to figure the plant out, have in the end proven many of the wives tales surrounding the plant. The scrutiny of the scientists have backed up what the villager already knew. It seems a rather silly pasttime, trying to prove what people already know. The fact remains, human beings are difficult people, and when something doesn’t work, they don’t use it again, and licorice has been used for thousands of years. Be that as it may, here are some wives tales and scientific findings.

Being a man and never having had to deal with a monthly period, I can not even imagine what a bother it can be. From what I have read and have been told, an irregular menstruation is really bothersome. Licorice has been a treatment for irregular cycling, and in fact

licorice has been proven to induce the production of estrogen, the hormone that regulates females cycling. Its estrogenic nature has been borne out.

A stomachache can be a debilitating situation, it’s rather hard to have an important meeting when all you want to do is lie down and die. Risking sounding like an idiot, the stomach is a really important organ you want to keep healthy. Without nourishment, we starve to death, and the stomach is the machine that introduces the nutrition into the body. I bother going into this rather remedial statement as the way people treat their stomachs, many people don’t seem to be in touch with this fact. Be good to your stomach and your body will be good to you. Licorice is considered to be one of the best plants for the overall health of the stomach.

In fact, it is used universally to treat a stomach in distress, a stomach riddled with ulcers. Ulcers are serious in that they threaten the health of the stomach, which has an obvious price to pay. Ulcer sufferers might want to check out a proper lifestyle and a little licorice tea. Here’s what Gerard had to say on the topic, “. . .with honey it healeth ulcers.” He didn’t say it helpeth ulcers, he said it healeth ulcers.

The Chinese have proven that the extract of licorice actually does cure ulcers through two means. Firstly, it absorbs the acid content in the stomach making it much more ph balanced, and secondly, it relaxes the stomach and intestines, thus relieving spasms. They have found it to be, are you ready, ninety percent effective in treating ulcers. The feeling is the best course is for the powdered root to be taken just at the onset of the attack, rather than waiting until it is full blown. Ulcer sufferers might be wise to start taking the herb when a situation arises that is likely to spark the ulcer, rather than waiting until it reaches a critical phase. Sounds like preventative medicine to me.

The plant has been a folk cure for cancer in a number of cultures, and it has been proven that the plant inhibits the growth of

sarcoma 45 and Ehrlich ascites cells. Aside from its ability to inhibit actual cancer cell growth, the plant is used to boost the body so it can fight off a degenerative condition, of which cancer is one. In the case of debilitating diseases, it has been shown that licorice when administered in the early phases or progression of disease, leads to weight gain and improvement of strength, higher blood pressure, and general well being. The key here again, is when taken in the early phases. This means that when taken as a preventative, it is taken to avoid going all the way down the tubes.

Gerard had this to say about licorice:

“It takes away inflammations, mitigateth and tempereth the sharpness and the saltiness of humors, concoceth raw humors, and procureth easie spitting.”

The notion that licorice fights inflammatory condition, whether arthritis or rheumatism is universally accepted by wives. As it turns out, the plant contains the following chemicals proven to be anti-inflammatory in lab animals: quercetin, rutin liquiritin, liquiritigenin, licurazid, liquiritone, isoliquiritigin, isoliquiritin, neoliquiritin and neoisoliquiritin, and triterpenoid glycyrrhetic acid. Not that you really care what makes it work, but I like to throw in some official sounding bits here and there to keep you Doubting Thomases from dismissing the facts for “wives tales.”

The connection between inflammatory diseases and allergic reactions is being made by our science minded friends, and licorice is also used to treat allergies in Asia with great success. The active ingredients in licorice have been proven to decrease the allergic reactions of guinea pig skin to substances known to produce allergic reactions. For the inflammatory disease sufferer who also has allergies, the plant is considered supreme.

In Macer Floridus, our herbalist tells us the main use for licorice, “For pe brest ,” or for the breast as we say in modern English. And that about sums it up, licorice is the single plant for the lungs. Getting basic again, lungs are important items, you suffocate without them, and you will never meet anyone who lost his in the war and lived to tell the story. As Macer says,

“No medecyne helpith swether pe instrumentis of pe lunges, / ne of pe brest , pan dop liquorice,” more succintly put, no plant is better for the lungs than licorice.

Science has born this out, an ingredient in licorice is said to be quite comparable to codeine in getting coughing to stop. Codeine is available only with the help of a doctor as it is considered a dangerous substance, whereas licorice is just the root of a plant that probably couldn’t kill you unless you got hit over the head with it and died of a hemorrhage, the same isn’t true of codeine.

In the ancient days, Singers chewed the root to strengthen the throat to protect their sources of income. Asthmatics used the same plant to insure their ability to not smother. Gerard mentions it in this vein:

“The root of licorice is good against the rough harshness of the throat and breast; it openeth the pipes of the lungs when they be stuffed or stopped, and ripeneth the cough, and bringeth forth flegme.”

