Celebrate the healing powers of licorice root on National Licorice Day

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

April 12th is National Licorice Day and, while tasty, licorice is also recognized in the medical community as a powerful healing herb.

Many people think of licorice only as a chewy red or black candy, perfect for movie viewing. However, the licorice plant is a shrub. It grows to approximately four feet in height, and has purple flowers. It does best in hot, dry climates, and is actually officially recognized as a weed. The roots of the licorice plant are the source of the familiar flavor so many people love today. According to Licorice International, modern science, including research from Rutgers and the State University of New Jersey, has supported the use of licorice in the treatment of both prostate and breast cancers.

People have been using and enjoying licorice for centuries. Licorice is not only tasty, but licorice root is recognized as one of the most popular herbs in the world, long used for medicinal purposes. Egyptian hieroglyphics indicate that licorice teas were popular, and volumes of the herb were found in King Tut’s tomb. Manuscripts from 360 A.D. have been found that refer to licorice as a treatment for eye ailments, skin diseases, coughs, even hair loss. And, since the 14th century, licorice has been recognized as relieving coughs, colds and bronchitis.

Licorice is said to stimulate mucus production, and helps in the loosening of phlegm and cough suppression, making it a good choice for respiratory ailments. It is also said to help with stomach ailments, such as heartburn, indigestion and ulcers. However, taking too much licorice can have negative effects on one’s health, warns Licorice International. Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have eaten so much licorice during battle, his teeth literally turned black. People with high blood pressure, glaucoma, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or those who have had a stroke or heart attack are advised against consuming too much licorice. And, licorice can actually interfere with the effectiveness of some commercial medications. As with any herb, it is advisable to seek advice from a doctor before making licorice a regular part of one’s diet, especially when considering taking it at medicinal levels.

Licorice candy of today has its roots in 17th century Holland. Sailors took the candy from their homeland to areas across Europe, and its popularity was recognized and multiplied. Licorice candy is manufactured throughout modern-day Europe, Australia and the United States. Today's candy typically contains very little actual licorice, and often licorice-flavored foods contain no licorice whatsoever. Anise seed is often used in the U.S. as a substitute for licorice flavoring, although it is not related to the licorice plant.

For more information about licorice, visit Licorice International online.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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