Licorice root is considered a harmonizer, or an herb that brings the properties of other herbs together in a formula. “In ancient Greek glukos means ‘sweet’ and riza means ‘root.” So the latin name for this plant is derived from the Greek words meaning ‘sweet root.” (Source: Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief) It is an herb that is considered supportive for individuals who have low cortisol
Benefits of Licorice
This adaptogen is considered helpful for:
- adapting to stress (source)
- learning and memory (source)
- balancing hormones (source)
- immune support (source)
- soothing a sore throat (which is why I use it in this throat spray recipe)
Is licorice safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
Licorice is a Class 2B/2D safety herb according to the Botanical Safety Handbook: 2nd Edition, which means it is not recommended during pregnancy unless under healthcare provider supervision. There are no known contraindications for breastfeeding. For a more in-depth discussion of opinions regarding the use of adaptogens during pregnancy/breastfeeding, see this post.
Are there any other safety considerations?
In Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism, clinical herbalist Donald Yance writes that:
Caution is advised for people who have hypertension and are prone to fluid retention. Licorice, at high doses . . . can exacerbate or induce fluid retention, raising blood pressure.
. . . In other words, people who are salt-sensitive and who retain fluid when consuming too much salt can be prone to water retention and thus hypersensitive to the effects of high-dose licorice. These persons should avoid licorice; however, in the typically low percentages in which it is included in most formulations there is no need to be concerned.
. . . Licorice is traditionally used in formulations involving other herbs, not as a single herb.Taken within the recommended therapeutic dosage range, it is very safe.”
Ethnobotanist David Winston and herbal expert Steven Maimes, who co-authored Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, agree, saying that:
The key to using licorice safely is to use small amounts combined with other herbs. This is how it is usually used in Chinese and has been used safely for millenia.” (Source: Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief)
How much is recommended?
Adaptogens are herbs rather than pharmaceutical drugs, so there are no dosages. However, herbalists do share knowledge about what methods of consumption seem to produce a beneficial effect for most people.
In Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, ethnobotanist David Winston and herbal expert Steven Maimes recommend the following:
- For a 1:5 tincture – which is 1 ounce dried licorice root by weight, mixed with 5 ounces of 60 proof or higher alcohol and allowed to infuse for six to eight weeks – 10-20 drops, three times per day. Another option is to purchase pre-made licorice root tincture and follow the instructions on the label after talking with your healthcare provider.
- As a decoction – Add 1/2 teaspoon dried licorice root to 8 ounces water and simmer on very low for about 10-15 minutes, then let infuse for an additional 10-15 minutes. Drink up to 4 ounces twice per day.
- Tablets – “A preparation known as DGL licorice has most of licorice’s benefits without the risk of elevated blood pressure . . . Take one 200-300 mg chewable tablet before meals (3 times per day.”
As always, please check with your healthcare provider before using any herbal remedy.