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Licorice Root

licorice root

-photo from brook a schneider on Flickr

It seems like everyone I know had a sore throat last week.  So I made a big pot of my favorite healing brew, Ginger Licorice Tea.

As I often do, I went on twitter, this time to chat about my fave tea for colds and sore throats.  While everyone was familiar with ginger, several folks told me they hadn’t ever heard of licorice root.  So here we go, I’ll tell you all about licorice root and why it’s absolutely indispensable in my home this time of year.

In the world of herbs, licorice root is primarily known as a demulcent (that is a soothing substance taken internally to protect damaged or inflamed tissue) and an expectorant (a substance that assists in expelling mucus from lungs and throat).  Licorice root is commonly used in alternative medicine to treat colds and sore throats.  However, licorice does not only act upon the respiratory system.  It can also be soothing to the gut and work as an effective liver cleanser and blood detoxifier when combined with other herbs.

Healing Properties of Licorice Root

  • soothes a sore throat
  • loosens bronchial congestion
  • reduces inflammation
  • soothes digestive and gastro-intestinal issues
  • helpful with stomach ulcers

Licorice is also used for chronic conditions such as adrenal insufficiency.  However, used in large doses, over long term, licorice can exacerbate hypertension, so it is best to see a doctor or herbalist if you are going to use this substance for chronic conditions.

Although my background is in Ayurvedic herbology, I do have some knowledge of Chinese herbs, and licorice is used often in Chinese medicine, considered one of the most important herbs in that system.  Licorice is also commonly used in Ayurveda as well, as it is very soothing for the vata dosha (constitution).

Licorice basically helps people that are experiencing ailments of “dryness” in the body become more moist.  I tell my children that when you have a cold, taking licorice is like putting a humidifier in your body –that’s how it works.  For this reason, licorice is not the best herb of choice for those that tend to retain water in their body –those that we refer to in Ayruveda as having the kapha dosha.

With licorice and other roots, I was taught that it is best that they boil in water for 2-3 minutes minimum to release all of their healing properties.  While licorice tea is available (in tea bags) in many health food stores, to get the full benefit of the licorice root, I would recommend purchasing in bulk, and simply boiling the root in a pot of water for 2-3 minutes.

I kept a pot of Ginger Licorice Tea steeping on the stove every day last week as we had severe, harsh weather here in Colorado.  Every humidifier in my house was on.  Some days the temperature didn’t even make it above 5 degrees.   Drinking this simple herbal remedy was very moistening for myself and my family given this cold, dry tundra we’re living in this winter.

So, finally, just to be clear, when I’m talking about licorice root, I am not referring to licorice candy.  This is a totally different thing made of molasses, flour and other ingredients.  Let’s not confuse the pure healing licorice root with licorice candy.

Have you ever used licorice root?  If so, what ailments do you use it for?  Leave a comment and let us all know!


posted on February 17, 2011

  1. I have ground the liquorice root into powder and added it into my green smoothies. And as a Finn,I love liquorice in every way….

    • Diana

      my naturopath suggested using licorice to help heal my gut from gluten intolerance and to help decrease the inflammation

      • Jackie

        Licorice is great for that, but look for a combo of deglyccerized licorice (no blood pressure effects), aloe and L-glutamine. That’s the gold standard for GI tract healing. I use it with patients all the time.

        • Patti Krueger

          Where do you find deglyccerized licorice? Is that the kind they use in the licorice tea that Yogi or Traditional Medicines makes?
          Patti

          • Melissa solar-greene

            DGL is avialable at health food stores or places like Pharmaca. They usually come in chewable tablets. The Gliceriza constituent has been removed because it has been shown to cause hypertension in large doses over long periods of time. If you are using it to heal the mucous membranes in the upper GI you will probably be using it in significant quantity and over a longish period of time.

            PS – It has been shown to protect liver cells and shortens the half life of cortico-steroids in the body. That means less work for the adrenals.

  2. Ashley @ Taste for Healthy @ tasteforhealty.blogspot.com

    I’ve used licorice root tea for stomach issues… and it seems to work very well!

    P.S. I did not know that it is especially beneficial for the vata dosha… thank you for enlightening me! :)

  3. Melissa

    I haven’t used licorice root before, but this sounds great. Since going gluten free I have missed licorice candy. Any chance you could create a gluten free licorice candy?

