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Licorice

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Glycyrrhiza glabra L, G. uralensis Fisch. G. ex DC,G. pallidiflora Maxim
Family: Leguminosae

COMMON NAME(S): Licorice, Spanish licorice, Russian licorice

Licorice Root has a long history of use by cultures throughout the world, including the Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and Hindus. It grows wild in southern and central Europe and is extensively cultivated in Russia, Spain, Persia and India. Licorice was so valued in ancient Egypt that even King Tutankhamen was buried with a supply. Licorice is widely used as a flavoring, not only for candy (although most modern licorice candies are flavored with anise) but also in cough drops, syrups, tonics and laxatives.

History

Therapeutic use of licorice dates back to the Roman Empire. Hippocrates and Theophratus extolled its uses, and Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23) recommended it as an expectorant and carminative. Licorice also figures prominently in Chinese herbal medicine as a "drug of first class" - an agent that exerts godly influence on the body and lengthens life. Licorice is used in modem medicinals chiefly as a flavoring agent that masks bitter agents, such as quinine, and in cough and cold preparations for its expectorant activity.

Botany :- Glycyrrhiza glabra is a 1.2 to 1.5 m shrub that grows in subtropical climates with rich soil. The name "glycyrrhiza" is derived from Greek words meaning "sweet roots." The roots are harvested to produce licorice. Most commercial licorice is extracted from varieties of G. glabra. The most common variety, G. glabra var. typica (Spanish licorice), has blue flowers, and G. glabra var. glandulifera (Russian licorice) has violet blossoms. Turkey , Greece , and Asia Minor supply most commercial licorice.

Uses of Licorice

Used historically for gastrointestinal complaints, licorice is used today as a flavoring and in shampoos.

In Chinese medicine it is used to revitalize the heart, while treating palpitations, strengthening the spleen and lungs - specially for wheezing, easing respiratory illnesses, coughing and phlegm while also protecting the stomach.

Another plus point for licorice is the useful effect it may have with minor menstrual problems and menopause, since it exerts a mild estrogenic effect.

Creams made from licorice have a calming effect on the skin and is useful in eczema.

Side Effects of Licorice

Licorice products that include glycyrrhizin may increase blood pressure and cause water retention . Large amounts of licorice taken daily for a long time can cause a range of side effects from lethargy to quadriplegia (body paralysis). Do not over-consume licorice.

Dosage

Licorice can be taken in the following forms:

  • Dried root: 1 to 5 g three times per day as decoction
  • Tincture: 2 to 4 mL three times per day
  • DGL extract: 0.4 to 1.6 g three times per day for peptic ulcer; in chewable tablet form 300 to 400 mg 20 minutes before meals for peptic ulcer
For sore throat treatment in older children, a piece of licorice root may be chewed or licorice tea may be used. The appropriate dose of tea for a child should be determined by adjusting the recommended adult dose to account for the child's weight. Most herbal dosages for adults are calculated on the basis of a 150 lb (70 kg) adult. Therefore, if the child weighs 50 lb (20-25 kg), the appropriate dose of licorice for this child would be 1/3 of the adult dosage.
Toxicology

The toxic manifestations of excess licorice ingestion are well documented. One case documented the ingestion of 30 to 40 g of licorice/day for 9 months as a diet food. The subject became increasingly lethargic with flaccid weakness and dulled reflexes. She also suffered from hypokalemia and myoglobinuria. Treatment with potassium supplements reversed her symptoms. Excessive licorice intake can result in sodium and fluid retention, hypertension, and inhibition of the reninangiotensin system.

After consuming large amounts of licorice, human intoxication with aldosterone­like effects was found.

A 70-year-old patient with hypertension and hypokalemia caused by chronic licorice intoxication in excess of approximately 80 candies (each having 0.3 glycyrrhizic acid) a day for 4 to 5 years, discontinued use 1 week before hospital admission. After discontinuing licorice and monitoring a treatment plan including licorice, the activity of 11-B­hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase was suppressed when the patient had been without licorice, but the 11-B-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase increased as the levels of urinary glycyrrhetic acid decreased.

Other documented complications include paraparesis, hypertensive encephalopathy, and one case of quadriplegia. Products that contain licorice as a flavoring, such as chewing tobacco, have also been implicated in cases of toxicity. Hypersensitivity reactions to glycyrrhiza containing products have also been noted.

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