Glycyrrhiza glabra, syn. Liquiritia officinalis – Liquorice, licorice
Fabaceae, formerly Papilionaceae – Legume family
The raw material is the liquorice root and stolons – Glycyrrhizae radix, harvested in the autumn and early spring, and also the concentrated aqueous extract from fresh roots and stolons –Glycyrrhizae succus. Removing the outer bark from the roots allows to get rid of the bitter taste.
Liquorice – appearance and origin:
Liquorice is found in Southern Europe and Asia Minor, its 2 biggest suppliers, with specifically Russia and Turkey exporting the root. It is rarely grown in Poland. The root system is strongly developed, especially the stolons, woody, deep. The stem grows up to 1,3 m. The leaves are odd-pinnate, leathery, shiny, dark green. The flowers form in long purple clusters, sometimes white forming flattened clusters. It propagates by stolons, not seeds. It blooms in June and July. The fruit is a smooth, leathery, intact pod.
Liquorice – effects and use:
The liquorice root contains triterpene saponins (3-15%, i.a. glycyrrhizin, glabrid acid, liquoric acid), numerous flavonoids, hydroxycoumarins, phytosterols, carbohydrates, aminoacids, betain, choline, around 0.05% of oil (mainly hexanoic acid, anethole, estragole, eugenol), resins and mineral salts.
Liquorice – uses:
– Peptic ulcers of the stomach and duodenum; however, less and less frequently due to the adrenocorticotropic activity of glycyrrhizin.
The ingredients of liquorice, mainly saponins, protect the liver from cirrhosis and steatosis, and from the toxic effect of hydrocarbons and heavy metals; they reduce diglyceride concentration, prevent the formation of superoxides and free radicals and speed up the removal of free radicals from the body.
– Inflammations of the mucosas of the stomach and bowels;
– Estrogenic, as it regulates defecation and protects the gastrointestinal mucosa.
– Speeding up the healing process in case of gastric ulcers;
– Weakened immunity;
Liquorice inhibits autoaggressive reactions, so it can be used for treating autoimmunological diseases, e.g. psoriasis.
– Chronic inflammation of the throat, larynx and bronchi;
Liquorice has a relaxant and expectorant effect, stimulating secretory activity of upper respiratory mucosas.
– Gingivitis and tontilitis;
– Antirheumatic and antiarthritic;
– Influences the urinary tract and blood vessel walls;
– Inhibits the release of histamine from damaged tissue and is anti-allergic;
Liquorice extracts are widely used for dermatosis which requires general steroid treatment, e.g. pemphigus, generalized chronic eczema, systemic lupus erythematosus, exfoliative dermatitis (erythroderma). They enable the reduction of daily steroid doses and to some extent the prevention and elimination of complications after use. Therefore, it is recommended that liquorice be administered every other day instead of the optimal steroid dose after the initiation of steroid treatment and clinical improvement.
Liquorice is also used as a healthy sweetener to alleviate the unpleasant taste of medication.
Higher doses of liquorice taken over longer periods cause unwanted symptoms, such as stopping the excretion of water, sodium and chloride ions and clearing out of potassium ions from the body. The decreased urine output results in edema, so symptoms similar to those caused by adrenal cortex hormones, called pseudoaldosteronism; sometimes there also occurs dizziness and hypokalemia.