Liquorice or licorice is derived from the root of a shrubby herb called Glycyrrhiza glabra plant. Some varieties of liquorice root are over fifty times sweeter than sugar and may be used to flavour sweets and drinks. It’s distinct taste, smell and intense sweetness comes from Glycyrrhizic acid, which is extracted from the root and used as a scent and flavouring in food, medications, gum, tobacco, drinks and cosmetics.
Licorice has also been used for thousands of years for its medical qualities. Its roots and rhizomes have been used to treat a multitude of ailments including stomach ulcers, bronchitis, coughs, sore throat and viral infections.
It serves as a mild expectorant for the treatment of coughs and increases the production of protective mucous in the stomach for acid reflux pain and inflammatory stomach conditions. Tea made from licorice and other anti-spasmodic herbs is often recommended for menstrual cramps.
Recent clinical trials also suggest that glycyrrhizic acid may reduce complications from hepatitis C in some patients, though more research is required to confirm these findings.
According to the National Institute of Health, higher doses of liquorice has also been linked to side effects in some individuals. These include salt and water retention and an increase in levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to high blood pressure and reduction in testosterone levels in men. However, a dose high enough to cause side effects would require 50 grams or more per day for longer than two to six weeks. Like all herbs, liquorice should be taken as recommended by health specialists and physicans.
This woody shrub is used more than we may be aware. Beverage makers use liquorice as a foaming agent in drinks. Pharmaceutical companies use the sweetness of licorice to mask the taste of bitter drugs.
Check your ingredients to find real liquorice extracts in sweets or purchase liquorice supplements, sweeteners and teas from a health food shop and enjoy the taste and medicinal benefits of liquorice. When it comes to liquorice sweets, it’s the sugar you need to worry about.
- Acts as an expectorant to ease coughs
- Soothes sore throats
- Increases protective mucous production in the stomach
- Protects against acid reflux and stomach inflammation
- Has anti-spasmodic effects to ease menstrual cramps