It is no surprise that licorice is most often thought of as an ingredient in confectionery – it contains a substance called glycyrrhizin which is 50 times sweeter than sugar (sucrose). Licorice root is also, however, one of the most valuable herbal medicines, praised since the times of the ancient herbalists who used it on both humans and animals.
Licorice reduces stomach secretions and protects mucousal linings, thereby making it useful for gastric ulceration and inflammation. Further, the glycyrrhizin has an anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic action, and it simultaneously supports the body’s release of cortisol whilst inhibiting some of that hormone’s detrimental side effects – this makes it useful in treating some skin conditions (including itch). Licorice has effects on the adrenal glands which are protective, restorative, tonic and stimulatory. These properties can aid the horse which is recovering from steroid therapy/abuse.
It’s ability to soothe irritated mucous membranes and to break up phlegm and ease coughing sees licorice employed in respiratory conditions – couging, bronchitis, and chest colds. Licorice contains antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal compounds – approximately 30 percent of licorice’s dry weight is made up of antibacterial substances. It has also shown an ability to improve liver function and has been used to treat disorders such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Licorice is gently laxative.
Licorice appears to regulate oestrogen levels and it has been used to facilitate fertility in female animals (it is advisable, however, to avoid using it during pregnancy).
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