Liquorice is a popular flavouring agent. It is a tall, erect herb, growing upto about 1.5 metres in height. It has compound leaves, lilac or light violet flowers, flat fruit and is densely covered with small spinous outgrowths. The dried roots and underground stems or rhizomes of the plant constitute the drug.
Liquorice has been known to pharmacists for thousands of years. In ancient Chinese pharmacy, it was used for its rejuvenating properties especially when 'used for long periods. It was used to quench thirst, alleviate feverishness, pain, cough and distress of breathing.
Liquorice plays an important part in Ayurvedic system of medicine and is one of the principal drugs mentioned by Susruta.
Liquorice is cultivated in southern Europe, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Greece and Russia. Large quantities of these roots are annually imported in India, though it is also cultivated in north?west parts of the country. The herb contains glycyrrhizin, glycyrrhizic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid.
The root of the plant is a laxative and expectorant. When externally used it has a soothing effect on the skin. Powdered liquorice is very popular in allopathic medicine.
Liquorice is an excellent remedy for relieving pain, discomfort and other symptoms caused by acrid matter in the stomach. It should be taken in powder form.
The herb is a recognized home remedy for sore throat. A small piece of raw liquorice if chewed or sucked, provides relief by soothing the inflammation.
Lubricating the throat with a decoction of liquorice mixed with honey brings relief in dry cough.
Liquorice is used in the treatment of myopia. Half a teaspoon of the powder of the root, mixed with an equal amount of honey and half the quantity of glue, can be given twice daily with milk on an empty stomach in this case.
Liquorice is also used as a laxative in constipation. Its Powder is taken with jaggery and water in this condition.
Liquorice is very effective in treating pain due to stomach ulcers, as it soothes the irritation caused by acids. Pieces of the dried root soaked overnight in water and the infusion taken with rice gruel helps in the cure of ulcers. Even allopathic physicians use liquorice for treating ulcers.
Liquorice alleviates muscular pains. Taking an infusion of the roots soaked overnight relieves any chronic joint problems.
The sticks of dried rhizomes are soaked in water and the infusion used as a gargle brings quick relief in oral inflammations. Tiny bits of the stick with sugar-candy can also be sucked.
The herb is effective in treating patchy baldness. Small pieces of the root are ground in milk with a pinch of saffron to a paste. When this paste is applied over the bald patches at bedtime regularly, hair growth is seen within a few weeks. This prescription is very effective in the initial stages of baldness, excessive hair loss and dandruff.
Liquorice powder mixed with butter or ghee and honey, can be applied on cuts and wounds with good results. The leaves of the plant, applied as a poultice, is a useful remedy in scalds of the head and body.
The herb heals corns which are just appearing. A paste of liquorice sticks mixed with sesame or mustard oil, if rubbed into the hardened skin at bed time softens the skin and the com decreases in size.
Precautions: Continuous and uninterrupted use of liquorice in the treatment of stomach ulcer is not advisable as it may cause increase in weight and puffiness of body. It should also be avoided in pregnancy and in heart and kidney conditions.