Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
According to herbalists, licorice is one of the
two or three most important herbs in the world. To the Chinese, there is no other herb that acts on such a grand scale except, perhaps, ginseng. Licorice root is found in more medicinal combinations in Chinese Medicine than any other herb including ginseng. Chinese consider it the key to health.
Glycyrrhetinic acid (GLA} is a major constituent of licorice root that is responsible for its therapeutic benefits.
GLA stimulates the immunosuppressive property of cortisone, while exhibiting an immunosuppressive action of its own.
Whole licorice root potentiates immune activity when necessary and also suppresses it when needed. It acts as a tonic or adaptogen in this respect. (1)
Licorice root activates and mimics interferon.
Licorice root has a potentiating effect on the reticuloendothelial system, the first line of defense against micro-organisms. (2)
Glycyrrhizin (GL), a constituent of licorice, and, to a lesser extent, GLA have been found to induce interferon production in mice.
Glycyrrhizic acid, at concentrations well tolerated by uninfected cells, inhibits both growth and cytopathic effect of vaccinia, herpes simplex, Newcastle disease, and vesicular stomatitis viruses while being ineffective on poliovirus. Scientists suggest that the action of GLA on virus structures depends on the viral stage affected. (3)
GLA inactivates free virus particles,
GLA prevents intracellular uncoating of infecting particles.
GLA impairs the assembling ability of virus structural components.
Tinctures of licorice showed reproducible antimicrobial activity in vitro against Staphlyococcus aureus, Mycobacterium smegmatis and Candida
Persons with a history of hypertension, renal failure, or the current use of cardiac glycosides, should avoid licorice root.
1. Takagi, K., Watanabe, K. and Ishi, Y. "Peptic ulcer inhibiting activity of licorice root." Proc. Int. Pharmacol. Meeting 7(2), 1-15, 1965.
2. Tomoda, M. et al. "Characterization of two polysaccharides having activity on the reticuloendothelial system from the root of glycyrrhiza uralensis." Chem. Pharm. Bull., 38(6), 1667- 1671,1990.
3. Pompei, R. et al. "Antiviral activity of glycyrrhizic acid" Experientia, 36, 304, 1980.
4. Mitscher, L.A., et al. "Antimicrobial agents from higher plants. Antimicrobial isoflavonoids and related substances from glycyrrhiza glabra L. var. typica." J. Natural Products, 43(2), 259-269, 1980.