  4. Anne Fischer Silva @ anewleafnutrition.net

    I use licorice root with sassafras and whey to make a delicious natural root beer. Licorice can increase blood pressure so those with hypertension should use caution.

  5. I’ve recently been getting back to my roots of natural herbal healing these days. Since I was twelve I have studied different healing remedies, yet moved into the whole foods approach to healing. Only recently have I started back on herbal and plant healing, and I love it! Thank you for sharing this article Elana. Purchasing some licorice root very soon for those “just-in-case” times.

  6. I know licorice is good for you, but it’s not my favorite taste.

    Ginger, however, is. A good healing food this time of the year is to cook buckwheat in chicken stock with ginger slices, chopped carrots and onions, and salt to taste. It’s very warming and really satisfying if you are coming down with something. Some licorice would be a good addition.

    Pat

  7. Eve Ilsen

    I’ll try it!

    This past week we all had colds, so I brewed up The Elixir (previously known as The Vile Australian Concoction, originally given to me when we arrived to teach in Australia and I was coughing up green.)

    In about two quarts of water, cut up a whole large handful of fresh ginger root; throw in at least ten cloves of garlic, unpeeled. Simmer for at least 15 minutes. Strain out the solids.
    Ad honey to taste (organic and raw is good; manuka even better, but very expensive) and about a quarter cup apple cider vinegar.
    Drink hot and go “YICCCHHH!”
    Then get better.

  8. Karen@Cook4Seasons @ cook4seasons.com

    Incredible timing! Not because I’m sick (knock on wood) but because I have just started an Ayurvedic program and am all over licorice and ginger (double dosha – pitta/vata.) It has taken me awhile to acquire the taste for licorice but with ginger I am enjoying it. And I love that you noted the health benefits! Would love to share notes about this new way of eating/drinking:)

  9. Jenny Eliuk @ Stay on Path @ stayonpath.blogspot.com

    I just started taking G.I. Benefits from FoodScience of Vermont, and licorice root is a main ingredient. I didn’t realize it had that “internal moisturizing” effect, however. Thank you for this info.

  10. I make a detox tea also with licorice root and many other herbs. I am going to try this one right now….

  11. Tai

    I have been using licorice root for about three months now (in drop form). My clinical nutrionist put me on it for adreneal fatigue. It, along with some other supplements, has helped trememdously. I am glad it helps with inflammation as well, since I am a Celiac in the healing stages!

  12. Angie Halten @ blog.glutenfreeclub.com

    What a great article on Licorice Root. I didn’t realize all the benefits of using it. I’m in the throws of coughing and sneezing due to this miserable cold I have. I’m headed out today to get myself some Licorice Root. Thanks for the valuable info!

    Angie.

  13. Yes, I really like licorice for adrenal and hormone support. While I am not a huge fan of the flavor, I really find it very healing and balancing for hormones.

  14. donna

    i have wanted to try licorice because it would be good for SO many things for me…but i have read conflicting things about it interacting with drugs like blood thinners- which i, unfortunately have to take ( tho i am doing my own research on how to get off of them and do it naturally- it is taking time to get the info )…i have 5-6 herb books and they all say different things…do you know elana what is a dependable source of information on this? i am sure using it for a short time would not make a huge difference but i always like to be sure before i use an herb…i have been using them for years and if there is any doubt i just don’t use them…
    thanks!

  15. The Teenie Foodie @ theteeniefoodie.blogspot.com

    I LOVE liquorice, I could not live without it. I eat pure liquorice lozenges when I want something sweet and I find that they help with digestion after a meal.
    Have you ever tried liquorice tea with lavender? Its delicious! Also I like liquorice with fennel in tea to soothe the stomach.
    Great post elana, so glad to see liquorice becoming more popular. Its good for you and has a bonus natural sweetness.

  16. Shannon

    I made a tincture out of Licorice Root, and added several(7-10) drops per ounce to Castile soap for my bf’s dandruff.
    Licorice root is also great for your gums. I have tea bags of Licorice Spice that I drink a few times a week.

  17. Betty

    I have a question, Elana. I was told by my naturopath, who prescribed Baschetti’s powdered licorice teas, that I need to consume it with milk or the body would not absorb the licorice for adrenal health. He said if I could not tolerate dairy, a nutmilk would be the next choice. Have you heard of this? What are your thoughts? Thanks!

