Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) was one of the most widely known medicines in ancient history, and records of its use include Assyrian tablets of around 2000 BC and Chinese herbals of the same period. It has long been used for both culinary and medical purposes.
Used for flavoring and sweetening candies and medical remedies, licorice also has potent effects of its own, particularly for ulcers and adrenal insufficiencies. Whole. It is also used for asthmatic coughs, as an antispasmodic and ulcer remedy, and to cool ‘hot’ conditions. The roots are unearthed in the autumn of the fourth season. It is grown in India, Spain, Iran, Russia, China & Italy.
Licorice contains an organic compound called glycyrrhizin which raises the body’s level of cortisol by inhibiting its breakdown. Full strength unaltered licorice extract is known to resemble cortisol, one of the hormones controlled by the adrenals. Because of this action, licorice acts as an adrenal stimulant and assists adrenal production by mimicking the actions of cortisol. Moreover, research suggests that glycyrrhizin increases the half-life of circulating cortisol in the body by inhibiting its metabolism and breakdown.
In one study, glycyrrhizin was shown to slow the clearance of cortisol in patients with adrenocortical insufficiency. Licorice also contains isoflavans, which have estrogen-like activity, and are thus involved in the modulation of hormonal activity. A 2004 Israeli study revealed that the phytoestrogens in licorice were beneficial in treating mild to moderate depression in pre- and postmenopausal women.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) has been associated with low adrenal function resulting from stress that impacts the adrenal glands. Licorice root has been shown to stimulate the adrenal glands and block the breakdown of active cortisol in the body.
Riccardo Baschetti of Padova, Italy, sent a letter to the New Zealand Medical Journal reporting his personal success in treating his own case of CFS with licorice root. If his theory is correct, it occurred to him that licorice consumption, which potentates glucocorticoid hormone action, might be useful in chronic fatigue syndrome. His CFS had persisted for 20 months with unsatisfactory results with various treatments. After a few days of taking licorice, his energy returned.