Glycyrrhiza glabra


Glycyrrhiza glabra


Habitat: Native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Asia, cultivated worldwide.

Collection: The roots are unearthed in the late autumn. Clean thoroughly and dry.

Part Used: Dried root.


  • Triterpenes of the oleanane type, mainly glycyrrhizin (=glycyrrhizic or glycyrrhizinic acid), and its agylcone glycyrrhetinic acid (=glycyrrhitic acid), liquiritic acid, glycyrrhetol, glabrolide, isoglabrolide, licoric acid, & phytosterols.
  • Flavonoids and isoflavonoids; liquiritigenin, liquiritin, rhamnoliquiritin, neoliquiritin, licoflavonol, licoisoflavones A and B, licoisoflavanone, formononetin, glabrol, glabrone, glyzarin, kumatakenin and others.
  • Coumarins; liqcoumarin, umbelliferone, herniarin glycyrin.
  • Chalcones; liquiritigenin, isoliquiritigenin, neosoliquiritin, rhamnoisoliquiritin, licuraside, licochalcones A and B, echinatin and others.
  • Polysaccharides, mainly glucans.
  • Volatile oil, containing fenchone, linalool, furfuryl alcohol, benzaldehyde.
  • Miscellaneous; starch, sugars, amino acid etc.

Actions: Expectorant, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, anti-hepatotoxic, anti-spasmodic, mild laxative.

Indications: Liquorice is a traditional herbal remedy with an ancient history and world wide usage. Modern research has shown it to have effects upon, amongst other organs, the endocrine system and liver. The triterpenes ofGlycyrrhiza are metabolized in the body to molecules that have a similar structure to the adrenal cortex hormones. This is possibly the basis of the herbs anti-inflammatory action. As an anti-hepatotoxic it can be effective in the treatment of chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, for which it is been widely used in Japan. Much of the liver orientated research has focused upon the triterpene glycyrrhizin. This inhibits hepatocyte injury caused by carbon tetrachloride, benzene hexachloride and PCB. Antibody production is enhanced by glycyrrhizin, possibly through the production of interleukin. Glycyrrhizin inhibits the growth of several DNA and RNA viruses, inactivating Herpessimplex virus particles irreversibly. It has a wide range of ises in bronchial problems such as catarrh, bronchitis and coughs in general. Liquorice is used in allopathic medicine as a treatment for peptic ulceration, a similar use to its herbal use in gastritis and ulcers. It can be used in the relief of abdominal colic.

Kings Dispensatory describes it thus: “Liquorice root is emollient, demulcent and nutritive. It acts upon mucous surfaces, lessening irritation and is consequently useful in coughs, catarrhs, irritation of the urinary organs and pain of the intestines in diarrhea. It is commonly administered in decoction, sometimes alone, at other times with the addition of other agents and which is the preferable mode of using it. As a general rule, the acrid bark should be removed previous to forming a decoction. When boiled for some time the water becomes impregnated with its acrid resin; hence, in preparing a decoction for the purpose of sweetening diet drinks or covering the taste of nauseous drugs, it should not be boiled over 5 minutes. The efficiency of the root in old bronchial affections may be due to this acrid resin. The powdered root is also employed to give the proper solidity to pills and to prevent their adhesion; the extract for imparting the proper viscidity to them. The extract, in the form of lozenge, held in the mouth until it has dissolved, is a very popular and efficient remedy in coughs and pectoral affections. An excellent troche or lozenge, very useful in ordinary cough, may be made by combining together 6 parts of refined Liquorice, 2 parts of benzoic acid, 4 parts of pulverized alum, and 1/2 a part of pulverized opium. Dissolve the Liquorice in water and evaporate to the proper consistence, then add the powders with a few drops of oil of Anise and divide it into 3 or 6-grain lozenges. The bitterness of quinine, quassia, aloes and the acrid taste of senega, guaiacum, mezereon and ammonium chloride are masked by Liquorice.”

Preparations & Dosage: Decoction: put 1/2 – l teaspoonful of the root in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take l-3ml of the tincture three times a day.

Caution: There is a small possibility of effecting electrolyte balance with extended use of large doses of liquorice. It has an ACTH like effect causing retention of sodium thus raising BP. The whole herb has constituents that counter this but it is best to avoid Liquorice if the patient has hypertension, kidney disease or during pregnancy.

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Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

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