Harmonizing Contradictions with Licorice
There’s so affinities I share with my adopted culture in the Netherlands, but the fondness of the (licorice candy) is not one of them. The fact that kids here grow up with licorice, however, does mean that they’re much more familiar with the woody stick when I mention it to them as medicine. And familiarity is not to be underestimated when it comes to getting into a habit of taking your recommended herbs.
So here’s the Ayurvedic breakdown of Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Qualities: heavy and oily
- Taste: Sweet, bitter
- Virya: cooling metabolic effect
- Vipak: sweet post-digestive effect
- Reduces VP, mostly balancing to K except in excess (so watch out when there’s water retention
- Dhatus: effects all tissues
If we translate what these qualities above mean:
If you have a heavy and oily sweet substance with a slowing-down effect on metabolism, and a sweet effect on the tissues after digesting, you’re looking at a substance that is super-nutritive for situations like exhaustion, post-partum, chronic illness & stress, and other deficient states needing recovery. It also gives licorice a unique ability to soothe burning, inflammation & irritations, and a slippery, demulcent effect that helps liquify mucus and expectorate. So there’s a clear affinity to the digestive tract and respiratory tract and wherever there’s dry irritation. Think about it also for urinary tract infections. It’s also going to other places that need restoration, particularly the endocrine system: re-strengthen fatigued adrenals, nourish reproductive system to improve fertility and libido. It calms nerve tissue, strengthens resilience to strain & stress. It’s a natural antitoxin.
Licorice embodies one of my absolute favorite herbal actions is called yogavahi, or the action of harmonizing substances with contradictory qualities and actions, and enhancing action of whatever it is combined with.
And although counterintuitive at first, this heavy, sweet plant actually helps clear heavy, sticky ama!
So key takeaways with licorice: anti-inflammatory, nutritive, breaking up mucus, harmonizing, purifying.
One great way to take licorice is 1 teaspoon of powder boiled in milk, drinking this about 1,5 hours before bed to help the body drop into rest & repair mode and promote deep sleep.
Note: Licorice is contraindicated in HBP, high kapha, pregnancy and edema. Don’t take this for prolonged periods. Check with your doctor as it can interrupt medications including insulin.