Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): Today’s featured ingredient.

23 Jul

I’ve written a bit on Sassafras, Sarsaparilla, and Gentian within the context of a few recipes, but I have yet to highlight licorice (sometimes spelled liquorice), a common ingredient in all my root beer recipes thus far.  I use it because it adds a potent sweetness to an otherwise sour and bitter combination of herbs.  The amount of licorice in my root beer recipes is probably not going to affect you in a therapeutic dosage kind of way, but it’s interesting to look at it’s effects in the body anyway:

A member of the legume family, the dried root is best gathered in late autumn.  It’s commonly used to soothe bronchial problems such as coughs and bronchitis and is also used for symptoms of stomach distress such as colic, acid stomach, and ulcers.  It’s general actions are expectorant (makes coughs productive), demulcent (soothes mucus membranes), anti-inflammatory (sometimes indicated for disorders like eczema), adrenal agent (boosts the adrenals:  sometimes used in glandular problems such as Addison’s disease), antispasmodic (suppresses muscle spasms), and mildly laxative.

One of the chemicals derived from licorice, glycyrrhizinic acid, is used in Japan for the treatment of hepatitis, and it is commonly extracted for use as a sweetener.  Most commercial licorice candy is usually made with more aniseed than actual licorice.

Because of the way licorice affects cortisol metabolism in the kidney ie. for the same reason it is good for people with Addison’s disease, it is contraindicated for people who have hypertension.  Excessive use of licorice can deplete potassium levels in your body.

licorice root, compliments of


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