The licorice root not only tastes delicious but is also full of beneficial components. This medicinal plant can be especially useful for coughs and stomach ailments. However, the root is not recommended for permanent use.
Origin of licorice root and its medicinal value
Licorice, or in Latin Glycyrrhiza Glabra, belongs to the butterfly flowers, which in turn is a subfamily of legumes.
The perennial plant reaches a height of up to two meters and has bluish purple flowers from June to July. For its use, only the underground yellowish root is used. Licorice root has a long tradition as a medicinal plant and is still one of the ten most important natural remedies in China today.
The root tastes approximately 50 times sweeter than common household cane sugar. The juice from the root was used, among other things, to make liqueurs.
Originally, the plant comes from the Mediterranean region, as well as western and southern Asia. On the other hand, the licorice root is also cultivated in large areas of Europe such as Spain, France, Italy, Turkey or Russia.
Licorice root: benefits and components
Researchers have discovered around 400 different substances that are responsible for the healing power of licorice. Of these, very few are widely investigated. Some of the best known include:
- Triterpenic saponins especially glycyrrhizin.
According to a review by Iranian researchers from the University of Medical Sciences, licorice root is credited with the following beneficial properties, including:
- Soothing to the stomach.
Glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhizinic acid are not only responsible for the sweetness of the root, but also have a spectrum of activity similar to that of the body’s hormones, cortisone and aldosterone.
They regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels. When using licorice root, it can happen that the blood sugar level drops while the blood pressure rises.
Medicinal uses of licorice root
It is no coincidence that licorice root was chosen as the medicinal plant of the year 2012 by the University of Würzburg and the nature conservation organization WWF. The healing effect of the dry-brewed sweet root plant has been known for millennia.
Licorice root was a home remedy in ancient times; however, it is still used medicinally and is often a component of cough syrups.
Researchers have found evidence that licorice has a beneficial effect on inflammation and may decrease chronic hepatitis. In addition, licorice contains substances that strengthen the body’s defenses.
The pharmaceutical industry also uses the acidic licorice ingredient called “glycyrrhizic” as a raw material for new drugs, including therapies for HIV and the infectious disease SARS.
Licorice root is mainly used as a tea for some health problems, for example:
- Strong cough
- Swelling in the mouth and throat.
- Low blood pressure.
Licorice root infusion
The preparation is so easy:
- Boil 250 milliliters of water and add about two teaspoons of dried and sliced licorice root.
- Let the tea infuse for about 15 minutes before removing the remains of the plant.
- To treat coughs or stomach problems, you should take one to three cups a day in small sips, preferably after eating.
- Licorice root is also good for tea blends. When coughing, a mixture with thyme or Plantago lanceolata is recommended. While for stomach ailments it can be useful with chamomile, fennel, caraway and anise.
Important Note: Although licorice tea tastes delicious due to its unique taste and natural sweetness, it is not suitable for long-term consumption.
When the body receives glycyrrhizin long-term, sodium accumulates in the body, while more potassium is secreted through the kidneys. In the long term, this can lead to increased blood pressure and water retention.
Also, people with hypertension, kidney problems, or diabetes should refrain from licorice root. Even during pregnancy and lactation, the medicinal plant is not recommended.