LICORICE (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Family: Fabaceae

Parts commonly used: Root.

Properties/energetics: Expectorant, detoxicant, anti-inflammatory, adrenal agent, nutritive tonic, laxative/Cool, neutral, moist; very sweet, bitter.

Systems predominantly affected:  Respiratory, digestive, endocrine, skin, whole body.
Uses: Licorice assumes a hormone-like activity in the body by prolonging the activity of some steroidal hormones (aldosterone, cortisol, and progesterone), diminishing the actions of enzymes that break these hormones down in the liver. As a result, there is an increased activity of hormones in the body. The aldosterone-like effect makes Licorice useful for people with low blood pressure (associated with passing large amounts of clear urine), whereas the cortisol-like effect makes Licorice an excellent anti-inflammatory. In fact, this ability to extend the life of cortisol can help individuals use less prednisone. Licorice also seems to have a balancing effect on estrogen levels. Besides its hormonal effects, Licorice seems to prevent damage of the liver by certain toxic chemicals (particularly useful in viral hepatitis, because Licorice is also antiviral). Its anti-inflammatory action, along with its ability to stimulate repair mechanisms and mucus production, has a profound effect on healing peptic and duodenal ulcers and other inflammatory conditions in the gastrointestinal tract. A Licorice mouthwash or the powder applied directly heals mouth ulcers. Licorice also helps moisturize the lungs and the colon in conditions of dryness.

Combinations: Combines with Chamomile, Marshmallow root, and Comfrey leaf for stomach and duodenal ulcers and any other intestinal inflammation. Combines well with Mullein and Gumweed for treating bronchitis and viral infections that leave a dry, raspy cough. Combines well with Eleuthero as an excellent tonic to maintain immunity while undergoing stress. Licorice is added to herbal formulas to harmonize blends so the herbs work better together and to detoxify and alleviate harsh aspects of other plants without interfering with their beneficial actions, and for its sweet taste, which effectively masks the harsh, disagreeable, stimulating taste of bitter herbs.

Affects on specific body types: Licorice’s neutral temperature, combined with its ability to help individuals better tolerate stress, its enduring anti-inflammatory action, and its ability to effect repairs in the stomach and intestines, make it a prudent remedy for the often-overheated and frequently driven Warrior constitution. However, this tonic seems overall more suited as a Seer ally. First, it will moisturize the chronically dry lungs and colon often found in this type of individual. Second, its ability to prolong the life of cortisol and aldosterone in the bloodstream takes the load off the Seer’s often-weakened (overused) adrenal glands, simply because the adrenal cortex needs to make less of them. This makes it a useful tonic for handling long-term stress (especially when combined with Eleuthero) and an excellent anti-inflammatory remedy for this constitution. Licorice’s effect on aldosterone can be useful when nervous exhaustion leads to chronic fatigue and low blood pressure, which the Seer-dominant constitution is most apt to experience. Licorice’s estrogenic and progesterone-preserving properties can also be of benefit to the steroidal-deficient Seer.

Precautions: Licorice is not recommended for individuals having edema or high blood pressure due to water retention; use deglycyrrhized Licorice (DGL) instead— the substance that can cause edema or headache has been removed. Chew a couple DGL tablets before meals to treat high blood pressure. In long-term use, potassium intake should be increased and sodium decreased, so adopting a high-potassium diet along with use of Dandelion and/or Nettle leaf is recommended. A number of herbalists believe that the reputed side effects of Licorice are from use not of the whole plant root but of plant extracts and candies.

Preparations/dosage: Decoction: 1/2 cup three times a day. Tincture: 15 to 30 drops three times a day.

By James Green, Herbalist, copyright 2008

For more information please refer to James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition