Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a perennial plant native to the Mediterranean area that offers many health benefits and imparts a definitely sweet taste.
Health benefits of licorice
Licorice roots were already at the top of the list in Greek and Roman pharmacopeias for their expectorant and moisturizing properties, and use of this plant in culinary preparations seems to date back a long time. In traditional Chinese medicine, licorice is an ingredient in many traditional preparations.
- An anti-inflammatory, licorice soothes inflammations along the digestive functions and it is very effective against gastritis in particular. Additionally, licorice contains active ingredients that are proven sedatives that soothe stomach pain.
- Thanks to its anti-inflammatory powers, licorice effectively alleviates arthritis pain and eye inflammations.
- Since it has elevated moisturizing activity, licorice treats canker sores and reduces respiratory inflammation. It also helps fight off cough with good results thanks to its expectorant properties.
- Licorice also exerts a light laxative effect and thus resolves constipation.
- In Japan, licorice is used to treat hepatitis and liver cirrhosis.
How to use licorice for its benefits
Cold licorice infusions with 1 oz (30 g) licorice wood chips for 1 quart (1 liter) water helps fend off cough, colds and bronchitis.
Licorice juice, which is obtained by preparing a decoction and evaporating the water out, is used to prepare licorice paste and candies sold in stores. It’s also used to flavor drinks, often together with aniseed. This includes some special beers, too. Tobacco also is blended with licorice in cigarettes.
For gargling and mouthwash: a licorice decoction with 7 oz (200 g) root chips for 1 quart (1 liter), evaporated until ¾ths have evaporated away) helps effectively treat against sore throat and inflammations of the tongue and soft mouth tissues.
- Be careful, ingesting too much licorice over a span of time of several weeks may trigger symptoms such lethargy, hypertension, water retention but also excess sodium.
- Abusing of licorice can lead to intoxication that results in dire consequences like paralysis and cardiac rhythm disorders.
- Also, it is not recommended to ingest massive doses of it when under a prescription for oral contraception.
Growing licorice for its health benefits
- Licorice thrives in full sun and in rich and moist soil. It particularly loves climates that are warm in the summer. However, you’ll have to be patient: before savoring your own licorice, you’ll have to wait for at least three years!
- Be careful, licorice is vulnerable when winters are cold, protect it well! Don’t even try to grow licorice in a pot, you’ll be disappointed with the results.
Eating healthy with licorice
- In the kitchen, licorice is often added to candy, cream, gingerbread and syrup. But you can also include it in main course dishes such as pork or fish.
- The best way to use licorice is to start from the root stick and grate it into your preparation. Instead of grating, you can also use a sharp, sturdy knife to slice it very thinly. Try adding it to broth.