The licorice plant is a legume related to beans and peas and is prevalent in southern Europe and some parts of Asia. This herbaceous perennial plant grows to about a meter in height with pinnate leaves of about to 7 to 15 centimeters long of 9 to 17 leaflets. Flowers are only about a centimeter long and are purple to a pale whitish-blue in color. The plant is mostly grown traditionally in the southern regions of Europe and parts of Asia but today, the plant is also being cultivated in other parts of the world for commercial purposes. Besides being used to flavor confectionaries, beverages, jams, marmalade and tobacco, licorice is used to cure a number of diseases and ailments and is particularly known as an anti-viral agent that slows down the progression of the HIV infection.
The licorice root is actually one of the most popular herbal remedies in the world alongside the ginger root. Traditional Chinese medicine used this plant to treat stress-related symptoms by boosting the adrenal gland functions of the body. It is also widely used in hypoglycemic patients to detoxify the body and to purify the blood and liver.
The root also helps people with chronic fatigue syndromes where most of them have abnormally low blood pressure levels due to adrenal gland insufficiency. The root enables the glands to produce more hormone cortisol that encourages the kidney to retain more water and sodium that thereby regulates blood pressure.
Glycyrrhizin is an ingredient in the plant that counteracts free radicals in the body that cause inflammations and pain in the person. It’s best used to fight such conditions as lupus.
The herb is extremely useful for relieving dry cough and for people suffering from asthma. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that make it useful against gastrointestinal and digestive disorders, ulcers and celiac diseases. The root protects the gastrointestinal tract from being damaged by the stomach acids by increasing the stomach’s ability to produce protective mucus rather than eliminating the stomach acids itself. This then makes it beneficial for proper digestion.
Another property of the root is its ability to help the body conserve naturally produced steroids. Other health benefits of the plant include treating skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, canker sores and rashes.
Admittedly, the roots have their own share of side effects. Since the plant can raise blood pressure levels, people with high blood pressure should not use it as well as people with a history of diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, kidney diseases and glaucoma. Furthermore, it also induces the conversion of testosterone hormones into estrogen, which means that people with estrogen sensitive conditions such as breast and uterine cancer should not use it. Men who suffer from erectile dysfunction should also avoid the root as it’s known to decrease testosterone levels.
While some people can tolerate 5 to 6 gram doses of standard licorice per day, high amounts should not be congested for more than two to three weeks without medical supervision. The recommended dose is a 300 milligram tablet taken three times a day before meals.