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Thursday, October 04, 2007


Licorice comes from Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fish. (Chinese licorice) and Glycyrrhiza glabra L. (European licorice) [Family Leguminosae]. The root and rhizome is used. Licorice has the following properties: demulcent, expectorant, antitussive, mild laxative, detoxicant, antioxidant, anti-allergic, antiinflammatory, healing. The most common tradtional uses of licorice relate to gastrointestinal ulcers, sore throat, cough, bronchial problems, food poisoning, abdominal pain, insomnia, sores, and abscess.

Licorice is perhaps the most widely used herb in the world. Its water extract is extensively used in flavoring foods (especially licorice candy) and tobacco, particularly in Western countries. Licorice is present in many Chinese herbal formulas, most of the time as an adjuvant to bring out the good effects of major herbs or to mitigatet some of their undesirable effects. Considering the fact that there are about 100,000 herbal formulas published in Chinese books (64,000 in one work alone), there must be at least another 100,000 not published but used by over 1 billion of the world's population. Just imagine how much licorice is being consumed daily in China alone!

One of the best known uses of licorice is in treating ulcers (e.g., gastric and duodenal). Unfortunately, prolonged use leads to such undesirable effects as potassium depletion, sodium retention, fluid retention, and high blood pressure. Up until recently, the active principle was believed to be glycyrrhizin, which is also a sweetening agent; it is also responsible for the above-mentioned side effects. It turns out, however, that glycyrrhizin is not the only active principle in licorice. After removing glycyrrhizin from licorice, researchers found that the deglycyrrhizinated licorice extract is still effective in treating ulcers, but without the toxic side effects of whole licorice. Japanese and Chinese scientists have determined the active principles in the deglycyrrhizinated licorice to be flavonoids. Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have also found these flavonoids to have very strong antioxidant properties. Thus, in one experiment measuring oxygen free radical scavenging, they found that weight to weight, one part of the flavonoids removed almost twice the amount of free radicals that were removed by 100 parts of vitamin E. Based on this single experiment, licorice flavonoids are certainly the strongest antioxidants I have ever come across.

Licorice extracts in glycerin or water have very good healing properties which can be used beneficially in skin care cosmetics.

Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Better Health with (mostly) Chinese Herbs and Food discusses the use of 60 different herbs as healing foods, including licorice on pages 56-57.
For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit www.earthpower.com.

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