Its name literally means ‘sweet root’, and it is a member of the bean and pea family, the Leguminosae. Licorice has a difficult time growing in the Vermont climate; however, if it is sheltered and well mulched with mature compost, we’ve found that the succulent yellow roots can overwinter quite well and keep growing for the 3-4 years required for maturity. Harvest the roots in the fall.
Elemental associations: Water
Phytochemistry: Saponins, flavonoids, coumarins, steroidal compounds
Actions: Expectorant, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-ulcer, adrenal support
Specific systems: Respiratory, digestive, adrenals
Licorice is probably the best herb, along with the Ginsengs, to use in cases of stress and resultant adrenal depletion. It allows our body’s natural steroids to remain in the system longer, helping in with debility, pain, and generalized inflammation. It should almost be a rule for those over age 40 to begin taking Licorice tea daily! The only downside is that it can raise blood pressure a bit, especially when used in concentrated form over long periods. Watch for fluid retention (edema), and use caution in people who are hypertensive. With tea this is less of a concern, however.
This root’s gentle demulcent action, coupled with its expectorant power and anti-viral ability, make it an excellent remedy for sore throats, coughs, and lower respiratory complaints; because of its sweetness, it is particularly good and effective for children.
There are strong anti-viral compounds in Licorice, which give it the ability to help in a wide variety of conditions: some specifics, however, are Herpes (where the root powder can be applied directly to the lesion); Hepatitis, where viral load can be significantly reduced (while helping, at the same time, to increase energy levels); and long-term viruses such as Epstein-Barr (mononucleosis) and cytomegolavirus, both implicated in complex ‘syndrome’ conditions such as Chronic Fatigue.
For inflammation of the digestive tract, from heartburn and acid reflux to peptic and duodenal ulcers, this powerful root provides dramatic relief. It can even provide some benefit in cases of inflammation in the lower intestine (irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, for example).
Indications: Adrenal depletion, chronic viral infections, lower respiratory infections, sore throat, heartburn, acid reflux disease, ulcers, herpes flareups
Contraindications: High blood pressure, kidney disease, liver blockage (cholestasis), congestive heart failure, concomitant use of steroidal drugs
Preparation/Dosage: Decoction of the root, 1 or 2 TBS in a pint of water, taken twice daily. The tincture can be made from the fresh or dry root, 40%, 1:3 to 1:5. Take ½ tsp. 2-3 times daily. A compress (or, alternatively, a pinch of the root powder) can be applied to herpes sores. Combine with Lemon Balm for this purpose.