Do you know your liquorice root from your licorice root? I want to let you into a little secret. Liquorice is one of mother natures best natural remedies treating many conditions. I should know you see my other job is being the “Liquorice Man.”
A short history of liquorice
I have officially been the liquorice man for the last 26 years. It is an official term of endearment bestowed upon me from colleagues and fellow traders for being the first fool to specialise in liquorice retail in the UK Festival industry. At festivals like Glastonbury and Womad, to name a few. “Alright liquorice, what are you drinking?”, where’s the rest of the crew? A standard greeting at the traders’ bar. I set up Saint Valentines Liquorice Company in 1994, and I still work in it every day. I have become something of an expert in the field, pardon the pun.
A long history of liquorice root
On a sunny hot day in June 2006, the tractor with its modified plough cut through the roots and stolons in neat rows of liquorice plants. Now the pickers could harvest the produce of 9 months of rapid growth, in organic Calabrian soil. And this harvest is the best liquorice root, Calabria has a long history in producing liquorice containing the highest contents of Glycyrrhizin. I was here to visit a company that processes and “cooks” liquorice to provide liquorice extract. And this compound has far-reaching health benefits, used in allopathic & herbal medicine.
A world history of liquorice root
Glycyrrhiza glabra (family Fabaceae), commonly known as liquorice, is a herbaceous perennial and has been used as a flavouring agent in foods and medicinal remedies for thousands of years. Liquorice root has been widely used around the world to treat cough since ancient times. It contains active compounds, including Glycyrrhizin, glycyrrhetinic acid, flavonoids, isoflavonoids, and chalcones. Glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid are considered to be the main active components and are potent inhibitors of cortisol metabolism, due to their steroid-like structures. The root of this plant has been used for cough, colds, asthma, and COPD (Ram et al., 2011).
A long history of healing, is it relevant today?
Liquorice root has become the go-to remedy if anyone in our family gets a cold, sore throat or cough. We have found, from twenty-five years of using it that it gives us great relief and comfort. Recently I was looking through an excellent book on herbal remedies called The Green Pharmacy by James A. Duke PhD. in which he shares a long list of uses, (often combined with other medicinal plants).
For preventing tooth decay, it contains the compound Indole.
For smoking cessation: based on replacing the oral habit of smoking a cigarette with sucking a liquorice root.
Natural Liquorice uses:
chronic fatigue syndrome,
colds and flu,
It was the treatment of viral infections which most interested me right now, what follows is the author’s advice.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza Glabra). Among its many other medicinal uses, liquorice is active against many types of viral infections. One of it’s eight active antiviral compounds, Glycyrrhizin, inhibits several processes involved in virus replication, among them penetration of the body’s cells and replication of genetic material.
Dr Duke goes on to advise, quite simply,
You could try a tea made by adding a few teaspoons of chopped dried root per cup of boiling water; steep for about ten minutes.James A. Duke PhD
If you’re getting a taste for this and want to study this subject in-depth, check-out ‘Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections, by the highly respected herbologist Stephen Harrod Buhner. I also came across a blog (COVID-19 Natural Prevention) by the esteemed doctor and herbologist Aviva Romm MD where she shares facts and inspiration.
The conclusion I came to is that liquorice’s history, over millennia as a potent anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antiviral remedy remains extremely valuable. It is very soothing and healing for irritated tissue, not just the lungs but digestive tissue; it can be used on its own or along with other healing herbs to create effective remedies in your own home.
After a few years of being the liquorice man, I needed something more in my life, and that became yoga. We used to tell a little story that I met an old yoga guru in India who advised me to live a happy and fulfilled life to meditate daily and chew a stick of liquorice. Well, it’s true, and I practice and teach yoga as much as I can. I would encourage you to make the liquorice root tea, and sit still, somewhere comfortable and listen to your breath. Tune into the natural biorhythms that you, as an organism, are. Notice everything.
Liquorice Root Tea
Liquorice root, it is what we’re taking, daily and under the current circumstances with a little more belief that it can help you stay healthy. And I wouldn’t be the liquorice man without telling you that you can buy liquorice root in my yoga shop now.
Liquorice Root Tea
- Kettle or sauce pan
- 1 stick liquorice root stick
- 2 cups boiling water
- You don't have to peel off the bark however we like to. It tastes just as good hot or coldLike all powerful natural remedies Liquorice and it's extracts need to be treated with respect and are safe when used in mindful quantities, e.g up to 1 teacup a day
- Prepare the liquorice root stick
- Take one Liquorice root and shave off the bark; (you don't have to, but the bark can add a slightly bitter taste). This can be quite a messy process, therefore it's nice to do outside if you can, while you have a few deep breaths of fresh air.
- Cutting the liquorice root
- Use garden secateurs or strong kitchen scissors to split and chop the root in 2-4 cm lengths. You can split them lengthways first by tapping the blade of a knife (like an axe splits wood) until they split.
- Boil water and simmer the Liquorice Root tea
- Pop half the root, plus any powder or little bits into a pan with 450ml of water. Simmer gently for approximately 6 minutes. A clue to it being ready is the sweet aroma filling your nostrils.
- You may want to strain the brew before you serve it. No need to add anything to this sweet and vitalising drink. Liquorice tea is also great cold. Leave to cool and serve on a hot day with ice.