Binomial Name(s): Glycyrrhiza Glabra
Species: G. glabra
Popular Name(s): Calamus, Mulethi, Sweet Liquorice, Sweetwood
Parts Used: Root
Habitat: Cultivated in Northern and Southern India
Liquorice plant is a legume (related to beans and peas) that is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. It is an herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 meter in height, with pinnate leaves about 7-15 centimeters long and having 9-17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8-1.2 centimeters long; purple to pale whitish-blue in color, and produced in a loose inflorescence. It is mostly found growing wild in the southern zone of Europe and also in parts of Asia. However, today, the plant is cultivated in other parts of the world for commercial purposes. Besides being used as a flavoring in tobacco, confectionary, beverages, jams and marmalades, liquorice is also used for curing a number of ailments and diseases. It is particularly known for its use as an antiviral agent, in slowing down the progression of HIV infection.
- Glycosides (glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhizinic acid)
- Plant sterols (sitosterol, stigmasterol)
- Above 30 flavonoids and isoflavonoids, including liquiritin and its derivatives
Uses & Benefits of Liquorice
- Liquorice is widely used in curing peptic ulcers. A particular form of the species, called DGL, is preferred for treating ulcers, as this form removes the glycyrrhizin from it. However, the presence of this compound may cause high blood pressure in some individuals.
- The plant species has dermatological uses as well. Similar to hydrocortisone, it helps to fight eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis. It also hastens the healing process of cold sores and reduces the pain associated with them.
- Severe respiratory conditions, like asthma, sore throats, coughing and bronchitis, can be treated using liquorice.
- The herb helps to maintain a balance in the estrogen levels in the body, as high levels of this hormone can cause menstrual problems.
- Proper support to the adrenal glands is provided by liquorice, which is very essential to overcome the effects of stress and fatigue. The compound glycyrrhizic present in the plant species helps to block the breakdown of cortisol in the body. This helps to fight stress and combat the effects of chronic fatigue syndrome.
- The herb is also used to treat hepatitis, in both chronic and acute stage and is particularly beneficial in the treatment of hepatitis B and C patients.
- Recent research and studies have indicated that it can slow down the progression of HIV to AIDS, by triggering the chemical compound interferon aka the body’s virus fighting agent.
- Liquorice proves to be useful in irritable conditions of mucous membrane of the urinary organs.
- It has proved beneficial in treating sore throat, cough and anorexia and persistent low fever.
- Pregnant women should keep their intake of liquorice less than what is usually prescribed as a medicine. Studies indicate that a high intake may lead to the sudden rise in blood pressure levels or cause hormonal imbalance that may, in turn affect the fetus.
- Individuals with high blood pressure should use liquorice carefully. They also need to monitor their BP levels regularly, to check if there is any sudden elevation.
- Precautions should be taken by people with heart conditions, while taking liquorice, as the potassium depletion caused by its consumption may prove hazardous for them.
- Individuals suffering from hypokalemia or low potassium levels should take necessary precaution while using the herb.
- Another high-risk group comprises of people with kidney conditions, particularly the elderly.
- Women on oral contraceptives are also sensitive to liquorice consumption.
- Liquorice is strictly prohibited for those with cirrhosis and gallbladder disease.