Glycyrrhiza lepidota – Licorice

LicoriceGlycyrrhiza lepidota

Glycyrrhiza = L. “sweet-root”;

lepidota = L. “scurfy, scaly”;

Identification: Wild licorice is a coarse perennial herb arising from a thick rootstock. The plant grows from 30 – 100 cm tall. The pinnate leaves have 11 – 19 lanceolate leaflets. The flowers are yellowish-white and formed in dense racemes. The seed pods are burr-like with hooked prickles.

Distribution & Habitat: Licorice can be found in moist meadows throughout the west.

Preparation & Uses: The North American variety is just as sweet and tasty as the old world variety (G. glabra). Chewed as a candy, or as a flavour additive for root beer and chewing tobacco, the taste is well known to us all. Roots were sometimes roasted by the Indians to concentrate their flavour.

Both the American and European species have been employed for many medicinal uses. In China and India, licorice root is the number one medicine, quite likely making it the most commonly used medical substance (or drug) in the world.

Licorice soothes most mucous membranes in the body. The Cheyennes boiled the root (and sometimes the leaves) to make a tea for stomachaches and diarrhea. The root was chewed to soothe the throat by many nationalities, while the Indians felt it helped their singing voice. The Sioux used the chewed leaf as a poultice for the sore backs of their horses. An extract of licorice root has been used in many cough syrups to bring up phlegm — interesting when you consider it is also one of the most popular additives of chewing tobacco. The Chinese feel that licorice is the great antidote, adding it to a large number of herbal formulas. Since the major constituent is similar to the human adrenal hormone, it has often been used to support the adrenal gland in cases of stress. Licorice root is also useful as a mild laxative and for ulcers.

To regulate female hormones, especially in P.M.S. and menstrual cramps, I have found licorice very functional. Licorice has been shown to inhibit tumors, be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and useful against Addison’s disease. In China, licorice is often used as a first-aid remedy for cuts, burns and as an antidote. Licorice can cause high blood pressure in some, so it should not be consumed in large quantities by people at risk for hypertension.

No, you are not going to get all of these effects next time you go to the movies and decide to treat yourself to some black licorice from the candy counter. There is no licorice in those candies!