Liquorice is one of those childhood flavours; as children we used to have liquorice cigarettes, pipes and straws to suck powdered sherbet into our mouths with. Sticky black mouths and hands had to be washed after eating it. Now we know that the root from whence the sweet came from is actually good for us.
   It is native to south-west Asia and Iran and to south east Europe. It was cultivated in Britain extensively and much used in medicine.
   The name Glycyrrhiza comes from the Greek, glukos meaning sweet and rhiza meaning root. It has been used in medicine for millennia, as the Greeks were taught its properties by the Scythians, and Hippocrates valued it for its uses for dropsy, asthma, dry coughs and respiratory problems, as did Dioscorides. The name liquorice comes from the 13th century name for the plant, Lycorys, and in Welsh it was Lacris (and still is). Pliny referred to it as Radix dulcis (sweet root) but doesn’t say that it grew in Italy. It has been used in medicine since at least the 11th century in Britain and by that time it was also well-known in Germany. It was cultivated in Bologna in the 13th century according to the writings of Piero de Cresenzi. Gerard mentions that he had it in his garden, and Culpeper writes about it in this way: - “It is planted in fields and gardens in divers places of this land and thereof good profit is made.” It is an official medicine in all pharmacopoeias although different genuses are listed.
   Apart from its medicinal uses it was used by brewers to make their stout black, to add flavour and give the drink thickness. The crushed root from which the juice has been extracted can be used as chemical wood pulp. In Britain Pontefract or Pomfrey cakes are famously made with liquorice.
  In traditional medicine on the Indian subcontinent, Mulethi ki jar, or yashtimadu has been used for centuries to treat a number of complaints. The root powder, mixed with ghee will take the stinging pain from cuts with a sharp metal instrument, and glycyrrhizetic acid is used in ointments for skin disorders as it is an anti-inflammatory. As a cosmetic it is used in some skin preparations to make the complexion whiter. It is also believed that it will make hair stronger, shinier and blacker. It is believed that preparations of the root will increase bodily strength and improve the complexion, and it can improve the cognitive processes such as memory and analytical abilities. Because it can increase appetite it is used for weight loss associated with debilitating illnesses and anorexia. It is also thought to be a rejuvenator for the eyes.
   They say it increases libido and cures erectile dysfunctions, premature ejaculation and increases sperm volume and fertility. However one modern medical trial has suggested that while it may reduce hirsuteness in women and reduce other forms of androgenization experienced by women, especially after the menopause, it might adversely affect men’s testosterone levels. So best not take this if you are male- try Safed Musli or Brahmi instead.
   It is mainly used to treat coughs, respiratory disorders, as a digestive aid, soothe peptic ulcers, (modern medical trials concur with this) and to treat liver diseases and stomach aches as well as menstrual cramps.
    If you are trying to give up smoking, chew a piece of the root instead of having a ciggie. Chewing the root also stops you feeling thirsty.
   Medical trials on the efficacy of licorice root are still underway but indications are that if taken with a chemotherapy drug such as docetaxel, it will inhibit the growth of tumour cells in men suffering with prostate cancer. Glycyrrhizin extracted from the root helps the body fight life-threatening antibiotic-resistant infections that can arise in patients with severe burns. An injected extract can also treat hepatitis C and there is some evidence that it might reduce tooth cavities.
   You should avoid it if pregnant or breast feeding, if you are taking diuretics or corticosteroids, or any other medication that reduces the potassium levels in the body. Don’t take it if you have high blood pressure or heart disease. Consult your doctor before using any herbal treatments.

1 oz bruised root, bark removed
1 pt water

Put the liquorice root in the water and bring to the boil. Let it boil for 3-5 minutes. Remove the root and drink to relieve a sore throat.

1 oz liquorice root, chopped after removing the bark
100 gr raisins
4 pints water
100 gr gur or jaggery
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar

Put all the liquorice root and raisins into the water and bring to the boil. Allow the water to reduce by half. Add the gur (jaggery) and the lemon juice. Stir to mix and until the sugar has dissolved. Drink half a pint before going to bed and this should relieve coughs. If the cough is annoying take a little more of this tisane.
 This has Taste and is a Treat.


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