Licorice is a perennial plant indigenous
to southern Europe, the Middle East and northern China; it is cultivated in
many parts of the world. The rootstock is brown, wrinkled, and woody, producing
an erect striated stem two to five feet in height. The leaves are alternate,
odd-pinnate, and have four to seven pairs of ovate, smooth, dark green
leaflets. Purplish or yellowish white flowers grow in axillary racemes and
bloom from June to August. The medicinal part is the rootstock.
Other common names for this plant are:
|Italian Juice Root
||Spanish Juice Root
| Amino Acids
* For definition of some of the above terms
see the dictionary section of this book.
||Vitamin B Complex
Aperient - a mild laxative used to stimulate the
Demulcent - an agent which smooths the mucous
membranes on contact.
Diuretic - Diuretics form a class of drugs which
increase the volume of urine produced by the kidneys. It can be used
effectively to treat mild cases of edema when kidney function is good and when
the underlying abnormality of cardiac function, capillary pressure, or salt
retention is being corrected simultaneously. Diuretics are not an appropriate
treatment for edema caused by inflammation of the kidneys, and are useless in
cardiac edema associated with advanced kidney insufficiency.
Emollient - a skin dressing or soothing
Expectorant - an agent which stimulates the outflow of
mucus from the lungs and bronchials.
Laxative - an agent which acts to loosen the
bowels; it is therefore used to treat constipation. Laxatives may act by
increasing peristalsis by irritating the intestinal mucosa, lubricating the
intestinal walls, softening the bowel contents by increasing the amount of
water in the intestines, and increasing the bulk of the bowel content.
Pectoral - an agent which relieves chest conditions
such as a cough.
Sialogogue - an agent which stimulates the
secretion of saliva.
Stimulant - an agent that temporarily increases
activity or physiological processes. Stimulants may be classified according to
the organ upon which they act; for example, an intestinal stimulant is that
which stimulates the intestines.
Licorice works as a stimulant on the adrenal glands, and
contains glycosides which can chemically purge excess fluid from the lungs,
throat, and body, which makes it very useful for coughs and chest complaints.
It works as a laxative, helps in inflammation of the intestinal tract, relieves
ulcer conditions, and has stimulating action to counteract stress. Licorice
root is a source of estrogen, and therefore useful for the female system.
It exhibits many pharmacological activities, including
estrogenic activities in laboratory animals; it is anti-tumoral,
anti-trichomonas, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-toxic, anti-tussive
(comparable to codeine for severe coughing), anti-convulsive, and
It will relieve bronchitis, sore throat, and coughing. Its
unique glycosides chemically purge excess fluid from the lungs and throat and
eliminate them from the body through the urinary tract. It is a remarkable herb
for endurance; since viral illnesses often weaken the patient, licorice can be
used to supply the energy necessary to allow more activity during recovery.
It has been used clinically in the People's Republic of
China in treating gastric and duodenal ulcers, bronchial asthma, infectious
hepatitis, malaria, diabetes, contact dermatitis, and hypoglycemia. This herb
owes most of its sweet taste to glycyrrhizin, which is the potassium and
calcium salts of glycyrrhizinic acid. The yellow of the root is due to
There are several varieties of licorice on the world
market, including Italian, Russian, Syrian, Anatolian, Turkish, Arabian and
three kinds of Spanish. The average glycyrrhizin content of licorice is about
7%, with the general range between 6 - 13%.
Recent clinical investigation has shown various uses for
glycyrrhizin in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, Addison's disease and
various types of inflammation. Glycyrrhizin is very soluble in hot water and
alcohol, but extremely incompatible with acids (this is somewhat modified when
combined with other herbs). The glucosides which make up glycyrrhizin act as a
form of natural glucose which, when combined with goldenseal, work on the
pancreas to produce insulin. When combine with other herbs, glycyrrhizin serves
as a vehicle for those herbs.
Licorice root contains glycyrrhizin, the source of most of
the pharmacological effects of licorice root and rizome. Glycyrrhizin is about
50 times sweeter than sugar; it has a powerful cortisone-like effect which may
result in minor "poisoning" if overconsumed. Glycyrrhizin increases
extracellular fluid and plasma volume and induces sodium retention and loss of
potassium, often leading to edema or water retention. Licorice extracts produce
estrogenic activity due to the phenolic compound clycestrone which is 1/533 of
the potency of estrone. Too much licorice can cause cardiac depression and
DRUG PRECAUTIONS AND
A mixture containing astragalia radix, cinnamon, peony
cnidii rhioma, angelica root, ginseng root, and licorice root has been shown to
enhance antitumor activity and to decrease toxicity of mitomycin C.
This herb reduces aspirin absorption and protects gastric
mucosa against aspirin toxicity. Possible Interactions
It may induce interferon production, which in turn, may
inhibit the antiviral activity of puromycin.
Conversely, the adrenocortical or corticosteroidal action
of licorice may be antagonized by the use of heparin.
The presence of corticosteroids in licorice may interact
with uterine relaxants, such as ritodrine HCL, to produce pulmonary edema.
Furthermore, because this herb can affect blood serum potassium levels, it may
potentiate the hypokalemic property of sodium polystyrene sulfonate.
Adrenocortical responsiveness to licorice may be impaired
by the use of aphotericin B. The anti-inflammatory activity of the herb can be
seriously inhibited by phenobarbital and certain other sedatives and hypnotics,
such as chloral hydrate and meprobamate. This is also true of beta-adrenergic
blocking agents such as propranolol.
The presence of estrogen-like substances in licorice may
increase the production of procoagulant factors which, in turn, may inhibit the
anticoagulant action of heparin or coumarin. These estrogenic constituents may
also potentiate oral anti-diabetics, folic acid antagonists, and some
The presence of estrogen in licorice can inhibit
anti-hypercholesterolemics by inducing hyperlipemia, and can inhibit the
activity of most parenteral medications by reducing the rate of spreading.
The estrogenic activity of licorice may be inhibited by
meprobamate and phenobarbital. Due to the presence of estrogenic substance in
this herb, oxytocin may augment the electrical and contractile activity of
uterine smooth muscle. Furthermore, the estrogen in this herb may raise blood
glucose levels enough to alter insulin requirements in diabetics.
To the extent that licorice's action depends on the
presence of cholinergic substances, it will be affected by the decrease in
cholinergic-receptor stimulation produced by anticholinergics.
The fact the rifampin stimulates the metabolism of
corticosteroids indicates that the drug may lower the mineral and
glucocorticoid action of licorice. Furthermore, oral estrogen supplementation
may retard the metabolism of licorice's steroidal hormones.
It should be noted that in hypertensive persons, regular
consumption of licorice candy or carbenoxolone sodium may induce hypokalemia,
subsequently potentiating the toxic effect of cardiac drugs and counteracting
Although the coumarin content of this herb is not high at
normal usage levels, it is important to note that coumarins can affect the
action of almost any drug.
There is evidence to show that combining bactericidal and
bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the bacteriostatic agent.
How this finding applies to herbal anti-infectives is still unknown.