  18. Jackie

    Licorice is great, but for those with high blood pressure or any type of water retention problem (congestive heart failure, kidney disease), please exercise caution, as it can exacerbate these conditions. Generally when licorice is used, another medicinal which promotes urination is used also to ameliorate its effects. As a board-certified Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist, I’d recommend sporadic use only for people with those conditions.

  19. Thank you for reminding us about the healing qualities of this amazing herb. I used it for my severe blood sugar swings about ten years ago. I used this herb, along with Bach flower remedies, vegetable juices and meditation. I am free of hypoglycemia now but, I’m thinking I should use it again for all of the colds and coughs going around!

  20. Alisa Fleming @ alisacooks.com

    I hear you. The blizzards just hit here again, taking our alpine desert climate to even colder and drier conditions than usual.

    I’ve yet to try licorice tea, but really should. A friend told me that licorice mint tea is her absolute favorite.

  21. Tonya

    Where can you find Licorice root? I’ve never seen it at the store.

  22. Karen Schudson

    I appreciate your explanation about licorice root and especially the distinction between it and licorice candy. I often get fever blisters when I eat licorice candy. I’m wondering if anyone else has had this reaction. It’s seems counter intuitive to expect licorice root to do this also, since it builds resistance against viruses. Did anyone watch Dr. Oz’s show on natural hormones? Licorice root, I believe, was the top recommendation. Thank you to all who submitted their favorite uses of l.r.!

  23. delirium

    Licorice is one of those wonderful herbs that can be used so many ways! My jar of dried root and my bottle of tincture get pulled out for lots of reasons, many of which have already been mentioned here. BUt I wanted to mention 3 points I didn’t see so far:

    – One of my dancer friends used to brew licorice root, sweeten, and drink daily for the inflammation caused my her vigorous training.

    – When taking Licorice for the belly, many people need the “DGL” (deglycyrrhizinated) version. The glycyrrhizine naturally found in licorice is often irritating to sensitive stomachs, though helpful in other conditions. DGL licorice supplements, Slippery Elm, Horseradish supplements, and L-Glutamine were the only supplements that were helpful in healing my celiac gut (to get to the stage of pre- and pro-biotics helping) from extensive trying of *everything* (I’m lucky to have grown up in a “traditional medicine” house).

    – Modern, U.S. licorice, besides usally being not GF- friendly, is flavored with Anise (if it’s not flavored artificially- blech!) But the salty licorice and or the hard licorice bits enjoyed in other countries are sometimes GF and often flavored with real licorice: the salty licorice of the Scandinavian countries come to mind, as well as the Italian sweet-salty licorice TABU.

  24. I’ve been taking licorice all winter! It’s been awesome for sore throats, coughs, and coughs. I also use it in different blends, specifically for adrenal deficiency. Yogi Tea makes a really good Egyptian Licorice Mint that’s great for digestion as well!

  25. Hi! I’m excited to see a blog post about licorice root. I have Lupus and it is accompanied with Sjorgren Syndrome. Not sure if you’ve heard of Sjorgren Syndrome but it’s where your body fights against your own moisture glands. So, needless to say, I have very little saliva and tears.
    Although I was told to use licorice root for my Lupus as it helps with pain from the flare ups, I heard it’s suppose to work as a natural steroid?? I had no idea about it helping moisturize the body! I am overjoyed to hear this.
    I have yet to try it but I am SUPER excited to go out and get it now!

    Thank you so much for such an in-depth blog about it.

  26. Kate Costin

    Thanks for this great information. I love licorice root. I used to chew on long skinny ones as a child. I was blessed with lots of allergies, so I grew up eating really good quality food. In the last two years, I’ve been through some horrible circumstances and I found “Traditional Medicinals” licorice tea which tasted like my childhood licorice root. I like the pure taste. I didn’t realize that it was good for adrenals. I’m happy to know that. When we listen, our bodies seem to tell us what we need. At this time of year I want spring to hurry up and no amount of imported brocolli will give me what I crave. I make a salad of a huge amount of parsley, half that amount of cilantro, and half that amount of mint. I chop a little white onion into it and a diced english cucumber then the juice of a lemon. It is so refreshing. I like it with a tin of kippered herring and a soft boiled egg on top.

  27. Hi Elana!

    I drink one cup of licorice root tea every day for my hot flashes. It is amazing the difference it has made! While I can still have a hot flash here and there throughout a day, I use to have them many times a day all day long. I have never made my own though, I buy tea bags at my health food store.

