Licorice: Uses, medicine, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

Licorice: Uses, medicine, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is native to the Mediterranean regions, central to southern Russia, Persia and Asia Minor and is cultivated worldwide. The other two Glycyrrhiza species, mainly Russia and China, come from East Asia. The drug is obtained only from cultivation and imported from Russia, China, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain and Turkey.

Licorice in herbal medicine

In herbal medicine, the peeled or unpeeled, dried rootstock, the roots and their offshoots (Liquiritiae radix) are used.


Licorice: characteristics of the plant

Licorice is a perennial herb that grows up to 1 m tall with a branched rootstock (rhizome) and woody shoots. The plant has imparipinnate leaves covered with sticky glandular hairs. The pale purple to white butterfly flowers are arranged in erect racemes that arise from the leaf axils.

In addition to Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza uralensis and Glycyrrhiza inflata, the Chinese liquorice has also been permitted for drug production since 2005.

Licorice root as a medicine

The cut drug contains striking lemon-yellow, more or less cube-shaped pieces of root that can easily be split lengthways. In the case of the unpeeled drug, pieces with wrinkled, brown shreds of cork also occur.


Smell and taste of liquorice root

Licorice root gives off a faint but very distinctive smell. The taste of liquorice root is faintly aromatic and very sweet.

Licorice – application

Licorice root is used for inflammatory diseases of the upper respiratory tract (catarrh) affecting the mucous membrane. Among other things, the drug is suitable for treating the associated symptoms such as sore throat, productive cough, cold symptoms, inflammation of the paranasal sinuses (sinusitis) and throat (pharyngitis) and accompanying bronchitis.

Licorice – Application for digestion

In the area of ​​the gastrointestinal tract, liquorice root is used for ulcers of the stomach and duodenum (ulcus ventriculi or duodenum), inflammation of the gastric mucosa (gastritis) and the symptomatic treatment of digestive problems such as flatulence and feeling of fullness.


What else can liquorice be used for?

Traditionally, the root is used to treat heartburn acid-related stomach pain and, combined with other medicines, supports the mucus solution in the respiratory tract.

Because of its intensely sweet taste, liquorice root is also used as a flavour corrector in medicines, foods and beverages.

Externally, the plant is also said to help with inflammatory skin diseases (dermatitis) and other skin problems.

Liquorice in folk medicine

Liquorice root is also used in folk medicine as an anti-irritant, expectorant agent, and a stomach remedy. Until the introduction of so-called H2 and proton pump inhibitors, which are now used to treat ulcers of the stomach and duodenum, liquorice root was the drug of choice for treating these diseases.


Homeopathic use of licorice root

Dried liquorice root is also used in homoeopathy. However, the preparations used were assessed negatively by Commission D of the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) (negative monograph).

Ingredients of licorice

Liquorice root contains 2-15% triterpene saponins, including glycyrrhizic acid’s calcium and potassium salts. Furthermore, flavonoids, isoflavones, coumarins, phytosterols and around 10% polysaccharides are present in a proportion of 0.65-2%.

Licorice: indication

These are possible areas of application for liquorice root:

  • Inflammation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, catarrh
  • Sore throat, cough
  • Sinusitis, sinusitis
  • Pharyngitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Stomach ulcer, duodenal ulcer, gastritis
  • Digestive problems
  • The feeling of fullness, flatulence
  • Heartburn, stomach pain
  • Hautleiden, Dermatitis

Liquorice – Synonyms

German plant name: Liquorice

German synonyms of the plant: Spanish licorice, German licorice, Russian licorice, common licorice, bald licorice, licorice, licorice, licorice wood, licorice plant

Latin plant name: Glycyrrhiza glabra L.

Latin synonyms of the plant: Glycyrrhiza hirsuta L., Glycyrrhiza officinalis, Glycyrrhiza glandulifera, Glycyrrhiza pallida, Glycyrrhiza violacea, Liquiritia officinalis, Liquiritia officinarum

German drug name: Licorice root

German synonyms of the drug: Lakritzenwurzel, Lakrizenwurzel

Latin drug name: Licorice root

Latin synonyms of the drug: Glycyrrhiza root, Glycyrrhiza root, Licorice root, Rhizoma Glycyrrhiza native

English name: Liquorice root, Sweet root (Droge); Common Licorice, Common Liquorice, Cultivated Licorice, Licorice, Licorice-Root, Liquorice, Liquorice Root, Sweet Root, Sweetwood, True liquorice (Pflanze)

Plant family Latin: Fabaceae

Plant family German: legumes


Liquorice: The effect

The flavonoids in the root have an anti-inflammatory effect by inhibiting the production of inflammatory mediators. The healing of ulcers is accelerated because taking liquorice leads to the normalization of the disturbed mucus composition.

Animal experiments have also shown antispasmodic, expectorant and mucus-easing effects. An anti-allergic and antimicrobial effect, especially against the cause of ulcers (Helicobacter pylori), has also been proven.


Side effects of licorice

Long-term use over four weeks and high doses (more than 50 g/day) can lead to a shift in electrolyte concentrations in the body, such as hypokalemia (too little potassium in the blood) or hypersodiumemia (too much sodium in ​​the blood).

Water retention in the tissue (oedema), high blood pressure, heart problems and, in extreme cases, myoglobinuria (excretion of myoglobin in the urine) are also conceivable in the event of an overdose. After stopping the drug, the symptoms usually disappear quickly.

Interactions with liquorice

Potassium loss may be exacerbated by concomitant use of other drugs that cause potassium loss (for example, some dehydrating drugs such as loop diuretics). To avoid cardiac arrhythmias, these drugs should not be taken together with liquorice root preparations.

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