Scientific: Glycyrrhiza glabra [WikiPedia]
Appearance: Licorice is the rhizome of a bean plant, both the vertical main tap root and horizontal subsidiary rhizomes being used. The dried roots look like pieces of dried wood, very hard and fibrous, about 1 cm in diameter, with brown skin and a yellow interior. It is available as dried, woody pieces of root, as a powder and as solid sticks of concentrated essence which are glossy black, sweet and partly soluble in water. However, you should be aware that licorice is a legume and part of the pea family.
Parts Used: The root in dried form
Common Uses: There are more than 300 different compounds in licorice, some of which have antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Licorice root is one of the most widely used herbs worldwide and is the single most used herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine today. It was used by the Egyptians as a flavoring for a drink called Mai-sus, and large quantities were found in the tomb of King Tut for his trip into the afterlife. Pliny the Elder recommended it to clear the voice and alleviate thirst and hunger. Dioscides, when traveling with Alexander the Great, recommended that his troops carry and use licorice to help with stamina for long marches, as well as for thirst in areas of drought. In the Middle Ages it was taken to alleviate the negative effects of highly spicy or overcooked food. It was also used for flavoring tobacco, and as a foaming agent in fire extinguishers and beer. In a recent survey of Western medical herbalists, licorice ranked as the 10th most important herb used in clinical practice. An astonishing number of Chinese herbal formulas (over 5,000) use licorice to sweeten teas and to “harmonize” contrasting herbs. Its first documented use dates back to the time of the great Chinese herbal master Zhang Zhong Zhing, about 190 AD, but it was certainly used for many centuries prior to this. In 1914 the Chicago Licorice Company began to sell Black Vines, the first in a very long line of licorice based modern candies.
Due to its wide-ranging benefits, licorice root can be useful for fur kids in many ways. Licorice root contains glycyrrhizin, a glycoside that acts as a natural corticosteroid, but without the adverse effects of weakening a dog’s immune system. Licorice enhances the body’s anti-inflammatory processes, making it a perfect herb to align with more conventional treatments like hydrocortisone therapy. This herb allows dogs to be safely weaned off of higher level steroid medications that can be damaging with long-term use. In particular, the anti-inflammatory elements of licorice root helps dogs with the following conditions:
- Itching and burning from allergies
- Atopic dermatitis
- Gastrointestinal and digestive issues
- Respiratory problems with mucous membrane concerns (i.e., bronchitis, asthma)
- Liver toxicity and liver disease
- Urinary tract infections
Studies have shown that licorice root is a fast-acting, highly effective anti-inflammatory agent which does not compromise the immune system in any way. Licorice root is a naturally sweet-tasting herb which makes it easy to get most dogs to take it. In fact, licorice root is often used with other herbs to mask their bitter taste. However, you should note that dogs with high blood pressure, heart conditions, or kidney disorders should not be given licorice root as a supplement.
Alternatives and Adjuncts:
Topic Specific References:
- Leaves Antimicrobial Activity of Glycyrrhiza glabra L. [PubMED]
- The antiviral and antimicrobial activities of licorice, a widely-used Chinese herb [ScienceDirect]
- Inhibitory Effects of Glycyrrhiza glabra and Its Major Constituent Glycyrrhizin on Inflammation-Associated Corneal Neovascularization [Hindawi]
- Pharmacological Perspective of Glycyrrhiza glabra Linn.: a Mini-Review [MedCrave]
- Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): A phytochemical and pharmacological review [WileyOnline]
PLEASE NOTE that herbal and other natural products can harm your animals – not all plants are safe and gentle! Do not attempt using any of the ingredients listed, or any other plant matter, without the guidance of a qualified herbalist.