Common liquorice. Liquorice roots

Common liquorice. Liquorice roots

Common liquorice. Liquorice roots

Liquorice extract

Specification & Spread

Liquorice roots (liquorice root) — radices glycyrrhizae (radices liquiritiae)
Common liquorice — glycyrrhiza glabra l.
Ural liquorice — glycyrrhiza uralensis fisch.
Bean family — fabaceae
Other names: peavine, liquorice.

Common liquorice is a perennial soboliferous herbaceous plant of 50-100 (150) cm tall, with a powerfully developed underground part consisting of a short thick rhizome and a vertical main root, reaching 4-5 m in length and 10 cm in thickness, the root reaches deep aquifers , thanks to which the plant is well acclimatized in dry places.

Numerous long (up to 8–9 m) horizontal underground shoots (rhizomes, stolons), which in turn form shoots and roots of the second and subsequent orders, depart from the root in all directions. Stems in the amount of several pieces, erect, lightly branched, glandular-pubescent.
The leaves are alternate, single-pinnately-compound, with 5-7 pairs of elliptical, oblong-ovate or lanceolate, entire leaflets 2-4 cm long, sticky from abundant glands. The flowers are light purple, located in the axils of the leaves on long peduncles in loose spiciform racemes.
The fruit is a bob 2-3 cm long, oblong, flattened laterally, straight or slightly curved, bare or seated with glandular spines, brown in colour.

It blooms in May – August, the fruits ripen in August – September.

Ural liquorice

Ural liquorice has a grey pubescent stem up to 1 m high; the leaves are elliptical, covered on the bottom side with glands.
The floral brushes more dense, thick. The flowers are purple, the calyx at the base is baggy and bloated.
The fruits are pubescent, grey, sickle-curved, transversely-sinuous, hilly from seeds, covered with small glandular spines, crowded and intertwined in a tight tangle (Fig. 6.17, B).
It blooms in June – July, bears fruit from the end of September.

When raw materials are harvested, bristly liquorice comes across, which looks similar to liquorice lichen and is distinguished by the following features: the flowers are crowded in the head, the beans are planted with prickly spines, the roots in the fracture are white and not sweet. Physiologically active substances does not contain. Harvesting is not allowed.

Spreading. Liquorice grows in the floodplains and valleys of the rivers of the steppe and semi-desert regions of Central Asia, the Caucasus, Kazakhstan, the south of the European part of Russia and Ukraine. Ural liquorice grows in semi-desert, steppe and forest-steppe zones in the Southern Urals, in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and southern regions of Western and Eastern Siberia. In Chardjou (Turkmenistan) there is a base of world importance for harvesting for the export of liquorice root.

Habitat. It grows on the banks of rivers and streams, at the bottom of shallow ravines, in crops and plantings as a weed.


Subterraneous organs of liquorice contain:

  • up to 23% of triterpenic saponin glycyrrhizin, giving the roots a sweet taste.

These are potassium and calcium salts of glycyrrhizic acid, the aglycone of which is glycyrrhetic acid (glycyrrhetic), and the carbohydrate part is represented by two molecules of glucuronic acid.

There are also found:

  • 27 different flavonoids, derivatives of flavanone and chalcone (likvritin, isolikiritin, lakrizid, etc.),
  • ascorbic acid (up to 30 mg%),
  • small amount of essential oil
  • starch,
  • pectic substances
  • gums
  • resin.

The rhizomes contain more glycyrrhizin than roots.

Harvesting and storage of raw materials

Harvesting. It is provided from March to November.  The tractor with deep-planted plows is used. It roots out the root system to a depth of 50-70 cm, having previously mowed the aerial part. After plowing, the roots are selected, the stem parts are cut, the defective pieces are cut and the raw material is folded into rolls for wilting, and then into shoulders. 75% of healthy, light yellow roots and rhizomes are broken at the fracture, 25% of rhizomes are left in the soil to ensure vegetative reproduction and restoration of thickets, new plants quickly grow from fragments of stolons with preserved buds.

Security measures. It is necessary to alternate the places of harvesting, the re-harvesting of the raw materials in the same area is possible in 6-8 years, during this time the thickets are fully restored.

Drying. It is dried in place of the workpiece under sheds or in dryers at a temperature not higher than 50 ºС. The dry roots are pressed into bales and iron stripes. To obtain purified raw materials from freshly picked or slightly dried roots, remove the cork with knives by hand or with special machines; then dried in the sun.

Storage. It is stored in a dry and well-ventilated area.

