By Raffi Kojian ( [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Glycyrrhiza glabra-Liquorice

Family: Leguminosae

Other names: Licorice Root, Yashtimadhu, Mithilakdi, Mulathi, Liquorice, Sweet Root, Lacris, Lacrisse, Lycorys, Reglisse, Glycyrrhiza glandulifera,Glycyrrhiza hirsuta, Glycyrrhiza pallida, Glycyrrhiza violace.

Habitat: Native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Asia, cultivated worldwide. Dry open places, especially in sandy places near the sea.

A gross overdose of the root can cause oedema, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. Do not use during hazardsmallpremenstrual syndrome as water retention and bloating occur. If pregnant or have liver cirrhosis use with caution. Avoid using for more than 6 weeks. Excessive quantities may cause headache, sluggishness and potassium depletion. This is due to the small possibility of effecting electrolyte balance with extended use of large doses of liquorice. It has an ACTH like effect causing retention of sodium thus raising BP. The whole herb has constituents that counter this but it is best to avoid Liquorice if the patient has hypertension, kidney disease or during pregnancy.

Liquorice his one of the most commonly used medicinal herbs in Western herbal medicine and has a very long history of use, both as a medicine and also as a flavouring to disguise the unpleasant flavour of other medications. It is a very sweet, moist, soothing herb that detoxifies and protects the liver and is also powerfully anti-inflammatory, being used in conditions as varied as arthritis and mouth ulcers. The root is alterative, antispasmodic, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, laxative, moderately pectoral and tonic. The root has also been shown to have a hormonal effect similar to the ovarian hormone. Liquorice root is much used in cough medicines and also in the treatment of catarrhal infections of the urinary tract. It is taken internally in the treatment of Addison’s disease, asthma, bronchitis, coughs, peptic ulcer, arthritis, allergic complaints and following steroidal therapy. It should be used in moderation and should not be prescribed for pregnant women or people with high blood pressure, kidney disease or taking digoxin-based medication. Prolonged usage raises the blood pressure and causes water retention. See also the notes above on toxicity. Externally, the root is used in the treatment of herpes, eczema and shingles.  The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Glycyrrhiza glabra for coughs/bronchitis, gastritis.

By Raffi Kojian ( [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Liquorice:

Glycyrrhiza glabra, liquorice is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone 8. It is in flower from Jun to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.It can fix Nitrogen.

Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Cultivation of Liquorice:

Requires a deep well cultivated fertile moisture-retentive soil for good root production. Prefers a sandy soil with abundant moisture and does not flourish in clay. Slightly alkaline conditions produce the best plants. The plant thrives in a maritime climate. Plants are hardy to about -15°c. Liquorice is often cultivated for its edible root which is widely used in medicine and as a flavouring. There are some named varieties. The ssp. glandulifera grows in Russia and produces adventitious roots up to 10 cm thick. Yields of 10 – 12 tonnes per hectare were considered good in the early 20th century, this only being attained in the fourth year of growth. Unless seed is required, the plant is usually prevented from flowering so that it puts more energy into producing good quality roots. The bruised root has a characteristic sweet pungent smell. Plants are slow to settle in and do not produce much growth in their first two years after being moved. The young growth is also very susceptible to damage by slugs and so the plant will require some protection for its first few years. A fairly deep-rooting plant, the roots are up to 120cm long. It can be difficult to eradicate once it is established. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Propagation of Liquorice:

Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow spring or autumn in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and grow them on for their first winter in a greenhouse. Plant out in late spring or early summer when in active growth. Plants are rather slow to grow from seed. Division of the root in spring or autumn. Each division must have at least one growth bud. Autumn divisions can either be replanted immediately or stored in clamps until the spring and then be planted out. It is best to pt up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a cold frame until they are established before planting them out in the spring or summer.

Collection: The roots are unearthed in the late autumn. Clean thoroughly and dry. The root is harvested in the autumn when 3 – 4 years old and is dried for later use.

Culinary uses of Liquorice:

Edible Parts: Root.
Edible Uses: Sweetener,  Tea.

Root – raw or used as a flavouring. The source of liquorice powder that is extracted and used in sweets, baked goods, ice cream, soft drinks etc, it is also used medicinally. A sweet and delicious flavour, but the root is very fibrous. The root contains glycyrrhizin, a substance that is 50 times sweeter than sucrose. The dried root is often used for chewing, it is excellent for teething children and also as a tooth cleaner. A tea made from the roots is an excellent thirst quencher. The powdered root is also used as a sweetener in other herb teas. The leaves are used as a tea substitute in Mongolia.

liquorice,Glycyrrhiza_Glabra_botanical_illustrationMedicinal uses of Liquorice:

Actions: Expectorant, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, anti-hepatotoxic, anti-spasmodic, mild laxative.

