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Licorice or Mulethi is a medicinal herb which is used in various Ayurvedic medicines. Its underground stems and roots are used for medicinal purpose. It has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective properties.
Mulethi is useful in cough, sore throat, bronchitis, sexual weakness, skin problems, jaundice, hoarseness, vata dosha, ulcers etc. It has demulcent and expectorant properties.
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Liquorice, or licorice, (/ˈlɪk(ə)rɪʃ/ lik-(ə-)rish or /ˈlɪk(ə)rɪs/ lik-(ə-)ris) is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The liquorice plant is a legume native to southern Europe, India, and parts of Asia. It is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are sources of similar flavouring compounds. The word liquorice / licorice is derived (via the Old French licoresse) from the Greek γλυκύρριζα (glukurrhiza), meaning “sweet root”, from γλυκύς (glukus), “sweet” + ῥίζα (rhiza), “root”, the name provided by Dioscorides. It has been traditionally known and used as medicine in Ayurveda for rejuvenation. It is called asadhimadhuram (அதிமதுரம்) in Tamil, irattimadhuram in Malayalam, yastimadhu (यस्टिमधु) in Sanskrit, mulethi (मुलेठी) in Hindi, andjethimadh (જેઠીમધ) in Gujarati language.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), locally known as mulethi, has been revered for centuries as a medicinal herb in Ayurveda. Besides possessing numerous medicinal properties, it is also a popular flavoring herb as it is 50 times sweeter than sugar, due to the presence of a compound called glycyrrhizin.
Through research, the anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, analgesic (pain-relieving) and expectorant properties of this is sweet, moist herb have been established worldwide. It is also diuretic, rejuvenating and mildly laxative in nature. These properties have helped Licorice find a place in both Eastern and Western medicine for treating an array of ailments, ranging from cold and cough to arthritis, respiratory, digestive and liver problems.
The Sanskrit name for licorice is Yashtimadhu, which literally means “sweet root”. It is sweet, cool and heavy to digest. The Rasa (taste) of this herb is madhura (sweet), which makes it beneficial for vata and pitta doshas, while it’s Virya (action) is sheetal (cooling), which generally increases kapha when consumed in large doses over long term.
The medicinal property of mulethi is mainly because of the presence of powerful phytochemicals namely flavonoids, chalcones, saponins and xenoestrogens. Glycyrrhizin (salts of glycyrrhizic acid) is a popular saponin found in roots of mulethi that is responsible for the characteristic sweet taste (50 times more sweet than sugar) flavor. Liquiritin, licoﬂavonol, liquiritigenin, etc are the common chalcones that provide the distinct yellowish color to mulethi; while, the aroma of its root is mainly because of anethole. Here are the ten health benefits of mulethi:
Latin name: Glycyrrhiza glabra
Hindi: Mulhatti, Jethimadh, Mithilakdi
English: Sweetwood, Liquorice, Licorice
Gujrati: Jethi Madh
Malayalam: Itarttimadhuram, Erattimadhuram
Anti-microbial activity – Roots of mulethi are very effective in protecting against virus, bacteria and fungi due to the presence of Glycyrrhizin that blocks the microbial growth. The root extract possesses the power to control malaria (as per preliminary research), influenza and also helps in the treatment of herpes resulting in virus suppression and severity of sores.
Anti-inflammatory activity – Liquorice has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic activity and can be used to treat chronic inflammation like rheumatic problems & arthritis, skin diseases and autoimmune diseases. It is also used for preventing any inflammatory conditions related to eye and also to treat conjunctivitis with the help of glycyrrhizin activity that counteracts negative effects caused by cortisol.
Improves immunity – Root extracts of mulethi aids in increasing the production of lymphocytes and macrophage thereby improving your defense mechanism & preventing microbial attack. It also helps in minimizing immune related allergic reactions and autoimmune complications.
Memory improvement – Roots of licorice exert supportive effect on the adrenal gland and thus indirectly aid in stimulating the brain. It not only decreases the effects of amnesia & improves learning but its antioxidant property (mulethi contains flavonoids) renders a shielding effect on the brain cells.
