Licorice, Yashtimadhu, Mithi-lakdi, Mulathi, Sweetwood, Atimadhuram, Erattimadhuram, Liquorice
Native to Southern Europe and Western and Central Asia
Liquorice Root boasts a medicinal history going back thousands of years, with reports of it being consumed for its health benefits by the likes of Caesar, Alexander the Great and the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.
To the Egyptians Liquorice was a “cure-all”, although it was used throughout the ancient world for a variety of maladies. The herbal physician Dioscorides who travelled with the army of Alexander the Great gave it to the troops to give them stamina and endurance. It was also widely used as a digestive aid, to provide respiratory relief and to strengthen the liver and kidneys.
Liquorice root is a natural antacid that helps to relieve heartburn, indigestion, gastric and stomach ulcers, acid reflux and symptoms of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). It works by coating the digestive tract with mucous, protecting the stomach lining whilst speeding up its repair and restoring balance.
One of the major components of Liquorice is “glycyrrhizic acid”, a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been found to suppress the growth of the toxic bacteria “H pylori” – a nasty little bug that can lead to a whole host of stomach problems.
Due to its diuretic and mildly laxative effects, this root can also reduce stomach bloating, water retention and constipation.
Firstly, Liquorice can increase the production of healthy mucous within the bronchial system. Whilst this may appear counterintuitive to a cough or a cold, the production of healthy phlegm actually keeps the respiratory system functioning well and prevents the old, sticky mucous from clogging up the respiratory tracts.
Secondly this root can fight off the viruses that cause respiratory illnesses as well as relaxing bronchial spasms.
Liquorice both protects the liver and promotes healing in this vital organ. The herb's anti-inflammatory properties help calm hepatitis-associated liver inflammation. Liquorice also fights the virus commonly responsible for hepatitis and supplies valuable antioxidant compounds that help maintain the overall health of the liver.
Numerous studies have found that the active compound in Liquorice can effectively block liver damage caused by alcohol and over the counter pain killers. The glycyrrhizin found in this root is a potent free radical scavenger, especially in the liver.
Research shows that Liquorice is a powerful adaptogenic herb, able to help the body to manage the stress hormone “cortisol” more efficiently. It is very nourishing for burned out adrenals and is best used during times of chronic fatigue and tiredness that usually results in frequent illness.
Liquorice is known to have 8 different anti-depressant compounds, known as MOA (monoamine oxidase) inhibitors. These inhibitors are capable of potent antidepressant activity and show significant improvement for all types of depression. The compound, "glycyrrhizin" breaks down cortisol, the stress hormone, enabling the body to deal with stress. It also contains "Isoflavan" and "Isoflavene", additional compounds that have been shown to have antidepressant properties.
Liquorice root was used in many areas of the ancient world, including the Brahmans of India, the Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Babylonians and Chinese. The ancient Hindus believed it would increase sexual vigor when prepared as a beverage with milk and sugar. The Scythians taught the use of the herb to the Greeks; Theophrastus called it Scythian root, writing in the third century B.C. The Scythians were able to go twelve days without drinking water because they chewed on Liquorice root and ate mare’s cheese. He also said it was good for coughs and all pectoral diseases. In about 80 AD, Pliny recommended Liquorice root to clear the voice and to alleviate thirst and hunger.
During the Middle Ages, Liquorice was often taken to alleviate the bad effects of highly spiced and overcooked food, fat and often-contaminated meats. As refrigeration was impossible, most meats were preserved by salting and by packing with aromatic herbs and spices. In the early Middle Ages there was a huge value attributed to this important herb, when it was reported that a tax was placed on liquorice imports to aid in repairing London Bridge during the reign of Edward I in 1305. About the middle of the 15th century, Liquorice was named among the wares kept by the Italian apothecaries and it is enumerated in the list of drugs of the City of Frankfurt, written about the year 1450. It was not only important medicinally, but was used as a flavoring agent in sweets and tobacco, as a foaming agent in fire extinguishers and beers and used in isolated millboard.