"Natural Healing with Herbs for a Healthier You"

Licorice is one of the more widely consumed herbs in the world. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it occurs in more formulas than any other single herb because it is thought to harmonize the action of all other herbs. Licorice is not only used as a great medicinal herb but Licorice extracts also have uses in such things as candies, chewing gums, flavoring tobacco, liqueurs, cough medication, antismoking preparations, and it is even used to increase the foam in beer. This could be one reason Dr Christopher stressed that we should not procrastinate in obtaining adequate supplies of Licorice root. He stated, “we import tons of it from the Middle East every year for commercial medications and the Licorice candy industry. If there was to be a transportation strike it would cripple the nations economy and people would bemoan the fact that the herb could no longer be obtained”.  He stated that if we are in the climate to grow it in our yards that we should.

The more popular medicinal actions of Licorice root are as a demulcent, pectoral, emollient and for disguising the taste of nauseous or bitter medicinals (as a flavoring). Some other uses are as an expectorant, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, laxative, hypertensive, anti-ulcer, estrogenic, emmenagogue, antibacterial, anti-fungal, sialogogue, and immune stimulant.

Licorice is very soothing and softens the mucous membranes of the throat, lungs, stomach, intestines, and at the same time cleanses any inflamed mucous membrane that needs immune system support. This is why Licorice is found in so many cough and sore throat medications. It reduces the irritation in the throat and yet has an expectorant action. It is the saponins (detergent-like action) that loosen the phlegm in the respiratory tract, so that the body can expel the mucus.  It is a potent healing agent for tuberculosis, where its effects have been compared to hydrocortisone. For colds and flu, Licorice can be combined with stimulating herbs such as cayenne or ginger to intensify the effect. For sore throat and irritated bronchials, Licorice is more effective when combined with Horehound or Mullein.

Licorice also has a soothing and healing effect on the stomach and digestive tract. It softens, soothes, lubricates and nourishes the entire intestinal tract with a formula as simple as 40% Licorice root and 60% Slippery Elm. The saponin content is effective in soothing various internal pains. Licorice is popularly known for treatment of ulcers of the stomach or duodenem, collective known as peptic ulcer. The glycyrrhetinic acid found in Licorice was the first drug proven to promote healing of gastric and duodenal ulcers.  Modern medicines such as antacids, Tagamet and Zantac disrupt the normal digestive process and alter the structure and function of the cells that line the digestive tract and will cause the ulcer to appear again. The cause is not treated. The compounds found in Licorice stimulate the normal defense mechanisms that prevent ulcer formation. These compounds improve both the quality and quantity of the protective substances that line the intestinal tract. It will balance out the production and secretion of hydrochloric acid that is a cause of the formation of a peptic ulcer. The life span of intestinal cells will increase and there will be an improved blood supply to the intestinal lining by using Licorice--it treats the cause.

The 100 Herb List at the School of Natural Healing lists adrenals as the common use for the Licorice. The steroidal (cortisone-like substance) content of Licorice aids in the healing and restoring of the adrenal glands. Glycyrrhizin has a similar chemical structure to corticosteroids released by the adrenals, which helps to stimulate the excretion of cortin hormones by the adrenal cortex. About every five hours, the adrenals need some sort of nourishment in order to continue supplying strength to the body. If the nourishment is not given, the glands go through what is called adrenal exhaustion, or in medical terms hypoglycemia. This exhaustion is also caused by the stresses that life places on us in this fast paced world in which we live. Sugar is often consumed to overcome stress and to get a stimulating lift. This causes more problems and can lead to insulin shock. When a person’s adrenal glands become so exhausted that they do not function anymore, they find themselves in a condition called Addison’s disease.

Licorice, with its cortisone-type substance, will help the body restore itself to the point where it will produce its own cortisone. It will give the body strength and a stimulating lift without bringing on insulin shock. This will also help the pancreas to function well because of better control of insulin released. The medical profession will prescribe corticosteroid hormones as a replacement drug when the body is fatigued; thus causing a dependency to them. If a person tries to get off these drugs they will go through severe withdrawal symptoms. Licorice begins strengthening and healing the body with as little as two capsules of Licorice each day. As noted by Dr. Christopher, “When people who have been under severe stress, overworking the adrenals and becoming extremely nervous and irritable, begin to take Licorice, they think they have suddenly spiritually arrived. It is my opinion that many who suffer in mental institutions could be helped with this wonderful herb”.

