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Why We Love Licorice

Dr. Roberta Lee, Values Editor, SAAB


Licorice was used for healing stomach, eye ailments, skin diseases and coughs according to Egyptian Manuscripts from 360 A.D. but do dogs like it?


Licorice root is one of the oldest and most popular herbs in the world. Its Greek botanical name means "sweet root." In fact, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar endorsed the benefits of eating licorice and King Tut was entombed with a personal supply! Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly ate so much of it that his teeth turned black!


The tasty root is a member of the legume family and was known as “sweet root”. Indeed, the fleshy roots can be slow roasted like sweet potatoes and I used to keep some in my office. I would tell children that native Americans used it to soothe coughs, colds, and bronchitis. It didn’t try to explain that also sooths the stomach lining and is very good for the adrenal glands which are adversely affected by medical, mental, or emotional stress. That is usually what the parents were there to talk about…


Those who understand animal instinct will find it interesting that the First Americans (who migrated from Asia through what is now Alaska and Canada), quickly discovered the medicinal properties of the knee-high plant. We believe they noted some of the animals grazing or nibbling on and therefore, they tried it.


Is licorice good for dogs? The first answer is NO if the licorice contains xylitol as a sweetener. The second answer is a question – why would you offer licorice to your dog? If you feed your dog a diet natural to the species, meat, poultry, fish, and yes, fresh fruit (apples, citrus, berries) he is unlikely to have digestive problems.


Please understand, grazing animals might nibble licorice root but carnivores would not naturally sample it. It is we humans (who eat the wrong stuff or spicy foods) who have long recognized the health and medicinal benefits of licorice. Licorice root is still the second most-often prescribed herb in Chinese medicine with which I am very familiar.


The native Americans have some Chinese background as they came across the land bridge way north of us. History records show the Cheyenne made medicinal tea from the peeled, dried roots which they used for diarrhea and upset stomach. The Lakota and Blackfeet use the licorice root as “good medicine” for upper respiratory ailments which are believed to have been introduced in North America by the Chinese or Europeans. The Dakota’s steeped the licorice leaves in boiling water to make a topical medicine for earache. The licorice plant was and is still used by traditional Medicine Men who advise chewing the root and holding it in the mouth to relieve toothache, cough, or chest pain.


Mankind instinctively knew which minerals and plants offered medicinal benefits. I find it troubling that such natural medicine has been suppressed in favor of pharmaceuticals. The very act of brewing tea is a calming ritual and sipping a cup of licorice tea can boost adrenal function.


Quick Facts About Licorice

The licorice plant looks like a thick-branched shrub but is officially a weed. About four feet tall when mature, it has purplish flowers and grows in hot, dry places such as our American SW.


There have been reports that carbenoxolone, a compound in licorice root, may slow the effects of aging on the brain. Licorice root is used in modern Chinese medicine for managing human cancer. Rutgers University (NJ) “supports the use of licorice in the treatment of prostate and breast cancer.


Anise seed is a substitute flavoring for licorice and although it has a sweetly similar taste and, it is not the traditional American plant and most users say it is not as medicinally effective.


The Health Benefits of Licorice

In addition to coping with stress, licorice is especially useful in fighting bronchitis, upper respiratory catarrh and coughs because it stimulates mucus production and helps to loosen sticky phlegm. Amazingly, Licorice also contains a chemical that has cough-suppressant properties so when it also sooths the airways.


Licorice helps reduce stomach acid and also increases mucus secretion in the gastric tract which soothes irritation and inflammation. It fights heartburn, indigestion and gastric and duodenal ulcers. Licorice may also help heal mouth ulcers.


Small amounts of licorice, such as those found in candies, do not pose a risk. However, licorice is a powerful drug, and serious health problems can result from taking it at medicinal levels over long periods of time. Anyone with high blood pressure, glaucoma, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, or anyone taking digitalis for stroke or heart attack should limit their licorice intake by half and let their doctor(s) know they take licorice. EST 1998 © 1905



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