The licorice plant is a perennial herb and a member of the pea family which produces pretty purple to pale whitish blue flowers.Â Â Native to southern Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean, it is extensively cultivated in Russia, Spain, Iran, and India.
Besides tasting delicious, licorice is an excellent source of iron. The roots of the plant are crushed and boiled to extract the juice. The resultant black paste is used for coughs, as a mild laxative and for certain infections. Licorice extract contains the natural sweetener glycyrrhizin, said to be fifty times sweeter than sucrose and it is used in a wide variety of candies as a flavoring agent throughout the world.
Licorice is an antibacterial, antiviral and expectorant.
The History of Licorice
Licorice is not a recent discovery. The ancient Egyptians used it as a pharmaceutical, and copious supplies were found in King Tutâ€™s tomb.
Manuscripts from 360 A.D. talk of licorice helping eye ailments, skin diseases, coughs, and loss of hair. Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar are on record as endorsing the benefits of eating licorice. Since the 14th century, it has been used to soothe coughs, colds, and bronchitis.
Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses
Â· Licorice root is known for its excellent expectorant properties. If you suffer from a common cold or a cough, drink licorice tea 2 to 3 times a day. In the case of an asthma attack, drinking licorice tea provides immediate relief. For making the licorice tea, boil 2 to 5 grams in one glass of water, and boil till it the water is reduced to three-fourths. Strain the liquid and sip slowly.
Â· Licorice tea greatly helps in boosting your immune system too. Regular intake helps your immune system combat several common and chronic ailments and diseases such as malaria, the flu, bronchitis, hepatitis, herpes, and tuberculosis.
Â· Regular intake of licorice tea is also helpful for weight loss, chronic gastritis, liver disorders, and heartburn.
Â· Licorice is also commonly used for the treatment of stomach ulcers.
Â·There has been considerable research to show that licorice, when given intravenously, helps relieve the symptoms of hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Â· Licorice is supposed to prevention and management of prostate cancer as it helps to reverse the enlargement of the prostate.
Â· Licorice also helps treat infertility in men as well as women.
Â· Licorice is an excellent stimulant that helps relieve tiredness and fatigue. It can be used in the management of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Â· Licorice also helps treat a variety of skin afflictions, including dermatitis and eczema.
Â· Licorice serves to stimulate the entire muscular system and also helps relieve muscle cramps. It has also been known to cure the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatic fever.
Â· Licorice extract may also be used to treat heartburn or dyspepsia.
Â· Licorice also helps prevent and treat irritable bowel syndrome. It smoothens the lining of stomach and improves bowel function.
Â· Licorice may also be used to inhibit the activity of tyrosine, a hormone that may cause melisma or skin darkening.
Â· Intake of licorice root extract is recommended for patients on dialysis, as it helps prevent hyperkalemia, which is a raise on concentration of potassium ions in blood.
Â· Licorice also stimulates the endocrine gland, which helps maintain the overall physiology of the body.
Cautions, Contraindications and Side Effects
Â·Excessive consumption of licorice and its ingredient glycyrrhizin causes ‘pseudoaldosteronism’ or ‘mineralocorticoid syndrome’ due to the effects on the adrenal glands. Symptoms include headache, lethargy, muscular weakness or aches, high blood pressure, sodium and water retention, increased potassium loss, and sometimes even cardiac arrest. Symptoms can manifest within one week if the daily ingestion of licorice is over 100 g.
Â· Adverse reactions to ingesting licorice products are more common in individuals who have hypertension, kidney or heart disorders, hypokalemia, liver disease, and hypertonia.
Â· Licorice may affect the way certain drugs work, especially diuretics and anti-hypertensive drugs. Please consult your healthcare practitioner.
Â· Not recommended for pregnant women or infants.
Â· High doses of licorice products should not be used for longer than four to six weeks.
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