Licorice which is popularly known in the West as or Sweetwood is an herb with a rich ethnobotanical history. Licorice is very popular both in western and eastern parts of the world for different purposes. Glycyrrhiza glabra is the botanical name of Licorice.
Many cultures have been utilizing Licorice in food preparations as flavoring & sweetening agent, in beverages, confectionery, etc. Also, licorice roots were used as a medication for distinct purposes by folklore and traditional medicine systems.
In Ayurveda, Licorice is known as Yashtimadhu, and in India, it is commonly called as Mulethi. Many Ayurvedic medicinal remedies contain Licorice as an ingredient. It is because Ayurveda has taken note of the potential of Licorice in preventing and treating many chronic diseases.
Unlike the majority of other Ayurvedic herbs, Licorice is sweet and hence, liked by everyone. Furthermore, it is readily available and can be used only after simple processing. If taken daily in the proper dose, it serves as a health restorative tonic.
These advantages, along with medicinal benefits, make Licorice an ideal medicine in today’s world.
Yashtimadhu – All you need to know
The Sanskrit name of Licorice, Yashtimadhu means honey stick which indicates the taste of stem and roots of Licorice.
Licorice is a tall perennial plant growing up to 1-2 meter. It has an erect stem with elliptical leaflets and bluish or violet flowers. The primary root is around 1.5 cm long and subdivides into secondary roots from which horizontal woody stolons emerge.
Licorice root and stolon are used in preparing Ayurvedic medicines as well as for other purposes like for flavoring, preparing tea, food items, etc.
Licorice available in markets is shrunken, rusty, wrinkled, and brown. On breaking it becomes fibrous, revealing the yellowish-brown interior, has got faint characteristic odor and tastes sweet.
Licorice is native to the Mediterranean, some parts of Europe and Asia. Now it is grown commercially and is used widely all over the world.
Ayurvedic texts have mentioned the herbal energetics of Licorice to explain its actions on doshas. It takes time to digest and is unctuous. It has a sweet post-digestive effect and is a natural coolant. Thus, it pacifies the aggravated pitta and vata dosha in the body.
What are the benefits of licorice?
Historically, Licorice was used as an ingredient in tobacco and confectionery throughout the East and West. However, the therapeutic use of Licorice dates back over 5000 years.
Back then, several herbal and traditional medicine systems knew the medicinal use of Licorice, but none has enlisted the numerous benefits of this potential herb like Ayurveda did.
- Useful in for treating cough, bronchitis, and catarrh as it is an effective expectorant, liquefies mucous and expels out of body
- In large doses, it is an excellent emetic for cleansing the lungs and gut of excessive of Kapha dosha. Also, it acts as a mild laxative and is widely used in Panchakarma therapies
- In small doses, it works as anti-emetic and stimulates appetite
- Enhances the effectiveness of oleation treatment, i.e., administering the oil to combat diseases caused due to aggravated Vata dosha. Hence, used in the preparation of various medicinal oils for treating rheumatism, gout, paralysis, and epilepsy
- An excellent Restorative and Rejuvenative food. It helps in overcoming fatigue, mild sickness, and body discomfort
- It helps in gaining body weight. Hence, it is recommended for those who suffer from general body weakness and those who get lean & weak after recovering from a chronic disease
- Prevents gastric ulcers, heartburn, nausea and eases thirst as it is a natural coolant
- Protects the liver and helpful in treating liver toxicity, biliousness, liver cirrhosis, and hepatitis
- Shows anti-inflammatory actions therefore used in external or internal swellings, allergies, injury to genital and urinary passages
- Relieves of muscle spasms, soothes and tones the inner linings of organs, and reduces abdominal pain
- Helps in binding the broken bones and heals the external as well as internal wounds and injury
- Improves the voice by curing voice hoarseness, sore throat, laryngeal infection and inflammation
- Good for vision, hair, and skin, promotes complexion and reduces the irritation and intense itching sensation caused by skin allergies, infections or jaundice
- Normalises any abnormality in urine, inability to urinate, pain while urine passage and cures infections of urinary system organs
- Checks bleeding by contracting the tissues or blood vessels and purifies the blood. It works best in hemorrhagic disorders
- Treats uterine complaints, addresses sexual weakness, and increases sexual vigor
- Calms the mind, promotes contentment & harmony and nourishes the brain
How to use Licorice?
Nowadays, licorice tea is an emerging trend in the West. Its application for the soothing mind is being accepted everywhere. It is still used in making candies, confectionery, flavoring agents and to mask the unpleasant taste of other herbs.
Let’s find out how Ayurveda formulates several home remedies to reap the benefits of Licorice.
Cough & cold
- To cure severe cough and asthma take pills made up of 10 parts licorice, eight parts of acacia gum, six parts of black pepper, four parts of Pellitory root, six parts of Tinospora, 12 parts of saffron, and ten parts of sugar
- In influenza, make pills of Licorice, camphor, asafoetida, and acacia gum in an equal amount
- To cure cold lick the mix of licorice powder with fresh ginger juice
- To cure hoarseness of voice drink rice water processed with licorice powder and ghee
- Snuffing the mixture of licorice powder and honey is useful in checking hiccoughs
- Powder or decoction of Licorice if taken with honey is helpful in anemia
- In anemia due to intake of too much spicy food, take 1 g licorice powder with ½ cup of milk twice daily. You will observe the benefits within 4-6 days
For delicate & weak patients, Licorice can be used as a gentle laxative. For this, make a fine powder of 1 part of licorice root & fennel fruit, two parts of senna (Cassia Angustifolia, six parts of sublimed sulfur and refine sugar. Mix them well and take ½-1 teaspoon with water
To relieve stomach discomfort & pain due to excess gas, take ½ to 2 g licorice powder with water twice every day before meals
In retention of urine mix 2-3 g licorice powder with the paste of 7 to 8 raisins and take with warm water. It eases urination quickly
- For advancing lactation drink a mix of licorice powder with milk
- In untimely and heavy menses blend licorice powder with sugar and beat with rice water. Take this mixture regularly to restore the normal cycle of menses
Suggested read – All About Shatavari – Ayurveda Answer to All Women’s Problems
Brain & Heart tonic
- To use Licorice as a brain tonic, mix licorice powder and honey with milk
- Licorice acts as heart tonic when a mix of licorice powder and hellebore powder in sugar syrup is licked twice a day
- To stop vomiting blood drink a blend of powdered Licorice, sandalwood and milk
- In case of internal hemorrhage licking the linctus of Licorice, i.e., Madhukadi Leha is very beneficial
- Deep red inflammation often associated with bleeding could be treated with the decoction of Licorice
- In excessive swelling, blend licorice powder and sesame with milk and make a paste. Apply this paste on the affected area
Licorice decoction can be used for washing hair to prevent hair fall and greying of hair.
What is the recommended dose?
Mostly licorice root powder is used in the preparation of medicinal formulations. When you are using powder for direct oral intake, then 1-3 g per day is recommended dose of Licorice. Daily oral consumption of 1-10 mg Licorice extract is safe for healthy individuals.
Licorice is also widely used in preparing medicated oils, ointments, emulsions, toothpaste, etc. which can be used as required.
However, Licorice used in large doses for longer duration may lead to elevated blood pressure, sodium retention, and potassium loss, resulting in edema. All symptoms usually disappear after discontinuation of licorice intake.
Therefore, those suffering from hypertension and osteoporosis should use it carefully only after consulting with an Ayurvedic physician.
What do recent studies say about Licorice?
Therapeutic actions of Licorice have prompted many pharmacological investigations. Let’s find out what these studies talk about Licorice.
- Powder and extract of licorice displays antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and liver-protective activities
- Liquiritigenin, a flavonoid found in licorice root is an estrogenic compound and promotes the estrogen balance in females
- In a laboratory model, an aqueous extract of Licorice in different doses has shown to enhance the learning and memory significantly
- Results have demonstrated the ethanol extract of Licorice poses an anti-convulsant potential and ameliorates neuronal damage in seizures
- A study suggests that glabridin and glabridin rich licorice extract would be active anti-obesity agents
- It is proved that Licorice aqueous extracts can improve testicular toxicity. This effect may be attributed to antioxidant properties of its constituents
- It significantly inhibits the growth and acid production of oral bacteria associated with the development of dental caries as well as dental plaque
- Due to antioxidant and antifungal activity, Licorice-eco extract is helpful for the protection of skin and hair against oxidative processes
- Licorice has anti-allergic activity, which can relieve IgE induced allergic diseases such as dermatitis and asthma
- It is studied that in animal and human models Glycherritic acid, one of the constituents of Licorice, plays a protective role when liver cells are challenged
Licorice – Ancient medicinal herb
Pharmacological studies have revalidated several of the traditional uses of Licorice enlisted in Ayurvedic texts.
Prevention and treatment are the two objectives of Ayurveda, which is implied correctly by this wonder wood. Licorice can be used as a prophylactic agent as well as a therapeutic drug for major body ailments for everyone.
Such a multipurpose medicine is undoubtedly a boon for the ailing humanity when the preventive measures have ceased to be a part of our daily life.