The Steroidal content found in Licorice not only helps the adrenal glands but female problems as well. It can trigger higher levels of estrogen in the body, which will aid in the treatment of female infertility, for delayed and irregular menstruation, and in premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It can be used to stabilize the menstrual cycle when coming off of "the Pill." It will help relieve the pain of chronic menstrual cramps as well as premenstrual symptoms such as depression, cravings for sweets, weight gain due to water retention, breast tenderness, etc. Licorice has an alterative action on estrogen metabolism, which means when estrogen levels are too high it will bring them down, and if the levels are too low it will bring them up. This estrogenic action is due to the isoflavone content found in Licorice. Premenstrual syndrome has been attributed to a disruption in the estrogen to progesterone ratio. Licorice helps to bring back the right balance in this ratio, therefore relieving the symptoms that this imbalance causes. If licorice is used, two cups of tea a day, two weeks prior to the onset of menstruation will reduce the symptoms of PMS. After a couple of months the cycle should be improved and no more need to drink the tea.  Even though our bodies require a balance of male and female hormones, men who take Licorice don’t need to be alarmed about “getting too much” hormone-estrogen properties. Our bodies are a fabulous computer and it selects only what it needs from natural sources such as herbs.

As mentioned previously, Licorice was taken during the middle ages to counter-balance the effects of highly spiced and over cooked food, fat and contaminated meats. Licorice is a highly esteemed herb for the same use today. The root is excellent as a stool softener or mild laxative, especially for children. It doesn’t cause the gripping of the intestines that other cathartic herbs are known to do. Licorice also has as anti-inflammatory substance that helps in gastric or bowel irritations and also helps the inflammation caused by hemorrhoids. A looser and softer stool also helps when hemorrhoids are present.

I think the Egyptians may have been on the right track in their thinking that Licorice is a cure-all. A few more uses for Licorice are as a blood cleanser and detoxifier with benefits to the liver.  It increases the flow of saliva and alleviates thirst when the root is chewed on and it also makes an excellent natural teething ring for babies to help bring the teeth through. If the baby is a vigorous chewer there may be some purgative or cathartic action as well!

In addition to quenching thirst, Licorice will quench the appetite and reduce the desire to smoke tobacco and consume alcohol. It will increase sexual desire and help a person stay alert (a No-Doz substitute). Mixed with honey it is great for external wounds and skin irritations. Combining Licorice with peppermint, it is great for a singer or a person losing their voice due to laryngitis.
Additional uses from James Duke, in his book “The Green Pharmacy,” are preventing tooth decay, treating arthritis, asthma, athlete’s foot, baldness, body odor, bursitis, canker sores, chronic fatigue syndrome, colds and flu, cough, dandruff, depression, emphysema, fungal infections, gingivitis, gout, heartburn, HIV infection, liver problems, Lyme disease, menopause, prostate enlargement, psoriasis, shingles, sore throat, tendonitis, tuberculosis, ulcers, viral infections and yeast infections.

I feel the same as this author who wrote on Licorice, "Licorice can be recommended for just about everybody, for male and female alike, young and old, well or sick. It is the grand tonic of the world, in this author's opinion. For that reason, I recommend it as an important tonic in the maintenance of the musculoskeletal system. The amazing anti-inflammatory actions of licorice root extend to the entire surface area of the body, both outside and inside. Not only the skin, but the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract yield to the soothing and healing action of licorice root. The plant reinforces the body's ability to withstand attack from virtually any kind of pathogen, and should therefore be considered a tonic for the musculoskeletal system. If one is looking for a broad-spectrum tonic to protect
, maintain health, and heal injuries, there is no herb better than licorice root."
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by Mishelle Knuteson
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