External signs of raw materials

Whole raw materials

The pieces of roots and underground shoots of different lengths, with the thickness of 0.5 to 5 cm or more, of cylindrical shape. There are pieces of roots, turning into strongly overgrown rhizomes up to 15 cm thick.
For medical purposes, there are used two types of raw materials:

  1. unpeeled liquorice roots – Radices Glycyrrhizae naturales – and
  2. corked roots – Radices Glycyrrhizae mundatae.

In untreated roots and shoots, the surface is covered with a brown cork, longitudinally wrinkled;
purified raw materials from the outside from light yellow to brownish-yellow (presence of flavonoids) colour with slight cork residues; the fracture is light yellow, fibrous.

Under the magnifying glass, the structure of the roots and underground shoots is unallocated, radiant. The cross-section shows numerous core rays.
At the shoots in the center of a small core, at the roots it does not. The smell is absent, the taste is sweet, cloying and slightly irritating (glycyrrhizin).
The roots of other, non-pharmacopoeial types of whitish liquorice on a break do not have a sweet taste.

Properties and application

Pharmacotherapeutic group.
Expectorant, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic agent.

The pharmacological properties of liquorice

Liquorice preparations exhibit multilateral biological activity.
The preparations have a high anti-inflammatory activity, inhibit both the exudative and proliferative phases of the inflammatory process.
The mechanism of anti-inflammatory action of liquorice is associated with the stimulating effect of glycyrrhizic acid on the adrenal cortex. It is this pharmacological property of the plant that is considered the most important.

Liquorice preparations contribute to the healing of stomach ulcers.
The preparations of liquorice revealed a pronounced inhibitory effect on allergic reactions of the immediate type, which is more effective with repeated administrations, which made it possible to associate the antiallergic action of liquorice with suppression of antibody-producing systems.

Liquorice root preparations regulate the water-salt metabolism, acting like deoxycorticosterone. The discovery of this property has greatly increased interest in plants throughout the world and has been repeatedly confirmed in the work of a number of foreign pharmacologists.
The effect on the hormonal system can be attributed to adaptogenic properties, also found in liquorice roots.

From the liquorice, the fraction is allocated, which showed high estrogenic activity. Liquorice root extract has lipid-lowering properties. The mechanism of anti-sclerotic action is associated with the ability of glycyrrhizic acid, which is a triterpenic acid saponin, to interact with cholesterol, forming an
insoluble complex, and also inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis. The inhibitory effect of glycyrrhizin on the development of hyperlipidemia was also found. An increase in the secretory function of the airway epithelium, a change in the surface-active properties of pulmonary surfactant and a stimulating effect on the function of the cilia of the epithelium are associated with glycyrrhizin. Under the influence of drugs liquorice sputum liquefies, it becomes easier to cough. The sanitizing effect on the respiratory system is supported by the antiviral and antiprotozoal properties of liquorice preparations. The antispasmodic effect on smooth muscle is associated with the action of flavonoids.
Liquorice preparations inhibit the secretion of gastric juice. Flavonoid compounds, in addition to the antispasmodic effect, have an anti-inflammatory effect, normalize the permeability of the vascular wall.

The most active anti-inflammatory preparations are preparations «Liquiriton» and «Flacarbin». The preparations of liquorice root have antiviral effect, and the sodium salt of glycyrrhetinic acid is active against the simplest. The foaming properties of liquorice roots are used in aerosols, where liquorice is technologically auxiliary and at the same time has a therapeutic anti-inflammatory effect. Liquorice is mentioned in traditional oriental medicine recipes more often than any other plant: it left behind even ginseng.

Liquorice root is widely used in diseases of the upper respiratory tract and lungs as:

  • expectorant
  • emollient and
  • anti-inflammatory agent.

The advantage of liquorice galenic preparations over individual substances is the combination of glycyrrhizic acid, which acts anti-inflammatory, liquiditroside, which has antispasmodic properties, lycurazide, which gives anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator effect, and saponins, which dilute the secret of the bronchi.
This explains the popularity of liquorice used in acute and chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, bronchial asthma, bronchiectasis, and other diseases.

It is used for diseases associated with:

  • adrenal hypofunction,
  • with addison disease,
  • with systemic lupus erythematosus,
  • pemphigus,
  • chronic skin diseases
  • allergic diseases;
  • in patients taking long-term steroids.

Liquorice and preparations from it are important for practical medicine as antiallergic preparations, since, unlike cortisone, it does not violate the body’s physiological defenses.
It also used for the treatment of patients with gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer.
The antispasmodic effect of liquorice preparations extends to other organs that have smooth muscles (urinary tract, bile ducts, intestines).


  • Hypokalemia,
  • hypertension,
  • in certain inflammatory diseases of the liver,
  • cirrhosis,
  • during pregnancy and during breastfeeding,
  • heart failure.