licorice root is a great herb. Not only does it have some pretty amazing therapeutic properties, but it tastes great and it’s know as a “children’s herb”. So why, if it’s labeled a “children’s herb” by herbalists.
Many authoritative places (including the FDA and medical websites) warn against using too much licorice as a dietary substance or even against eating too many foods or candies that contain real licorice in them due to the high incidence of overdose. The reason behind this is that licorice has dose based effects which means that you get different effects in the body based on the dosage you take. Well talk more about this in a bit.
Thankfully, licorice can be safe for people of all ages although it’s use is discouraged for certain people. It’s known as a “children’s herb” because it tastes so good and is used to flavor many nasty tasting treats and herbal remedies.
It tastes so good because it contains a saponin-like glycoside (which is a sugar known as glucose) called glycyrrhizin which is 50 times sweeter than sugar, and it’s also used as a catalyst for drugs and other herbs due to it’s ability to facilitate absorption by the body. This catalyst effect is thought to be because of the large amount of saponin-like substances found in the root that give it a surfactant-like effect that helps the body absorb the properties of the licorice and whatever else is with it better.
Because licorice root has dose based effects, it can be used in a wide range of therapeutic ways. The following 4 uses are based on that small to large dosing range.
Licorice root has a high mucilage content meaning it gets slippery and slimy when it comes into contact with water, and this helps it to coat the mucous membranes inside the digestive tract. This makes licorice a valuable addition to remedies for digestive issues, diarrhea, sore throats, and ulcers.
Licorice root also acts as an expectorant which means it helps to thin the mucous inside the airways so that it’s easier to cough up. It’s a great addition to cough syrups and works well for remedies for respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia.
Licorice root is known to have at least 25 anti-fungal compounds contained within it. This makes it a great help for anti-fungal remedies used internally and externally.
One of the most well-known attributes of licorice root is it’s actions on the bodies hormones, specifically those produced in the adrenal glands. Glycerrhizinic acid is a compound found in licorice root and it helps the body deal with stress by inhibiting the breakdown of cortisol by the liver. Cortisol is a hormone made in the adrenal glands and is released under varying circumstances… stress (good and bad) being one of those.
This is specifically useful for people with Addison’s disease or people with low blood pressure because the glycerrhizinic acid stimulates the production of another hormone, aldosterone, in the adrenal glands which causes the body to retain water and certain minerals and that causes an increase in blood pressure. People using licorice root for these cases should always work with a trained herbalist or naturopathic doctor because the dose of licorice is a fairly large one and there can be negative effects (overdose effects) on the body if too much is used.
Unfortunately, licorice root is not one of those non-toxic, no dosage cap herbs. It can be toxic in large doses, and there are some people who should steer clear of licorice root all together. It’s not recommended for anyone to use large doses (30 grams or more) of licorice for more than 4-6 weeks.
It’s perfectly fine to give your child remedies with licorice. In fact, it’s very beneficial to them. Just be sure that they don’t get a hold of your whole licorice tincture bottle and drink the whole thing. Remember, licorice tastes great, and if you’ve made a glycerite, it can taste even better to kids.
Pregnancy is one of those times in life when you want to avoid licorice root due to the simple fact that it can increase blood pressure and pregnant women already have a risk for high blood pressure. From my understanding… this is the only reason why pregnant women should not use licorice root.
Persons with Heart Issues
Because of licorice roots effect on the adrenal glands, hormones, and blood pressure… it’s not recommended that those with heart issues use licorice root. In fact, it’s best that people with serious health issues use herbs in conjunction with a health professional that is willing to work with them and their health in a natural way.
Thankfully, no matter what reasons a person may have for not being able to use licorice root, there are other safe herbs that can be used in its place if you want to get the demulcent, expectorant, and/or anti-fungal like properties. Plus, some companies that manufacture herbal products have started offering licorice root deglycyrrhizinated licorice which has less effect on blood pressure.