  28. Melissa

    My naturopath suggested DGL for stomach aches and to help heal my intestines. It works really good on stomach pains. I love it.
    Oh how I miss black licorice candy.
    Melissa

  29. Mia

    Thank you for your informative post!

    I take Zagarese 100% licorice as my “breath mint”. I also use licorice root in my herbal tea.

  30. Noel

    My kids enjoy any herbal tea that contains licorice root b/c it adds a very nice sweetness.
    Nice to learn a few new things about it.
    And I just made some immune system boosting tea recently that contains licorice root — a recipe from a local ND — the tea contains echinacea root, licorice root, ginger root, astragalus root, burdock root,, elder berries, fennel seed, orange peel and rosehips.

  31. Christy

    I also use licorice root for sore throats. It works better and longer than chloroseptic spray any day!

  32. Meggs Hannes-Paterson

    Just a quick note. Be cautious with Liquorice. A friend of mine doing a detox program decided that he would drink liquorice tea as his substitute for coffee & alcohol. He ended up in hospital with a racing heartbeat. They put him on medication to slow it down. It was recommended that you don’t drink it with such gusto as he did! A cup or two a day rather than many cups. Cheerio, Meggs

  33. The Newlywed Chefs @ thenewlywedchefs.com

    Never used it- but how cool! We’ll have to try it soon.

  34. Lisa @ www.bakedinmaine.com @ bakedinmaine.com

    FABULOUS!!!!

    I’ve taken the Licorice capsules for a severe stomach upset. There is a more expensive version that you can buy that doesn’t raise the blood prssure.

    I can’t wait to make my own tea!!!

    Thanks!

    Lisa
    xox

  35. Georgia Pellegrini @ georgiapellegrini.com

    The healing properties of licorice root are fascinating. Thanks for the post

  36. Ruth

    I’ve recently discovered licorice root which I am taking for adrenal fatigue. I’ve always loved licorice but can no longer eat it due gluten & sugar intolerance. At present I am taking it in capsule form as well as drinking it in a tea which also contains fennel seeds, peppermint leaves & aniseed.

  37. Kedesh

    Thanks, Alana! This was very educational. Licorice root is now on my shopping list. YUM! x

  38. We use licorice root for acid reflux, usually. Good to know it works for sore throat, too!

  39. Not to forget that Liquorice root is also great for adrenal health and regulating cortisol production (which many of us struggle with now days) I love liquorice root tea in the afternoon, really clears the head and lifts the spirits. I have been told by people it has also helped with their sugar cravings when taken at night…..

  40. jodie @ jodiecope.com

    I am and acupuncturist and you are absolutely right licorice is used so much in Chinese Medicine. I love it for sore throats.

    If anyone is a little intimidated by the raw herb, Yogi Tea brand makes some lovely licorice teas. I carry bags in my purse all winter long, and it is so sweet that my daughter loves it too!

  41. ange

    I have indeed used licorice root to make tea; especially for sore throat. I also just enjoying drinking it as my beverage of choice, mostly in the winter. I do not recall ever including ginger in my brew; yet, I like ginger a lot. I expect I will be brewing ginger-licorice real soon.

  42. Pat

    I like slippery elm tea for sore throats. Really seeems to coat and sooth and of course the warm liquid is always nice on the throat. Have never tried licorice root, sounds great. Will write again once I find it.

  43. I need to brew some of that tea, I’m very dry! We’ve used licorace root powder with our kids for teething. Since it’s anti-inflammatory, helps swelling, numbs the gums and soothes the tummy. We called it “magic powder.” We’d either mix it with cold ice water or even cold liquid baby vit C and rub it on the gums.

  44. dominica

    keep these awesome informative posts coming!

  45. Elana, what an interesting and informative article. Thank you for sharing about Licorice. I’d love to try the ginger-licorice tea. I’ll have to see where I can get some root.

    Many, many moons ago I was was very interested in learning about the properties of herbs for good health, and did a paper in college about herbs in medicine.

    I’d use catnip for flatulence, real chamomile flowers for calmness, etc. The GNC store near where I lived used to sell real herbs in their natural form, so it was easy to acquire many of them. But they discontinued doing so, which made them harder for me to find at the time. That was back about 1981. I still have my books, though, and you’ve made me want to open them up again.

