Liquorice has been called “the grandfather of herbs” and indeed has been used medicinally since at least 500BC, being first passed over from the Scythians to the Greeks, referred to by the philosopher/physician Theophrastus of Lesbos in the third century BC.
The primary uses of this herb have not changed since those days. Liquorice is still primarily employed by herbalists for colds and flu, bronchial disorders, emphysaema and less recently to loosen and expel “wet” materials from the lungs in tuberculosis.
It is a sad fact that most of us these days only know Liquorice in its synthesised form as pharmaceutical cough medicines or imitated in sweets by aniseed oil. Real Liqourice root, boiled in water and left to harden into sticks as enjoyed by the older generations of Australians, is a real treat to the taste buds and will stain the tongue a yellowy-black as a mark of its authenticity. This old fashioned “sweet”, which was instinctively enjoyed by children, also has a very strong tonic effect on the adrenal glands and has been used as such therapeutically for diabetics suffering from adrenal exhaustion and accompanying fluid retention.
As we edge closer to winter, real Liquorice could be a timely addition to the many sweet treats that Australian families will enjoy around Easter. Not only protective against colds and flu, but also providing a much needed energy boost for those trying to keep up with the kids during the school holidays.
Real Liqourice is a little hard to come by these days, however, the solidified extract can still be purchased in sticks, from health food stores and herbal apothecaries, and you will find the real thing is well worth looking for.r
Luke Hughes is a Classical Western herbalist.