Herb: Liquorice

Latin name: Glycyrrhiza glabra

Synonyms: Glycyrrhiza glandulifera

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Liquorice:

Liquorice his one of the most commonly used herbs in Western herbal medicine and has a very long history of use, both as a medicine and also as a flavouring to disguise the unpleasant flavour of other medications. It is a very sweet, moist, soothing herb that detoxifies and protects the liver and is also powerfully anti-inflammatory, being used in conditions as varied as arthritis and mouth ulcers. The root is alterative, antispasmodic, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, laxative, moderately pectoral and tonic. The root has also been shown to have a hormonal effect similar to the ovarian hormone. Liquorice root is much used in cough medicines and also in the treatment of catarrhal infections of the urinary tract. It is taken internally in the treatment of Addison's disease, asthma, bronchitis, coughs, peptic ulcer, arthritis, allergic complaints and following steroidal therapy. It should be used in moderation and should not be prescribed for pregnant women or people with high blood pressure, kidney disease or taking digoxin-based medication. Prolonged usage raises the blood pressure and causes water retention. See also the notes above on toxicity. Externally, the root is used in the treatment of herpes, eczema and shingles. The root is harvested in the autumn when 3 - 4 years old and is dried for later use.

Description of the plant:


120 cm
(4 feet)

to July


Habitat of the herb:

Dry open places, especially in sandy places near the sea.

Edible parts of Liquorice:

Root - raw or used as a flavouring. The source of liquorice powder that is extracted and used in sweets, baked goods, ice cream, soft drinks etc, it is also used medicinally. A sweet and delicious flavour, but the root is very fibrous. The root contains glycyrrhizin, a substance that is 50 times sweeter than sucrose. The dried root is often used for chewing, it is excellent for teething children and also as a tooth cleaner. A tea made from the roots is an excellent thirst quencher. The powdered root is also used as a sweetener in other herb teas. The leaves are used as a tea substitute in Mongolia.

Other uses of the herb:

The plant yields a substance that is used for etching steel sections in photomicrographic work. Extracts from the root are used as a foaming agent in beers and fire extinguishers. A fibre obtained from the roots is used for insulation, wallboard, boxboard etc. The fibres can be used after the medicinal and flavouring constituents of the root have been removed.

Propagation of Liquorice:

Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow spring or autumn in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and grow them on for their first winter in a greenhouse. Plant out in late spring or early summer when in active growth. Plants are rather slow to grow from seed. Division of the root in spring or autumn. Each division must have at least one growth bud. Autumn divisions can either be replanted immediately or stored in clamps until the spring and then be planted out. It is best to pt up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a cold frame until they are established before planting them out in the spring or summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry open places, especially in sandy places near the sea.

Known hazards of Glycyrrhiza glabra:

A gross overdose of the root can cause oedema, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.