Licorice Root

Posted By Elana Amsterdam On February 17, 2011 @ 10:40 am In lifestyle,nutrition | 76 Comments

licorice root

-photo from brook a schneider on Flickr

It seems like everyone I know had a sore throat last week.  So I made a big pot of my favorite healing brew, Ginger Licorice Tea.

As I often do, I went on twitter, this time to chat about my fave tea for colds and sore throats.  While everyone was familiar with ginger, several folks told me they hadn’t ever heard of licorice root.  So here we go, I’ll tell you all about licorice root and why it’s absolutely indispensable in my home this time of year.

In the world of herbs, licorice root is primarily known as a demulcent (that is a soothing substance taken internally to protect damaged or inflamed tissue) and an expectorant (a substance that assists in expelling mucus from lungs and throat).  Licorice root is commonly used in alternative medicine to treat colds and sore throats.  However, licorice does not only act upon the respiratory system.  It can also be soothing to the gut and work as an effective liver cleanser and blood detoxifier when combined with other herbs.

Healing Properties of Licorice Root

  • soothes a sore throat
  • loosens bronchial congestion
  • reduces inflammation
  • soothes digestive and gastro-intestinal issues
  • helpful with stomach ulcers

Licorice is also used for chronic conditions such as adrenal insufficiency.  However, used in large doses, over long term, licorice can exacerbate hypertension, so it is best to see a doctor or herbalist if you are going to use this substance for chronic conditions.

Although my background is in Ayurvedic herbology, I do have some knowledge of Chinese herbs, and licorice is used often in Chinese medicine, considered one of the most important herbs in that system.  Licorice is also commonly used in Ayurveda as well, as it is very soothing for the vata dosha (constitution).

Licorice basically helps people that are experiencing ailments of “dryness” in the body become more moist.  I tell my children that when you have a cold, taking licorice is like putting a humidifier in your body –that’s how it works.  For this reason, licorice is not the best herb of choice for those that tend to retain water in their body –those that we refer to in Ayruveda as having the kapha dosha.

With licorice and other roots, I was taught that it is best that they boil in water for 2-3 minutes minimum to release all of their healing properties.  While licorice tea is available (in tea bags) in many health food stores, to get the full benefit of the licorice root, I would recommend purchasing in bulk, and simply boiling the root in a pot of water for 2-3 minutes.

I kept a pot of Ginger Licorice Tea steeping on the stove every day last week as we had severe, harsh weather here in Colorado.  Every humidifier in my house was on.  Some days the temperature didn’t even make it above 5 degrees.   Drinking this simple herbal remedy was very moistening for myself and my family given this cold, dry tundra we’re living in this winter.

So, finally, just to be clear, when I’m talking about licorice root, I am not referring to licorice candy.  This is a totally different thing made of molasses, flour and other ingredients.  Let’s not confuse the pure healing licorice root with licorice candy.

Have you ever used licorice root?  If so, what ailments do you use it for?  Leave a comment and let us all know!


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