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Licorice is amazing. If you don’t like black licorice, don’t worry! Licorice root tastes nothing like it. Did you know that anise is what is used to flavor most black licorice on the market today? So let’s dive in and find out the amazing (and sweet) benefits of the November Herb of the Month: Licorice Root!
The medicinal benefits of licorice root are astounding. Licorice root has been used as a healing agent for at least a couple thousand years. This is one herb that I have begun to realize lately needs to be a bigger part of my daily life.
Dr. Joshua Axe, functional medicine practitioner, lists Licorice root in his article of the Top 9 Adaptogens and refers to licorice root as an important herb when working on leaky gut and adrenal fatigue. I’ve mentioned myself, in previous posts , the benefits of licorice root for the adrenals as well as as an adaptogen. It’s for all of these reasons that I chose to study more about licorice root and make it the herb of the month.
Licorice Root : The Basics
Latin Name: Glycyrrhiza glabra
Medicinal Parts: rhizome (root)
Energetics: warming, moistening, relaxant
Actions: adaptogen, antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic, antitussive, cortisol fixative, demulcent, digestive, emollient, expectorant, harmonizer, hepatoprotective, sialagogue, stomachic (stomach tonic)
Affinities: adrenals, gastrointestinal, liver
Licorice Root Benefits
Licorice root is high in mucilaginous polysaccharides. When you eat drinks or foods containing these, the mucilaginous polysaccharides turn into sort of a gooey substance in your stomach. This slimy stuff is good for your body because it helps with hydration, digestion and keeps things moving smoothly in your intestines.
Not only is the mucilaginous effects beneficial for your digestive system, but it’s equally effective for your respiratory tracts( think soothing for dry irritated coughs) and skin (see skin conditions below).
Licorice root is pretty super when it comes to its hepatoprotective effects. Hepatoprotective means preventing damage to the liver. Licorice root has strong effects that protect the liver. So much so that it’s said to play a part in restoring damaged liver tissue and reduces inflammatory irritations.
A tonic is simply a natural boost or medicinal substance that can restore or improve health. Usually people refer to tonics as drinks. People are often familiar with ‘tonic water’. Tonic water is a fizzy drink that’s often used as a mixer for cocktails. It has a slightly bitter taste and contains a natural compound called quinine, which gives it a unique flavor. So an adrenal tonic would be a drink or herbal remedy made specific for the adrenals and licorice root is perfect for this.
Since licorice root has been demonstrated to stop the body from “using up” its cortisol reserves, it may be especially helpful for people with adrenal fatigue. It accomplishes this by decreasing the kidneys’ ability to convert cortisol into inactive cortisone, which raises cortisol levels in the body. Thus, it is believed that glycyrrhizic acid increases adrenal gland function.
Licorice root is said to work as a harmonizer. If a person were a harmonizer it would mean they were someone that helps others get along. Licorice root is that harmonizer with other herbs. It helps all the other herbs in the blend to ‘get along’ or work together.
Licorice’s demulcent and mucilaginous effects make it perfect for gut healing. This herb is often worked with as a remedy for ulcers, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome and other gut health issues. Other herbs to blend together for this application include marshmallow and/or slippery elm.
The same demulcent and mucilaginous effects that benefit the inside of your body also benefit the exterior – your skin. Infusing oil or even water with licorice root makes a perfect liquid to soothe your skin from such conditions as dry skin, eczema or even psoriasis. Apply the oil several times through the day or make a compress with a ‘licorice tea’ and apply often. The key with herbs is usually frequency.
It has been noted that licorice extract has the potential to be effective in helping the immune system because of its established antiviral properties due to its triterpenoid concentration.
Licorice root was defined as having “antioxidant, free-radical scavenging, immunostimulating” qualities in a research published in Food Chemistry.
Licorice Root in Tea
Before I say anything else here I will say that licorice root is SO sweet, that really , you do not want to make a tea with JUST licorice root.
By all means, add it to your favorite herb blend and make tea- just not on it’s own. A lot of sources recommend only working with a small part of licorice root in a blend. That said, if you really think you can tolerate EXTRA SUPER ULTIMATE SWEET, go ahead. Try it. Let me know in the comments below what you think. Seriously- I’d love to know.
Licorice does do very well in herbal tea blends. I love adding it to teas, such as nettle, that I do not necessarily appreciate the flavor of but love the benefits. Nettle has a bit of a strong earthy flavor but is so superbly nutritive and is a good astringent herb I need. Licorice to the rescue!
Licorice Root Extract/Tincture
The words extract and tincture are often used interchangebaly. So if you here one herbalist say tincture and one extract, chances are they are speaking of the same thing. I’m saying this because I often got confused myself in the beginnings of my learning. However, some do mean something a little different and I found a lovely source for this here if you care to read more.
When working with Licorice Root as a tincture, it can be taken 3-4 times a day.
Licorice Root Supplements
Licorice Root can also be taken in capsule or other supplement forms.
If you don’t have time to make tea or aren’t familiar enough yet with tinctures but want to get started with Licorice root, this may be a good option. I like all three ways- tea, tinctures and supplements. I opt most regularly for the tea and tincture. But there are times, such as when traveling , or I don’t have the herb itself on hand, that I have opted for the supplement.
Metagenetics puts out a good quality licorice root supplement combined with other herbs including Ashwagandha which I love. I have taken this one which is available on Amazon here as prescribed by my functional medicine provider off and on for several years.
Important Considerations: Who Should Not Use Licorice Root?
Anyone with high blood pressure should not use high doses of licorice root(small amounts should not be a problem). Avoid high amounts unless it is DGL (de-glycyrrhizinated licorice) in which they have removed the constituent that is known to raise blood pressure.
In addition, it’s best to work with licorice root in a blend rather than on its own. This is primarily due to it’s intense sweetness which makes it most suited for a multi-herb formula. This would also help in making sure the dose is smaller for those with high blood pressure.
For most people, licorice root is an incredible herb that will work tremendously in supporting natural, holistic health methods while on the journey towards optimal health. Order some licorice root today or choose a lovely tea blend, tincture or supplement (see more suggestions below) and make it a tool in your wellness basket!
- Body Into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief
- Herbal Medicine For Beginners
- Commonwealth Center For Holistic Herbalism (class notes)
Want to read more herb of the month posts? Check these out!
Earthley Wellness does have some products to offer containing Licorice Root! Check them out!
- Eye Serum – for smooth, youthful under eye skin
- Thyroid Support tincture – to promote a healthy thyroid, promote healthy brain function and overall wellness!
- Lunamore – promotes healthy blood sugar levels, promotes hormone balance, and helps to reduce cramps and cysts.
- Natural Balance – for daily use to help your body build up resistance to stress and its side effects, Natural Balance is a must have for every woman!