Part Used: Dried root.

Indications: Liquorice is a traditional herbal remedy with an ancient history and world wide usage. Modern research has shown it to have effects upon, amongst other organs, the endocrine system and liver. The triterpenes of Glycyrrhiza are metabolized in the body to molecules that have a similar structure to the adrenal cortex hormones. This is possibly the basis of the herbs anti-inflammatory action. As an anti-hepatotoxic it can be effective in the treatment of chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, for which it is been widely used in Japan. Much of the liver orientated research has focused upon the triterpene glycyrrhizin. This inhibits hepatocyte injury caused by carbon tetrachloride, benzene hexachloride and PCB. Antibody production is enhanced by glycyrrhizin, possibly through the production of interleukin. Glycyrrhizin inhibits the growth of several DNA and RNA viruses, inactivating Herpes simplex virus particles irreversibly. It has a wide range of uses in bronchial problems such as catarrh, bronchitis and coughs in general. Liquorice is used in allopathic medicine as a treatment for peptic ulceration, a similar use to its herbal use in gastritis and ulcers. It can be used in the relief of abdominal colic.

Kings Dispensatory describes it thus: “Liquorice root is emollient, demulcent and nutritive. It acts upon mucous surfaces, lessening irritation and is consequently useful in coughs, catarrhs, irritation of the urinary organs and pain of the intestines in diarrhea. It is commonly administered in decoction, sometimes alone, at other times with the addition of other agents and which is the preferable mode of using it. As a general rule, the acrid bark should be removed previous to forming a decoction. When boiled for some time the water becomes impregnated with its acrid resin; hence, in preparing a decoction for the purpose of sweetening diet drinks or covering the taste of nauseous drugs, it should not be boiled over 5 minutes. The efficiency of the root in old bronchial affections may be due to this acrid resin. The powdered root is also employed to give the proper solidity to pills and to prevent their adhesion; the extract for imparting the proper viscidity to them. The extract, in the form of lozenge, held in the mouth until it has dissolved, is a very popular and efficient remedy in coughs and pectoral affections. An excellent troche or lozenge, very useful in ordinary cough, may be made by combining together 6 parts of refined Liquorice, 2 parts of benzoic acid, 4 parts of pulverized alum, and 1/2 a part of pulverized opium. Dissolve the Liquorice in water and evaporate to the proper consistence, then add the powders with a few drops of oil of Anise and divide it into 3 or 6-grain lozenges. The bitterness of quinine, quassia, aloes and the acrid taste of senega, guaiacum, mezereon and ammonium chloride are masked by Liquorice.”

Preparations & Dosage:

Decoction: put 1/2 – 1 teaspoonful of the root in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 1-3ml of the tincture three times a day.

Caution: There is a small possibility of effecting electrolyte balance with extended use of large doses of liquorice. It has an ACTH like effect causing retention of sodium thus raising BP. The whole herb has constituents that counter this but it is best to avoid Liquorice if the patient has hypertension, kidney disease or during pregnancy.

Other uses of Liquorice:
Esoteric uses of Liquorice:

Love, lust, and fidelity. Carry to attract a lover.

The Chemistry:


  • Triterpenes of the oleanane type, mainly glycyrrhizin (=glycyrrhizic or glycyrrhizinic acid), and its agylcone glycyrrhetinic acid (=glycyrrhitic acid), liquiritic acid, glycyrrhetol, glabrolide, isoglabrolide, licoric acid, & phytosterols.
  • Flavonoids and isoflavonoids; liquiritigenin, liquiritin, rhamnoliquiritin, neoliquiritin, licoflavonol, licoisoflavones A and B, licoisoflavanone, formononetin, glabrol, glabrone, glyzarin, kumatakenin and others.
  • Coumarins; liqcoumarin, umbelliferone, herniarin glycyrin.
  • Chalcones; liquiritigenin, isoliquiritigenin, neosoliquiritin, rhamnoisoliquiritin, licuraside, licochalcones A and B, echinatin and others.
  • Polysaccharides, mainly glucans.
  • Volatile oil, containing fenchone, linalool, furfuryl alcohol, benzaldehyde.
  • Miscellaneous; starch, sugars, amino acid etc.
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