    Have a wonderful day,
    Marianne

  46. cynthia

    I drink yoga brand egyptian licorice tea which in conjunction with reishi mushrooms helps regulate an OVERACTIVE immune system. This overactive system has caused psoriasis in my case. Keep in mind that licorice root can affect your progesterone or estrogen levels so if you are a woman with ovarian cysts licorice root could irritate the condition.

  47. Daphne

    I had no idea about licorice root as a medicinal herb. I’d tasted licorice tea before and liked it, and for some reason I didn’t understand it felt soothing. It became my go-to tea if I felt punk. I suffer from ulcerative colitis, which has been well managed through medication as prescribed by my doctor. However, I still get occassional “flares” which I need to treat, which generally means additional traditional medication. For some reason, while I was treating a recent flare, I was craving licorice root tea, which I had run out of and I sent my husband to the store for it. I craved it, and with honey. I’m feeling much better, and I can’t say it’s because of the tea, but I am delighted to read that it is a digestive aid! Seems my craving was oddly prescient! I will continue to drink it daily!

  48. Ralph Russo

    Great site! Love your set up and wonderful content. Thanks!

  49. M

    It also feeds the adrenals. This is a major benefit that is worth mentioning.

  50. Krystina Poludnikiewicz

    Thought I’d just point out that Licorice can cause heart arrhythmias. It has been known to do so with consumption of tea as little as 5-6 cups/day x 2 days (however, concentration is unknown) and also with the consumption of the candy on a regular basis. here’s an article reference:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23703562
    Krystina

  51. Tom Bloodowrth

    I have just been diagnosed with Barrett’s Syndrome and have heard that Licorice may be beneficial for reversing or at least assisting in halting its progression.

    I would really love a response regarding this. Since my MD says you have it and that’s it, we’ll treat your symptoms/cause and hope to prevent it progression. He even said no diet change is needed!! Considering I’m about 60 pounds overweight I don’t think I can trust his judgment.

    Thanks for your efforts.

    TWB

    • Claire

      A friend of mine in his mid 80’s was diagnosed with Barrett’s disease. After researching, he started taking 2 ginger capsules 1/2 hour before lunch and 1/2 hour before dinner. In the afternoon, he would use DGL (licorice root), one in the afternoon and one after dinner. After one year of this, he had another test taken and the doctor said, there was no more sign of the Barrett’s disease and he said what ever you are doing, keep it up. He lived 6 years without this problem before passing at the age of 91. That also took care of his acid reflux and he could eat anything but best not to eat after dinner.

  52. Vanitha

    A friend of mine that is into healing mentioned it to me. So am researching it, looking for some help with my gout symptoms. It is not confirmed yet. But I have pain in all my joints.

  53. marlene

    Hi…I had a sore, uncomfortable throat for one yr due to silent reflux.
    I had several cups of tea with licorice root and slippery elm and I am 98percent better…some days 100percent! Imagine!

    I am a believer!

    Thanks for the info!

  54. Sara

    Hi! I have a daughter with tons of food allergies…wheat, milk, & eggs are the biggest ones. She has a BM once every couple of weeks. We are doing an elimination diet, but wanted to add things to it. I have the right kind of licorice root (450mg/capsule) and I have L-glutamine. What doses of these things should I give for her age and I was going to add in this for the aloe and help with constipation~
    http://www.amazon.com/Maximum-Living-MineralRich-fluid-ounces/dp/B00068OTE4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388615598&sr=8-1&keywords=mineral+rich+with+aloe

    We have used it before and it helped greatly. Does that sound ok?
    Thanks in advance!

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  56. Karrielinn

    Is it also true that licorice root also removes dark spots on skin? Or is that only black licorice root? Thank you for information.

  57. Janice Patterson

    I live in the Middle East. Here, the most common way of drinking licorice root is in the form of Erk Soos. About a cup of licorice (looks like dried grass), 1 tsp of baking soda, and a few tablespoons of water are rubbed together until everything is moist. This is put in a cloth (cheesecloth…or any other thin cloth). The cloth is tied together (to keep the contents from falling out) and submerged in a gallon of cold water and left for 8 hours or so. Remove the ‘licorice bag’ and discard. The resulting drink is called Erk Soos.

  58. Ian Johnson

    I use it for depression, anxiety, and a wonderful sweetener for my morning coffee. It literally saved me from suicide. I just wish it grew naturally where I live in northern Illinois.

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