True licorice has a strong flavor all its own. Long a popular flavoring, licorice plants have been around since the ancient Assyrians. In Europe, licorice fans often buy sticks of the pure, unsweetened licorice extract. Licorice is a common ice cream flavor, as well.
True Licorice is not the candy that most Americans have enjoyed since childhood. Ironically, licorice candy takes its flavor from anise oil.
The Licorice plant Glycyrrhiza glabra has been used medicinally for thousands of years. In ancient Greece the licorice root which contains anti-inflammatory properties was used to treat chest problems, asthma and canker sores. Licorice root uses can be traced to the Chinese and the Roman Empire, where it was recommended for soothing throats and quenching thirsts. Once introduced to Europe, licorice roots became popular chewing sticks.
Medicinal licorice root has included its use in treating heartburn, dropsy, fever, menstrual cramps, menopausal symptoms, irritated urinary, bowel or respiratory passages, influenza and hypoglycemia. Licorice root is also considered useful as a diuretic, expectorant, cough remedy, emollient and treatment for hoarseness, congestion, bronchitis and stomach ulcers. Licorice can also be used in poultices.
Wild licorice was used by the North American Blackfoot Indians to treat earaches; other tribes ate wild licorice fresh.
Today, licorice root is used to flavor and color a variety of foods and beverages. Licorice is widely used in flavoring tobacco. Some tobacco products are 10 percent licorice. Some other little-known uses of licorice: it is used in mouthwashes and toothpastes, and in the making of beer to enhance flavor, color and a foamy head. Licorice is even used as a foaming agent in fire extinguishers. Licorice products are used in insecticides, and its pulp is a nitrogen-rich fertilizer and mulch. It is also a component in insulation!
USDA Planting Zones : Licorice is hardy in USDA zones 7-10
Licorice grows best in deep, fertile, well-drained soils, in full sun.
Growing licorice from seed is easy to do yourself. The licorice seeds (Glycyrrhiza glabra) are moderately easy to germinate. The licorice seeds should be planted in the late summer or early fall, or as an alternative, sown in the spring.
Licorice root is harvested in the autumn, two to three years after planting the Licorice Herb.
Preparing Licorice Tea
To soothe inflammatory stomach conditions such as gastritis, drink 1 cup of licorice tea daily.
It has been proven that licorice protects the mucus membranes of the stomach and relieves cramps in the stomach a digestive tract. To help promote the healing of gastric ulcers, drink 3 cups of licorice tea daily.
To sooth bronchial congestion.
Drink no more than 1 cup of licorice tea after each meal for a total of 3 cups per day. Discontinue after 4 weeks, wait 2 weeks before resuming.
A common medicinal use of licorice root is in cough syrups and cough drops because it soothes the chest and helps loosen up coughs. Licorice has been used to treat ulcers, rheumatism and arthritis, and to induce menstruation.
Licorice has also been useful in treating dermatitis, colds and infections – and even used as a medicinal dandruff shampoo!
Ingesting licorice has a toxic side. A chief component of licorice, glycyrrhizin, can stimulate the secretion of the adrenal cortex hormone, aldosterone. This can cause headaches, lethargy, water and salt retention, potassium secretion, raised blood pressure and even cardiac arrest.
Comparative studies of pregnant women suggest that licorice can adversely affect both IQ and behavior traits of offspring. Pregnant women, cardiac patients and anyone suffering from hypertension, kidney problems or obesity should avoid using licorice.
As with all Herbal Medicine, check with your trusted health care provider before before using Licorice Root.