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Medicinal Uses of Licorice

Posted Nov 05 2009 10:03pm

The most common medical use for licorice is treating upper respiratory ailments including coughs, hoarseness, sore throat, and bronchitis.

When used as a cough suppressant it is as effective and safer than codeine. The high mucilage content of licorice rhizomes helps sooth irritated mucous membranes.

The herb also has an expectorant quality which increases the secretion of bronchial glands.

Licorice may be useful in conventional and naturopathic medicine for the mouth and peptic ulcers. It is used as an aid for healing stomach and duodenal ulcers, and in moderate amounts can soothe an upset stomach.

As Licorice is antispasmodic in the bowels it can be used to treat ileitis, leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease.

The root extract produces mild estrogenic effects, and has been proven to be useful in treating menopause symptoms, regulating menstruation, and relieving cramps.

Its main ingredient, glycyrrhizin, has also been studied for its anti-viral properties in the treatment of AIDS. Licorice is also used as a topical antiviral agent for shingles, ophthalmic, oral or genital herpes.

Licorice has also been used in poultices to treat dermatitis and skin infections. It helps to open the pores and is used as an emollient in combination with other cleansing and healing herbs.

Licorice affects the body's endocrine system as it contains isoflavones (phytoestrogens). It can lower the amount of serum testosterone.

The large doses of glycyrrhizinic and glycyrrhetinic acid in licorice extract can lead to hypokalemia, serious increases in blood pressure, and a syndrome known as apparent mineralocorticoid (cortisol) excess.

Licorice is an adaptogen which helps re-regulate the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. It can also be used for auto-immune conditions including lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis and animal dander allergies.
Licorice is used as an important ingredient in Fu zheng, anti-cancer formulas.

Its natural sweetness makes it a favorite flavor in herbal tea and many food products. It is an effective laxative and diuretic. Licorice, may also be used for night sweats.

On account of its absorbent qualities, the powdered root is useful in pill-making. Having a remarkable power of converting the flavor of acrid or bitter drugs, such as Mezereon, Quinine or Cascara, Licorice extract is used to disguise the taste of nauseous medicines.

Licorice sugar may safely be consumed by diabetic patients.

It is believed to fight the aging process. It strengthens eye sight and alleviates headaches.

It could be used to treat benign prostate hypoplasia.

Licorice is used to quit opium addiction.

Topical use of the ointment fights auxillary mal odor.


The solid extract in stick form is known as Licorice Juice and can be sucked like bonbons.

DGL extract: 0.4 to 1.6 g three times daily to treat peptic ulcer; in chewable tablet form 300 to 400 mg 20 minutes prior to meals to treat peptic ulcer

Tincture: 2 to 4 mL three times per day

Dried root: 1 to 5 g three times per day as decoction

To prepare Licorice tea, a cup of boiling water is poured over half a teaspoonful of the finely chopped herb. The herb may also be placed in cold water and brought to boil, then allowed to steep for 15 minutes, and strained.

To find the correct amount of tea, adult dose should be adjusted to the child's weight.


Excessive consumption of Licorice is known to be toxic to the liver and cardiovascular system. Individuals with heart disease or high blood pressure should be cautious when using the herb.

As Licorice contains glycyrrhizin, large amounts of it can cause high blood pressure, salt and water retention, and low potassium levels, which can lead to heart problems.

Taking Licorice with diuretics or other potassium sparing medication can cause dangerously low potassium levels.

Large amounts of Licorice can affect the body's cortisol level and steroid drugs, such as prednisone.

Pregnant women should avoid using Licorice as a supplement or consuming large amounts of it as food, because some researches suggest it could increase the risk of preterm labor.

Excess use of Licorice may cause headaches, elevated blood pressure, hypertension, lethargy, edema, or shortness of breath even in healthy individuals.
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