Traditional Uses of Liquorice
Also known as ‘the sweet root’, liquorice is considered one of the world’s oldest herbal remedies. It comes from the juice of the Glycyrrhiza Glabra plant and its pleasant aniseed-like taste comes from an important active compound in the plant called glycyrrhizin. This famous flavour has made it a popular ingredient in foods, sweets, and herbal teas.
However, liquorice has a much longer history of use in traditional medicines around the world. It has been used to soothe an upset stomach, treat upper respiratory problems, and reduce inflammation. In ancient Egypt it used to be given to the pharaohs and was one of the many treasures found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Common Uses of Liquorice
Liquorice root contains over 300 compounds including resins, essential oils, and tannins. Aside from the key bioactive compound glycyrrhizic acid, other active compounds demonstrate anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties.
Well known as a soothing remedy for sore throat and cough, it is also considered to be a helpful herb to clear respiratory infections. Traditionally, women have used liquorice root extract to balance their hormones during menstruation and menopause.
Liquorice shows potential to promote a healthy mucous lining in the stomach and oesophagus, because of this, it may be a useful treatment in acid reflux, which can cause inflammation and tissue damage. More broadly, it has digestive soothing properties and is often used to relieve symptoms of indigestion, upset stomach and heartburn. Consuming liquorice extract in addition to standard treatment has proven efficacy against peptic ulcers and the presence of H. pylori infection.1
Adaptogenic and Microbial Activity
Another surprising finding is liquorice’s antimicrobial activity against a class of bacteria called Streptococcus mutans, which are the main cause of cavities. In a 3-week study, 66 pre-school-age children consumed a sugar-free lolly containing 15mg liquorice root twice a day for 3 weeks. Consuming the lollipops significantly reduced the number of Streptococcus mutans bacteria.2
There is another reason why it can be an important addition to the home pharmacy. In TCM and Ayurvedic medicine, it is considered an adaptogen. Adaptogens are compounds in plants that have a harmonising effect, regulating the stress response and balancing the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Liquorice assists the adrenals by preventing the breakdown of cortisol. Cortisol is a major steroid hormone that controls blood sugar and inflammation.
Although liquorice root is generally recognised as a safe herbal remedy, there are some precautions about over-consumption of glycyrrhizin. Individuals with high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, kidney disease or low potassium levels are advised to avoid glycyrrhizin-containing liquorice products altogether. In cases of potential sensitivity or interactions with medical conditions, deglycyrrhizinated liquorice may be a safer way to enjoy this herbal remedy in the longer term.
Want to experience the benefits of this wonderful root for yourself? Why not try dipping your toe in the water with our B4L Thyme and Licorice Extract? It contains thyme extract and liquorice root juice powder from fresh liquorice root and is standardised to 23% glycyrrhizic acid. It’s a great blend for respiratory support and soothing to delicate mucous membranes.
 Hajiaghamohammadi A, Zargar A, Oveisi S, Samimi R, Reisian S. To evaluate the effect of adding licorice to the standard treatment regimen of Helicobacter pylori. Braz. J. Infect. Dis. 2016;20(6):534-538. doi: 10.1016/j.bjid.2016.07.015.
 Peters MC, Tallman JA, Braun TM, Jacobson JJ. Clinical reduction of S. mutans in pre-school children using a novel liquorice root extract lollipop: a pilot study. Eur. Arch. Paediatr. Dent. 2010;11(6):274-8.doi:10.1007/BF03262762.