Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L) has a variety of health properties as well as acting as a demulcent, which means it creates a soothing film over mucous membranes. This demulcent action explains why Liquorice can help soothe scratchy, dry throats and calm coughs. Liquorice helps soothe the upper respiratory tract and keep the airways clear.
Liquorice is a member of the legume family, which is native to southern Europe, India and parts of Asia. It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 1 metre in height with pinnate leaves 7-15cm long each with 9-17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8-1.2 cm long, purple to pale whitish blue in colour. The fruit is an oblong pod 2-3cm in length with several seeds. Liquorice grows best in well-drained soils.
Although its distinctive flavour is similar to that of anise or fennel, the plants are not related botanically, but some products described as liquorice have been found to contain anise, instead.1,2 The scent of liquorice roots comes from volatile compounds of which anethole is predominant. Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, which has a sweet taste 30-50 times as sweet as sugar. Liquorice contains more than 20 triterpenoids (produced by plants as part of their self-defence mechanism) and 300 flavonoids, which have many health properties.3
Liquorice is one of the oldest and most frequently used herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.4 In traditional Chinese medicine liquorice is believed to "harmonise" the ingredients in a formula and to carry the formula to the 12 “regular meridians “.5 Liquorice has been traditionally known and used as medicine in Ayurveda for rejuvenation.6 Recent research has shown that Glycyrrhiza glabra is one of the most used plant species worldwide for the ethnomedical therapy of jaundice. It is used as an expectorant in traditional medicine in Egypt.7
2 Liquorice - Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
5 Bansky, Dan, et al. 2004. Chinese Herbal Medicine. Materia Medica. Third Edition.
6 Balakryshna A 2006. Ayurveda. Its principles and practices.
7 Tewari D et al. Ethnopharmacological approaches to the treatment of jaundice. Part 1. Front Pharmacol 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5559545/