Licorice has been used medicinally since the beginning of recorded time.
Licorice was found in King Tut’s tomb right next to his gold, jewelry and other treasures. Ancient Egyptians viewed licorice as a “cure-all, “ and as such it was very valuable.
In the 3rd century B,C Theophrastus determined licorice was good for coughs and all pectoral diseases.
In the Middle Ages, licorice was used for coughs, colds, respiratory ailments, as well as to treat digestive discomfort caused by highly spiced, overcooked, and contaminated meats. During the Middle Ages, licorice extract was considered equal to “the grains of Paradise.”
Licorice was so valuable that in 1305 King Edward 1 placed a tax on all licorice imports in order to help fund the repair of the London Bridge.
In the middle of the 15th century, licorice became a staple in Italian and German apothecaries. During the first year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 (1558) England began planting and growing its own licorice, instead of importing it form Spain and Italy.
Today, herbalists use licorice for a wide variety of things. Personally, I use licorice for any kind of respiratory problem. Licorice is an expectorant, so it makes it easier to cough out the gunk when you have a chest cold, bronchitis, or pneumonia. It’s also great for those tough head colds or allergies that leave you feeling like your head is so stuffed up it will explode. In those cases, licorice thins the mucus so it can drain.
Licorice root also contains a chemical that works in the body similarly to prednisone to reduce swelling and improve breathing in asthmatics. I have pretty severe asthma, if doctors had their way, I’d be taking prednisone or Medrol several times each year. But I haven’t taken prednisone or Medrol in more than 13 years because I use licorice instead.
You do have to be careful with licorice, though. It can increase blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure you absolutely should avoid licorice root unless you’re taking it in very small doses, and only occasionally.
Of course, as with any herb or supplement, always talk to your preferred health care provider before taking anything. And, as always, remember, I am not a doctor or a nurse. I’m a natural health consultant, and as such I don’t diagnose, treat, cure or recommend any treatment. I can only educate.