Licorice, or Naked licorice, or Licorice smooth, or Licorice (lat. Glycyrrhíza glábra) – perennial herb; species of the genus Licorice (Glycyrrhiza) of the Legume family (Fabaceae).
Licorice is widely used as a medicinal, food and industrial plant, as a foaming agent.
Licorice grows in the valleys and floodplains of steppe and semi-desert rivers, on sand-shell shafts in the coastal zone, in steppes and semi-deserts, in meadows, in bushes, along roads and irrigation canals, forming dense thickets. It prefers sandy and solonetzic soils; it is also found on hard chernozem clay soils. It is cultivated in many areas with a temperate climate.
The rhizome is thick, many-headed, ligneous; it gives one vertical, several-meter (up to 5 m) simple, low-branched root and a horizontal complex network of 5-30 stolon roots 1-2 m long and lying at a depth of 30-40 cm. Rhizomes and roots outside are brown, at break – yellowish.
There are several stems; they are erect, simple or slightly branched, short-fluffy, with a height of 0.5-0.8 to 2 m.
The leaves are alternate, unpaired, 5–20 cm long, consist of three to ten pairs of oval or oblong-ovate, whole-extreme leaflets with tips at the apex. Leaflets are covered with sticky point glands. Stipules are small, subulate, fall by the time of flowering.
Flowers are 8-12 mm in diameter, in loose 5-8-flower axillary brushes, peduncles 3-5 cm long. Calyx with narrow-lanceolate teeth equal to or exceeding the tube. Corolla whitish-purple, irregular, moth.
The fruit is a leathery, straight or curved brown bean with two to six seeds, 2-3 cm long, 4-6 mm wide, bare or planted with glandular spines. Seeds are kidney-shaped, shiny, greenish-gray or brownish.
It blooms from June to August. The fruits ripen in August – September.
Propagated by seeds or vegetatively. During vegetative propagation, each stolon root carries a bud at the end, from which a daughter plant develops, giving rise to aboveground stems, a sheer root and a new network of stolon roots. Thus, licorice spreads over long distances and forms dense thickets.
As medicinal raw materials, roots and rhizomes are used – licorice root (lat. Radix Glycyrrhizae, Radix Liquiritiae). Harvesting of raw materials is carried out during the year. The roots are dug up, the stems are trimmed, shaken or washed in cold water, cut into pieces and dried in the sun or in well-ventilated areas, the dry root is pressed into bales. Sometimes, before drying, the roots are cleaned of cork bark. Well-dried raw materials are stored for up to 10 years.
Roots and rhizomes contain carbohydrates and related compounds (glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose), polysaccharides (starch up to 34%, cellulose up to 30%, pectin substances), organic acids (succinic, fumaric, citric, malic, tartaric), essential oil , triterpenoids (glycyrrhizic acid), resins, steroids (β-sitosterol), phenolcarboxylic acids and their derivatives (ferulic, synomic, salicylic), coumarins (herniarin, umbelliferone, etc.), tannins (8.3-14.2% ), flavonoids (liquiquirithin, isoliquirithin, liquiquiritoside, quercetin, kempferol, apigenin, etc.), higher aliphatic hydrocarbons and alcohols, higher fatty acids, alkaloids.
Carbohydrates (up to 2.13%), polysaccharides, organic acids (up to 2.5), essential oil (0.02), triterpenoids (glycyrrhizic acid, glycyrrhizic acid and other steroids, β-sitosterol, glycerestron), triterpene saponins, coumarins (1.9–2.4), tannins (5.5), flavonoids (isocvercitrin, quercetin, kempferol, etc.), lipids (6.26%), nitrogen-containing compounds (choline, betaine), vitamins (ascorbic acid, carotene).
The composition of the essential oil includes aldehydes, ketones, alcohols and their derivatives, terpenoids, aromatic compounds, higher aliphatic hydrocarbons, esters of higher fatty acids.
Licorice root preparations are used as an expectorant and laxative (powder, dry and thick extracts, syrup, breast elixir), as an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and antisecretory agent for hyperacid gastritis, gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer (liquorithon, anti-bronchial inflammation) asthma, eczema, allergic dermatitis (glycyram).
In scientific medicine, licorice roots and rhizomes are of therapeutic value. They are part of the drugs recommended for diseases of the upper respiratory tract as an expectorant, emollient, anti-inflammatory, as part of diuretic and laxative preparations, as antacid and enveloping for hyperacid gastritis, peptic ulcer of the stomach and duodenum (Liquiriton, Flacarbin) with asthma, neurodermatitis, allergic and occupational dermatitis, eczema (“Glyciram”), rheumatism, gout, hemorrhoids. Licorice powder is also used in pharmaceutical practice as a basis for pills and to improve the taste and smell of drugs.
Glycyrrhizic acid, which contains up to 23% in licorice roots, gives them a sweet taste. This made it possible to use glycyrrhizic acid in the clinical nutrition of patients with diabetes, for example, in Japan, where saccharin is prohibited. However, the corticosteroid-like action of glycyrrhizic acid seems to limit its use as a sugar substitute. Glycyrrhizic acid has an effect resembling that of deoxycorticosterone and cortisone.
In traditional medicine of the East and traditional medicine of various nations, licorice is used, as in scientific medicine and, in addition, in the nutrition of patients with diabetes, impotence, nephritis, prostatitis and prostate adenoma, with whooping cough (decoction in milk), angina pectoris, gallstone disease, hypertension, rhinitis, in the treatment of lymphogranulomatosis, leprosy.