Tag Archive | licorice

Licorice: coughs, cramps, and cigarettes

Glycyrrhiza_glabra_flowers1web

Glycyrrhiza glabra (Image: Greg Kenicer, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh)

In any group of people there are the licorice lovers and the licorice haters. It’s polarizing. But whether or not you can stand the taste of this ancient herb, it has been used for thousands of years for a variety of ailments.

The medicinal use of the Licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra) was first recorded on an Egyptian papyrus dating to the Roman Empire and the first Chinese herbal has an entry for the herb as well. Our friends Pliny and Hippocrates also wrote about the benefits of licorice. And what did all their recommendations have in common? Sore throats. Even today if you check out the ingredients of any herbal cough drop or syrup you will see licorice as an ingredient. Why? Because it works!

But Licorice also contains compounds that mimic estrogen. Specifically found in the root of the plant (which is where the flavor usually comes from, as well) the isoflavonoids glabrene and glabridin can act like estrogen in the body, making licorice an effective herb for both menopause and menstrual cramps. For this reason it is recommended to abstain from licorice while pregnant as it has been known to induce uterine contractions in large doses (but those doses can vary from person to person). Continue reading