Anti-ulcer activity – The potent antioxidant and anti-inflamatory properties of licorice makes it the best natural medicinal aid to treat ulcers of stomach, intestine and mouth. The compound carbenoxolone synthesized from glycyrrhizin plays key role in healing mouth and gastric ulcers along with reducing gastric secretions and promoting development of intestinal mucus lining.
Liver protection – Licorice is one of the most common traditional remedy used to treat jaundice. Its antioxidant property is the key for preventing your liver from the action of free radicals and toxic materials. This herb is also reported to exhibit protection against diclofenac induced toxicity and also, in inhibiting damage of liver.
Digestive aid – Roots of licorice are also used to deal with stomach and digestion problems with the help of glycyrrhizin and its compound, carbenoxolone. It is one of the ancient home remedies for relieving constipation, acidity, heartburn, stomach discomfort, inflammation of digestive system and gastro esophageal acid reflux. As a mild laxative, it plays an effective role in bowel movements and also for treatment of allergic cough in addition to maintaining normal pH levels.
Hormonal regulation – The phytoestrogenic compounds present in mulethi roots exert valuable action against women hormonal imbalance problems, menopause symptoms like hot flashes & exhaustion, mood swings, etc. It is also found to help in cortisol production and relieving premenstrual issues like nausea and menstrual cramps. Licorice powder acts as the traditional medicine for nursing mothers to regulate body hormones and aid in milk secretion.
Heart healthy effects – Research studies have proved that licorice roots help in controlling cholesterol levels by increasing the body’s flow of bile and also reducing high blood cholesterol levels. The anti-oxidant property of licorice acts in increasing the blood capillary health, reducing inflammation, prevents blood vessel damage and block development of arterial plaque.
Other effects – Licorice roots work wonders in treatment of depression, diabetes and respiratory tract infection like sore throat (hoarseness of voice), cold and cough, etc in addition to rendering effective skin benefits, oral hygiene and weight loss. It is found to act as a cancer cure remedy, a potent aphrodisiac and a powerful analgesic agent.
It is a herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 m in height, with pinnate leaves about 7–15 cm (3–6 in) long, with 9–17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8–1.2 cm (1/3 to 1/2 in) long, purple to pale whitish blue, produced in a loose inflorescence. The fruit is an oblong pod, 2–3 cm (1 in) long, containing several seeds. The roots are stoloniferous.
The scent of liquorice root comes from a complex and variable combination of compounds, of which anethole is up to 3% of total volatiles. Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, which has a sweet taste, 30–50 times the sweetness of sugar. The sweetness is very different from sugar, being less instant, tart, and lasting longer.
Cultivation and uses
Liquorice, which grows best in well-drained soils in deep valleys with full sun, is harvested in the autumn two to three years after planting. Countries producing liquorice include Iran, Afghanistan, the People’s Republic of China, Pakistan, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Turkey.
Licorice is available in various forms – root, powder and extracts. Licorice root can be chewed directly while licorice tea (prepared by boiling licorice root in water) is also extremely beneficial as a home remedy.
Daily intake of 5-6 grams of licorice powder is considered safe while 250-500 mg of concentrated extracts can be taken thrice a day. Unsupervised use in high doses is not recommended for long term. People with hypertension or heart disease, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid using licorice without prior consulation with an Ayurveda doctor.
The compound glycyrrhizin (or glycyrrhizic acid), found in liquorice, has been proposed as being useful for liver protection in tuberculosis therapy, but evidence does not support this use, which may in fact be harmful. Glycyrrhizin has also demonstrated antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, and blood pressure-increasing effects in vitro and in vivo, as is supported by the finding that intravenous glycyrrhizin (as if it is given orally very little of the original drug makes it into circulation) slows the progression of viral and autoimmune hepatitis. Liquorice has also demonstrated promising activity in one clinical trial, when applied topically, against atopic dermatitis. Additionally, liquorice has also proven itself effective in treating hyperlipidaemia (a high amount of fats in the blood). Liquorice has also demonstrated efficacy in treating inflammation-induced skin hyperpigmentation. Liquorice may also be useful in preventing neurodegenerative disorders and dental caries.
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