Oh, don’t stop there Gerard, testify,

“It is good against hoarseness, difficulty of breathing, inflammation of the lungs, the pleurise, spitting of blood or matter, consumption or rottennes of the lungs, all infirmities and ruggedness of the chest.”

In the modern world, patients suffering from bronchial asthma were essentially cured with the administration of powdered licorice. A study shows these symptoms were relieved within three days. The research of late has shown licorice to be somewhat of a miracle drug in the cases of lung trouble, it’s rather unfortunate that many of us have forgotten about this rather simple lung helper.

An interesting note to smokers, licorice is used to flavor tobacco. This tradition comes down from the plant’s ability to soothe the throat and heal it, in the old days licorice was included in tobacco formulas to take the edge off the irritating sotweed. And tobacco manufactures are reported to add the root to this day, though no one knows for sure as the tobacco processors are not forced to release the ingredients in their cigarette mixtures.

Researchers, seeing all the references for licorice having some power to “cure” infectious diseases started to look for any anti-biotic, or bacteria killing powers in the licorice stick. Well, surprise surprise, an ingredient formed in the root, triterpenoid glycyrrhetic acid, was proven to kill bacteria. Another chemical, hispaglabridin, was found to be potent against other bacterias. We all see on TV these cold formulas that have seven million and one different actions, cough suppressant, decongestant, etc. Well, this cough formula, made by God or Goddess him or herself (don’t want to be gender offensive), has all of the above, plus an anti-biotic.

The Chinese have been saying that licorice, when used in combo with other drugs, somehow makes the other drugs more effective, somehow directing the medicine to just the right spot and intensifying its abilities. Sounds like hocus-pocus? Not so fast. In fact, Chinese research has proven that the use of licorice in conjunction with cortisone showed that cortisone had an increase in strength and duration. Who’s to say it works with all drugs, but it does with at least this one.

Along these same lines, here’s a fact that you probably don’t know. Licorice is one of the original flavor enhancers, and aside from making drugs more powerful, it can make tastes more tasteable. The active ingredient in licorice, glycyrrhizin potentiates the flavor of cocoa, replacing 25% cocoa in manufactured products. That is to say, it makes chocolate, more chocolaty.

Though toxins are a rather tiresome topic, we live and breathe them every day. Some feel that the reason we see so many cancers today is due to all the chemicals we take in our food and in our air, these chemicals leading to cellular mutation which leads us to the marble orchard. Well, our friend licorice was used and is still used today to make the body better able to survive poisoning, which is what actually happens when we take in toxins (look up the word in the dictionary).

And food poisoning, among others. For good poisoning and poisoning due to swallowing of poison of undetermined nature, equal amounts of licorice and black beans or mung beans are decocted together and the liquid taken orally.

The Chinese must enjoy a little playful poisoning of thine enemies, as in the herbal texts you see a lot of references to how to treat people that have been poisoned. I believe the notion of a food tester first came out of China . The Chinese use licorice and black beans to treat someone who has a bad dose of food or other poisoning, especially if the poison is of an unknown type. Looking into this wives tale, the Chinese have determined that when poor little lab animals are fed lethal doses of strychnine along with licorice, the animals are able to survive the poisoning. The plant has proven to reduce the toxicity of cocaine, urethane, and arsenobenzol, caffeine, and nicotine. These are, of course, cases of serious poisoning, but the case could be made that living in the modern world gives us a little dose of poisoning of an unknown source each and every day.

How could there be more? There is. The Irish use the leaves of the plant ground fresh to treat dry and chapped skin with considerable success. This use is also found half way around the globe in China , where the twigs and leaves are used as an emollient to throbbing tender skin. Research has shown that this paste in fact speeds healing in burn victims. Gerard even had something to say on this matter. “. . .being melted under the tongue it quencheth thirst: it is good for green wounds being laid thereupon.”

So how to use licorice? We have a few sources of interesting uses that one could easily do at home. Let’s first go to Gerard:

“The juice of licorice made according to Art, and hardened into a lump, which is called Succus Liquiritia, serveth well for the purpose aforesaid, being holden under the tongue, and there suffered to melt.”

Now, licorice sticks, the real kind, can be purchased at your local herb seller, or grown rather readily. The plant is incredibly hardy and a rather attractive shrub, rarely getting larger than a azalea bush. Available from mail order sources, a year old plant won’t be hard to get. Remember, the part used is the root, and if you are planting for roots, you need to make sure you can readily get them out of the ground, the best course is to prepare a special bed by mixing a huge bag of peat moss in with the garden soil, so the planting bed is light and fluffy in consistency. So when it’s time to harvest, you can actually pull the roots out with no trouble. The roots can be long, as long as 16 feet.



COPYRIGHT 2010 DoctorSchar.com