Licorice is one of the most widely used medicinal plants, both in Western and Eastern herbal medicine and has at least 3000 years of history as a medicinal plant.
The plant contains various substances with different mechanisms of action. The saponins found in the herb act both as mucus thinning and expectorant.
The viral inhibitory action of licorice is due to the substance glycyrrhizin that increases interferon formation, and the bacteria growth inhibitory effect is caused by the isoflavonoids hispaglabridin A and B and glabridin.
Glycyrrhizic acid has an antispasmodic effect on the gastrointestinal tract, whereby the bacteria in the intestines is converted into a substance that acts as a liver-protective agent by neutralizing free radicals.
The herb has also been shown to relieve rheumatism and arthritis.
Scientific research shows that when glycyrrhizin is broken down in the stomach it displays inflammatory and arthritic-relieving effects similar to hydrocortisone and other corticosteroid hormones.
It balances the production of the hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) in the adrenal gland and decreases the breakdown of steroids in the liver and kidneys.
Since licorice root may stimulate the adrenal glands, the herb can be helpful to treat Addison’s disease (adrenal cortex failure of hormone production).
Licorice root lowers the acid level in the stomach and relieves heartburn and indigestion. It reduces the secretion of digestive juices and helps to create protective mucus in the stomach.
This makes licorice a good remedy for ailments of the gastrointestinal system, from irritation, spasm, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammation of gastric and duodenal ulcers.
Some countries have experimented with licorice-coated aspirin to help reduce ulcers caused by aspirin use.
The herb has a beneficial effect on the liver and it increases bile secretion and lowers cholesterol levels. In addition it is used as a medicinal herb for hypothyroidism, menstrual cramps, and regulating menstruation.
Licorice root contains a substance which prevents the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Dihydrotestosterone is the substance that stimulates cell division in the male prostate gland.
It may, therefore, be useful in reducing the growth of the gland and help to prevent some of the symptoms associated with benign enlargement of the prostate.
Licorice root is used internally as an herbal remedy for sore throat, cough, allergic disorders and viral infections.
Glycyrrhizin is one of the best documented antiviral substances derived from the plant kingdom and has been shown to be effective against a variety of viruses, including those which cause influenza and the common cold.