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Herb of the month (August): Liquorice

Embrace the sweetness before the storm this Autumn with Ayurveda's sweet healer Yasthimadhu

English Name: Liquorice/Licorice

Sanskrit/Hindi Name: Yasthimadhu/Maluthi/Jethimadhu

Botanical name: Glycyrrhiza glabra

Ayurveda's sweet healer

Yasthimadhus's story in Ayurveda

When we talk liquorice, most people think the chewy, black sweets you find in bag of Liquorice All Sorts. Although a tasty treat, there is actually so much more to discover about this incredible plant-based food stuffs. In fact, you might even be surprised to learn that the powdered root of the Glycyrrhiza Glabra has been used for thousands of years for its abundance of therapeutic effects and is actually a much-revered medicine in the ancient healing system of Ayurveda.

In Ayurveda, Liquorice is known as Yasthimadhu. The word Madhu is Sansrkit for 'honey' or 'sweetness' and Yasthimadhu's name pays homage to Liquorice's potent sweet taste. In modern nomenclature, Glycyrrhiza glabra also translates as "sweet root", aptly named as science now tells us that liquorice can be up to 50 times sweeter than sugar. According to Ayurveda, this sweetness is'n't just useful to flavour sweets or teas but, in fact, speaks volumes about its therapeutic effects and disease-pacifying capabilities.

In Ayurvedic healing, Liquorice's madhura (sweet) taste and guru (heavy) and sita (cooling) qualities are opposite to those of vata and pitta meaning they are able to balance to these dosha, aiding in the management of Vata and Pitta disorders by giving cooling, nutritive support to the mind and body. Liquorice has a particular affinity for and enhanced clinical effect on:

  1. Immune system (boosting the immune system)

  2. Endocrine system (support the rejuvenation of the adrenal glands and hormones)

  3. Digestive system (reducing excess acid in those with GERD)

  4. The respiratory system (including mouth and throat by moistening & encouraging purgation of phelgm)

  5. Skin and eyes (cooling and nourishing hot dry tissues)

  6. Kidneys and the pancreas (Improving blood sugar levels in diabetic patients)

The ultimate respiratory herb

Despite being heavy and sweet, Mulethi has potent expectorant properties, helping the lungs to cough up dry, thick or infected yellow sputum which can accumulate in the throat and lungs during a respiratory infection. Due to its antibacterial and immune-boosting (ojas promoting) properties, it also reduces the chance of succumbing to infection of upper respiratory tract such as the chest, throat, mouth and nose. Yasthi, being cooling, nutritive, and moisturising, also reduces throat irritation and helps in chronic cough, sore throat and dry mouth.

Adrenal rejuvenation

A less well known healing property of Yasthimadhu is its rejuvenative effects on Adrenal Glands. Glycyrrhiza glabra improves adrenal function and can be extremely beneficial for those who have previously taken steroids which suppress adrenal activity, often resulting adrenal insufficiency or those who have suffered from long-term adrenal fatigue. Liquorice assists the adrenal glands in recovering their natural functions and stimulates adrenal hormone production.

As Banyan Botanicals so eloquently say, Liquorice is:

Renowned for its excellent ability to nourish the lungs, soothe the throat, and revive the adrenals, liquorice has found its sweet spot in immune system support.

How it Yasthimadhu heals in Ayurveda

Ayurvedic qualities

Taste (Rasa): Sweet and Astringent

Qualities (Guna) - Heavy, cold

Potency (Virya) - Cold

Post-digestive effect (Vipaka) - Sweet

Dosha - Vata and pitta pacifying

Ayurvedic actions*:

- Anti-inflammatory (pittahara)

- Aphrodisiac (vajikarana)

- Clears and soothes skin disease (kusthagna)

- Heals fractures (Sandhaniya)

- Increases immunity (ojovardhana)

- Improves the voice (kanthya)

- Improves complexion (varnya)

- Increases strength (balya)

- Reduces blood sugar (premehagna)

- Reduces nausea (chardihara)

- Reduces itching (kandugna)

- Relieves burning sensation (dahaprasamana)

- Rejuvenater/longevity promoter (rasayana/sanjeevaniya)

- Supports weight loss (medohara)

- Supports the mind (medhya)

The benefits according to research

According to Healthline, there is evidence that Liquorice may be beneficial in:

  1. Skin conditions - Liquorice has strong antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects and studies have shown its effectiveness in managing acne and eczema

  2. Acid reflux - research suggest that using Liquorice greatly improves the symptoms of gastro-intestinal reflux and one study actually found that daily use of liquorice root was more effective at reducing symptoms over a 2-year period than common antacids

  3. Peptic Ulcer - Studies in both mice and humans indicate that Liquorice protected against H.Pylori infection/peptic ulcers more effectively than mainstream medicine (Omeprezole) and significantly reduced the presence of H.Pylori.

