Lesson 1: Licorice Root

Liquorice is an extract from the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant which contains glycyrrhizic acid, or GZA. GZA is made of one molecule of glycyrrhetinic acid and two molecules of glucuronic acid. The extracts from the root of the plant can also be referred to as liquorice, sweet root, and glycyrrhiza extract. Licorice is an herbal extract derived from the root of the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra with potential anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antineoplastic activities. Licorice root extract contains glycoside glycyrrhizinic acid and numerous flavonoids. Glycyrrhizinic acid in licorice root extract is hydrolyzed to glycyrrhetic acid (GA); GA inhibits 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, resulting in inhibition of the conversion of cortisol to the inactive steroid cortisone and elevated cortisol levels. In addition, GA inhibits 17,20-lyase and 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, resulting in decreased conversions of 17-hydroxyprogesterone to androstenedione and androstenedione to testosterone. The primary antioxidant found in licorice root, the flavonoid glabridin, may inactivate or inhibit the activities of some cytochrome P450 enzymes. In tumor cells, beta-hydroxy-DHP, another flavonoid, may induce Bcl-2 phosphorylation, apoptosis, and G2/M cell cycle arrest.

Modern medicine supports the healing properties of licorice as an effective anti-inflammatory for soothing mucus membranes in the airways. In addition, a lozenge of medically effective licorice has an emollient-promoting effect insofar as it dissolves tough mucus in the lungs and bronchi. In addition to traditional medicinal uses for coughs and respiratory inflammation, recent research suggests that licorice can have a dampening affect on the cold and flu viruses as well as other more chronic viruses. Over the last 20 years, the Japanese have embraced the health benefits of licorice root. The Japanese use licorice root to treat symptoms related to chronic hepatitis C. Modern evidence suggests that regular treatment using licorice root extract (often in the form of injections) serves as anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antiallergic drug for liver disease, particularly when combined with appropriate treatment.

The antiviral effect is attributed to Glycyrrhizic acid, a triterpene glycoside found in the roots of licorice plants. Glycyrrhizic acid is the primary active ingredient in the licorice root. The antiviral properties of licorice root are well-documented. In 1977 scientists discovered that Glycyrrhizin (licorice root) helps inhibit the effects of herpes simplex viruses. Further research demonstrates the efficacy of licorice root in addressing symptoms related to more serious viruses such as hepatitis, flu, and even HIV and SARS viruses – at least in the test tube. These results are so promising that further studies are now underway worldwide.