मुलेठी (यष्टिमधु) Glycyrrhiza Glabra
Latin name: Glycyrrhiza glabra
Hindi: Mulhatti, Jethimadh, Mithilakdi
English: Sweetwood, Liquorice, Licorice
Gujrati: Jethi Madh
Malayalam: Itarttimadhuram, Erattimadhuram
The Sanskrit name for licorice is Yashtimadhu, which literally means “sweet root”. It is sweet, cool and heavy to digest. The Rasa (taste) of this herb is madhura (sweet), which makes it beneficial for vata and pitta doshas, while it’s Virya (action) is sheetal (cooling), which generally increases kapha when consumed in large doses over long term.
The medicinal property of mulethi is mainly because of the presence of powerful phytochemicals namely flavonoids, chalcones, saponins and xenoestrogens. Glycyrrhizin (salts of glycyrrhizic acid) is a popular saponin found in roots of mulethi that is responsible for the characteristic sweet taste (50 times more sweet than sugar) flavor. Liquiritin, licoﬂavonol, liquiritigenin, etc are the common chalcones that provide the distinct yellowish color to mulethi; while, the aroma of its root is mainly because of anethole.
Here are the ten health benefits ofmulethi:
Anti-microbial activity – Roots of mulethi are very effective in protecting against virus, bacteria and fungi due to the presence of Glycyrrhizin that blocks the microbial growth. The root extract possesses the power to control malaria (as per preliminary research), influenza and also helps in the treatment of herpes resulting in virus suppression and severity of sores.
Anti-inflammatory activity – Liquorice has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic activity and can be used to treat chronic inflammation like rheumatic problems & arthritis, skin diseases and autoimmune diseases. It is also used for preventing any inflammatory conditions related to eye and also to treat conjunctivitis with the help of glycyrrhizin activity that counteracts negative effects caused by cortisol.
Improves immunity – Root extracts of mulethi aids in increasing the production of lymphocytes and macrophage thereby improving your defense mechanism & preventing microbial attack. It also helps in minimizing immune related allergic reactions and autoimmune complications.
Memory improvement – Roots of licorice exert supportive effect on the adrenal gland and thus indirectly aid in stimulating the brain. It not only decreases the effects of amnesia & improves learning but its antioxidant property (mulethi contains flavonoids) renders a shielding effect on the brain cells.
Anti-ulcer activity – The potent antioxidant and anti-inflamatory properties of licorice makes it the best natural medicinal aid to treat ulcers of stomach, intestine and mouth. The compound carbenoxolone synthesized from glycyrrhizin plays key role in healing mouth and gastric ulcers along with reducing gastric secretions and promoting development of intestinal mucus lining.
Liver protection – Licorice is one of the most common traditional remedy used to treat jaundice. Its antioxidant property is the key for preventing your liver from the action of free radicals and toxic materials. This herb is also reported to exhibit protection against diclofenac induced toxicity and also, in inhibiting damage of liver.
Digestive aid – Roots of licorice are also used to deal with stomach and digestion problems with the help of glycyrrhizin and its compound, carbenoxolone. It is one of the ancient home remedies for relieving constipation, acidity, heartburn, stomach discomfort, inflammation of digestive system and gastro esophageal acid reflux. As a mild laxative, it plays an effective role in bowel movements and also for treatment of allergic cough in addition to maintaining normal pH levels.
Hormonal regulation – The phytoestrogenic compounds present in mulethi roots exert valuable action against women hormonal imbalance problems, menopause symptoms like hot flashes & exhaustion, mood swings, etc. It is also found to help in cortisol production and relieving premenstrual issues like nausea and menstrual cramps. Licorice powder acts as the traditional medicine for nursing mothers to regulate body hormones and aid in milk secretion.
Heart healthy effects – Research studies have proved that licorice roots help in controlling cholesterol levels by increasing the body’s flow of bile and also reducing high blood cholesterol levels. The anti-oxidant property of licorice acts in increasing the blood capillary health, reducing inflammation, prevents blood vessel damage and block development of arterial plaque.
Other effects – Licorice roots work wonders in treatment of depression, diabetes and respiratory tract infection like sore throat (hoarseness of voice), cold and cough, etc in addition to rendering effective skin benefits, oral hygiene and weight loss. It is found to act as a cancer cure remedy, a potent aphrodisiac and a powerful analgesic agent.
It is a herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 m in height, with pinnate leaves about 7–15 cm (3–6 in) long, with 9–17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8–1.2 cm (1/3 to 1/2 in) long, purple to pale whitish blue, produced in a loose inflorescence. The fruitis an oblong pod, 2–3 cm (1 in) long, containing several seeds.
The roots are stoloniferous.
The scent of liquorice root comes from a complex and variable combination of compounds, of which anethole is up to 3% of total volatiles. Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, which has a sweet taste, 30–50 times the sweetness of sugar. The sweetness is very different from sugar, being less instant, tart, and lasting longer.
The isoflavene glabrene and the isoflavane glabridin, found in the roots of liquorice, are phytoestrogens
Cultivation and uses
Liquorice, which grows best in well-drained soils in deep valleys with full sun, is harvested in the autumn two to three years after planting. Countries producing liquorice include Iran, Afghanistan, the People’s Republic of China, Pakistan, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Turkey.
The world’s leading manufacturer of liquorice products is M&F Worldwide, which manufactures more than 70% of the worldwide liquorice flavours sold to end users.
Licorice is available in various forms – root, powder and extracts. Licorice root can be chewed directly while licorice tea (prepared by boiling licorice root in water) is also extremely beneficial as a home remedy.
Daily intake of 5-6 grams of licorice powder is considered safe while 250-500 mg of concentrated extracts can be taken thrice a day. Unsupervised use in high doses is not recommended for long term. People with hypertension or heart disease, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid using licorice without prior consulation with an Ayurveda doctor.