Herbs & Plants

The Herb Licorice and the Benefits.

It’s interesting that in life things always seem to come back full circle. When I was young I remembered not being allowed to eat much candy, only on special occasions, mainly the holidays like Halloween and Christmas.  When those times came around I had my candy favorites, it was always chocolate, especially if combined with peanuts and caramel, and then there were peanut butter cups and chocolate candy coated peanuts, notice a theme here?  Ha ha.  Well looking back on my childhood favorite candy it wasn’t just about chocolate, peanuts & peanut butter.  There was also a candy called “Good and Plenty” which I loved!  The candy was pink and white, in the shape of capsules, coated in a hard candy shell but soft and chewy inside with a licorice flavor.  When it comes to licorice candy people seem to have a love or hate reaction, there’s no in between.  For me I loved it!  But then again I can remember in my childhood liking anything licorice flavored.  I always looked for all the black licorice flavored jelly beans out of a bag of jelly beans and always wanted the black licorice sticks out of packages of red and black licorice stick candy.   I didn’t realized then what I realize now is that my affinity for anything licorice flavored would be my first encounter with herbalism and a long lasting love affair with licorice root.

According to jonbarron.org, a website dedicated to natural health, King Tut loved Licorice root so much it was found in his tomb to take with him in the afterlife and the Greeks used Licorice as an over all cure like how the Chinese use Ginseng. 

Glycyrrhiza Glabra (the botanical name for licorice) is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia.  This herb has been used for thousands of years and was used by various ancient societies for numerous treatments from cold and digestion issues to inflammation.  The website sciencedirect.com talked about licorice and the fact there’s roughly 300 compounds in Licorice some of them with anti-viral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor activities.  Also in the same article it was reported that Licorice has been one of the main ingredients in Chinese traditional medicine for centuries.

The qualities of Licorice are warming, moistening and relaxant.  The taste is sweet.   It’s perfect for pairing with other herbs due to its adaptogenic values, in fact Chinese medicinal herbal formulas use licorice to harmonize contrasting herbs as reported by Mountain Rose Herbs on their page about licorice.

Here are some of the benefits of using Licorice (1):

  • Relieves heartburn/acid reflux.
  • Beneficial for ulcers.
  • Relieves digestion issues.
  • Great for eczema.
  • Can help treat hepatitis C.
  • Relieves inflammation.
  • Perfect for sore throats.
  • Beneficial for tooth decay, 
  • Can help with arthritis.
  • Helps with fatigue.
  • Aids in adrenal function.
  • Can help with female hormone production, due to estrogenic activity in the herb. 
Licorice root can be consumed as a tea and in tincture form.  It can also be used topically by infusing it into oil.  Infusing the Licorice in oil and keeping some on hand can be wonderful for stings, rashes or bites.
Some herbs like Fennel (another favorite) are very safe to consume and there are no considerations for usage, then there are some herbs like Licorice which has some safety precautions concerning how much can be used.   According to the Medicine Hunter website,  Licorice if used in large amounts can cause potassium deficiency, sodium retention and hypertension.  As with any herb it’s always best to go to a full fledged herbalist and/or holistic doctor if there’s any concerns related to how much certain herbs can be consumed safely.
My personal use of Licorice has been mainly in tea form.  I’ve never brewed the herb by itself but always as an accompaniment with other herbs.  For example my tea blend for digestion contains Calendula, Peppermint, Catnip, Marshmallow, Fennel and Licorice Root.  Even though I don’t brew licorice by itself  I do chew on Licorice Root sticks when having sugar cravings and for me it kills that sugar urge.  I’ve also read where you can actually use Licorice Root sticks as toothbrushes.  Chewing on the sticks not only cleans the teeth surface but in between the teeth as well as freshens the breath.  
Sidenote:  I just ran to get a licorice stick to chew on and clean my teeth. 😊  
Other studies report that chewing on Licorice Root can assist in quitting smoking.  Whenever there’s an urge to smoke, chewing on a Licorice Root stick helps with the hand to mouth action and the plant compounds in the licorice assists in stopping the tobacco craving.(2)
Who would have guessed that the licorice candy I loved so much as a child originated from such a powerful herb.   Now a little ways into my adulthood the way I eat has changed tremendously I no longer eat candy, my body simply can not handle it, but I’m fine with it, I say why settle for candy when the real thing is so much better.  And another sidenote:  My teeth feel amazing!