  4. Cancer - liquorice extract and its compounds have been linked to slowing (or preventing) cell growth in skin, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers and the topical film of liquorice has been found to be just as useful as standard treatment in reducing and preventing oral mucositis.

  5. Upper respiratory tract infection - Both root extract and tea have potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects which have been shown to aid upper respiratory conditions, asthma and strep throat.

  6. Diabetes - In a study in rats, daily intake of liquorice root extract resulted in significant improvements in blood sugar levels and kidney health. This effect has not been confirmed in humans however.

  7. Menopause - Although the evidence in limited, there are suggestions that Yasthimadhu is useful in treating hot flushes.

  8. Obesity - There is a growing (though currently small) body of evidence to suggest that Liquorice helps with weightless.

Scientific pharmacological action

Antacid, Anti-ulcerogenic, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-oxidant, Anti-Alzheimer’s, Anti-obesogenic, Anti-adipogenic, Anti-atherogenic, Anticancer, Anti-angiogenic (in cancer or tumors), Anti-proliferative (in cancer or tumors), Anti-asthmatic, Antibacterial, Adaptogenic, Analgesic, Anti-arthritic, Antidepressant, Antioxidant, Anti-stress, Antitussive, Aphrodisiac, Demulcent, Expectorant, Immuno-modulator, Mild estrogenic – It might influence estrogen level in women.

Contraindications/when not to use Yasthimadhu

Liquorice root overdose

Large doses (or chronic use) of liquorice can lead to an accumulation of the phtyo-chemical Glycyrrhizin in the body which can result in elevated cortisol and imbalanced in electrolyte levels, which can trigger the following symptoms:

  • low potassium levels

  • high blood pressure

  • muscle weakness

  • abnormal heart rhythms

Those with high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, or low potassium levels are encouraged to avoid Glycyrrhizin-containing liquorice products completely.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Too much liquorice during pregnancy (and Glycyrrhizin in particular) can affect the babies brain development so it is recommended to avoid consuming Glycyrrhizin-containing liquorice products at this time.

Drug interactions

Liquorice root has been shown to interact with several medications, including:

  • Blood pressure medications

  • Blood thinners

  • Cholesterol lowering medications, including statins

  • Diuretics

  • Estrogen-based contraceptives

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

  • These may include Warfarin (Coumadin) Digoxin (Lanoxin), Ethacrynic Acid (Edecrin), Furosemide (Lasix), Cytochrome P450 2B6 (CYP2B6) substrates

People taking any of these medications should avoid liquorice root products unless their healthcare provider instructs otherwise.

Using Yasthimadhu

How can I add Amalaki to my diet/lifestyle?

On its own, Yasthimadhu can be added to hot water to make a tea, added to other teas for sweetness, added to milk, combined with honey to make a throat tonic or used to make a herbal ghee.

Liquorice extract, root powder or tincture combine well with ginger for enhanced digestive and respiratory system support or with cardamom and clove as a tonic for teeth. Pairing well with other rejuvinative/immuno-modulator herbs such as Ashwagandha and Shatavari, Meluthi increases immune strength and energy levels.

Also, a little more fun, Yasthimadhu can also be mixed with actual madhu (honey) to make a wonderful skin nourishing face-pack.

AyurLife UK Approved Brands of Liquorice

EATING Ayurveda: 🎃Need inspiration on what to cook in Autumn? Check out our Autumn Recipes here

Living Ayurveda: 🎃Do you want to know how to stay health and well this Autumn? Check out our Autumn Lifestyle tips here

LEARNING Ayurveda: Do you want to learn more about Ayurveda? Want to know about your mind body type and imbalances, your Agni (digestive fire) type, the best daily and seasonal routines for you, how to detox and your mind type? Join our next Introduction to Ayurveda for Self-Healing Course.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food Standards Agency. AyurLife UK advice is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this website is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information pertaining to your personal needs please see a qualified health practitioner.

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