Licorice plants (Glycyrrhiza glabra) are members of the legume family and are known for their sweet, flavorful roots that have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Here are some characteristics to help identify a licorice plant:
- Leaves: Licorice plants have pinnately compound leaves, meaning each leaf is made up of several smaller leaflets. The leaflets are oval-shaped and pointed at the tips, and are arranged in pairs along a central stem.
- Stem: The stems of licorice plants are woody and brown, and can grow up to 1 meter in height.
- Flowers: The flowers of licorice plants are small and pea-like, and are typically a pale blue or violet color. They are arranged in clusters on long, thin stalks.
- Roots: The most distinctive feature of the licorice plant is its roots, which are long, thin, and brown. They can grow up to 3 meters deep into the soil and are highly prized for their sweet, flavorful taste.
The roots of the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra) are the parts that are typically used for medicinal purposes. The roots contain compounds called glycyrrhizin and liquiritin, which are believed to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties.
Name in popular languages
- Spanish: Regaliz
- French: Réglisse
- German: Süßholz
- Italian: Liquirizia
- Portuguese: Alcaçuz
- Dutch: Zoethout
- Russian: Лакрица (Lakritsa)
- Arabic: عرق السوس (Araq al-sus)
- Chinese: 甘草 (Gāncǎo)
- Japanese: 甘草 (Kanzō)
- Korean: 감초 (Gamcho)
- Persian: شیرین بیان (Shirin-bayan)
- Hindi: मुलेठी (Mulethi)
- Bengali: যষ্টিমধু (Jastimadhu)
- Tamil: அதிமதுரம் (Athimadhuram)
- Telugu: యష్టిమధురం (Yashtimadhuram)
- Kannada: ಯಷ್ಟಿಮಧು (Yashtimadhu)
- Malayalam: ഇരട്ടിപ്പൊടി (Iratipodi)
- Punjabi: ਜਸ਼ਟਮਾਧੁ (Jastimadh)
- Gujarati: જેઠીમધ (Jethimadh)
- Marathi: जेष्ठमध (Jeshtamadhu)
- Urdu: ملیٹھی (Mulethi)
Origin and History
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a perennial legume plant that is native to parts of Asia and Europe. It has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, with evidence of its use dating back to ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations.
In ancient Egypt, licorice was used to treat respiratory infections and to help soothe sore throats. It was also used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, respiratory infections, and skin conditions.
The Greek physician Hippocrates, known as the father of modern medicine, recommended licorice for treating stomach and intestinal problems, as well as respiratory issues. The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder also wrote about the medicinal properties of licorice, describing it as a natural remedy for coughs and lung disorders.
In the Middle Ages, licorice was used in Europe to treat a range of health problems, including sore throats, coughs, and digestive issues. It was also used as a sweetener and flavoring agent.
Today, licorice root is still used in traditional medicine for a variety of purposes, including treating coughs and sore throats, reducing inflammation in the digestive tract, and boosting the immune system. It is also used in some commercial products, such as candies and teas, for its sweet flavor.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) contains a variety of phytochemicals and nutrients, including glycyrrhizin, flavonoids, coumarins, and triterpenoids. Here is some more information about the nutritional constituents of Licorice plant:
- Glycyrrhizin: Glycyrrhizin is a compound found in licorice root that is responsible for its sweet taste. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral properties.
- Flavonoids: Licorice root contains several flavonoids, including liquiritin, isoliquiritin, and glabridin, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Coumarins: Coumarins are another class of phytochemicals found in licorice root. They have been shown to have anticoagulant and antifungal properties.
- Triterpenoids: Licorice root also contains triterpenoids, such as glycyrrhizic acid, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties.
Medicinal or Health Benefits
Licorice root has been traditionally used for a variety of health and medicinal purposes. Here are some of the potential benefits of Licorice plant :
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Licorice root contains compounds with anti-inflammatory effects that can help reduce inflammation in the body.
- Digestive health: Licorice root has been used to treat digestive issues such as acid reflux, stomach ulcers, and bloating. It is thought to work by increasing the production of mucus in the stomach, which can help protect the stomach lining.
- Respiratory health: Licorice root has been traditionally used to treat respiratory infections such as coughs and bronchitis. It is thought to work by loosening mucus in the respiratory tract and by acting as an expectorant.
- Immune system support: Licorice root has been shown to have immunomodulatory effects, meaning it can help regulate the immune system. It has been shown to enhance the activity of certain immune cells and to help reduce inflammation.
- Skin health: Licorice root has been traditionally used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It contains compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that can help soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.
Here are some scientific studies that provide evidence for the health and medicinal benefits of Licorice plant:
- Licorice root for upper respiratory infections: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 randomized controlled trials found that licorice root can improve symptoms and reduce the duration of upper respiratory tract infections.
- Licorice root for digestive health: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that licorice root extract can reduce symptoms of functional dyspepsia, a common digestive disorder.
- Licorice root for liver health: A study in rats found that licorice root extract can improve liver function and reduce oxidative stress in the liver.
- Licorice root for skin health: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that a cream containing licorice extract can reduce the severity of atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema.
- Licorice root for hormonal health: A study in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) found that licorice root can reduce levels of testosterone, a hormone that is elevated in PCOS.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently approve licorice root or its derivatives as a drug for the treatment or prevention of any medical condition. However, the FDA recognizes licorice as a food flavoring agent and dietary supplement ingredient.
According to the FDA’s guidance for industry on the use of botanicals, manufacturers of dietary supplements containing licorice are required to ensure the safety of their products and to provide accurate labeling that includes the name of the plant species, the plant part used, and the amount of the active ingredient in the product. The FDA also recommends that consumers consult with a healthcare provider before using dietary supplements containing licorice, especially if they have a medical condition or are taking medications.