Make your own sweet-tasting throat soothers with licorice, an herbal antiviral.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is best known for its role in the popular candy, and it’s no wonder: Licorice is 50 times sweeter than table sugar! But it’s glycyrrhizic acid, not sugar, that gives licorice root its sweet taste. That same acid is also responsible, in part, for licorice’s medicinal benefits that make it good for sore throats and bronchial irritation.
With demulcent, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, licorice is the herb of choice for soothing irritated and inflamed tissue, as in cases of sore throat, bronchial inflammation, and stomach and bowel irritation. Licorice has a long history of use for relieving throat inflammation and for strengthening the vocal cords. It is also helpful for both gastric and peptic ulcers.
Note: Glycyrrhizic acid can cause sodium retention and potassium loss, resulting in stress to the heart and kidneys. Individuals with a history of high blood pressure, water retention, heart palpitations and other signs of heart and/or kidney stress should use licorice under the guidance of a health-care practitioner.
This tender perennial has a thick, sweet flavor, making it a nice addition to tea in small amounts. Used alone, the root can be almost too sweet, and some people find its flavor overbearing when it’s brewed by itself. To increase its palatability, blend licorice with other herbs in syrups, teas and tinctures. You can also eat dried or fresh whole licorice root “straight up” (children, especially, enjoy chewing on these natural “licorice sticks”), or in the form of cocoa- or carob-coated herbal pills.
Herbal pills are an easy-to-make, practical way to consume medicinal herbs. Formulate blends that taste good enough for children to enjoy. They are excellent for a sore throat; make them with antiviral herbs that help fight infection. Sucking on them is by itself soothing to the throat.
How your pills look will depend on your technique. Mine always start off as round little balls, but after I tire of rolling, the blend turns into one big glob, which I put in a jar and store in the refrigerator with a sign that says, “Roll your own.”
Making herbal pills is a good project to do with children, who are more prone to take their medicine if they’ve had a hand in making it. Carob or cocoa powder is added to make these pill balls tasty as well as effective. Licorice root powder could also be used to make a licorice pill.
1. Place powdered herbs in a bowl and mix with a few drops of water and enough honey (or maple syrup) to make a sticky paste. (Try these two herbal blend recipes: Soothing Throat Pills and Licorice-Ginger Pills.)
2. If you like, add one to two drops of essential oil to the bowl and mix, either for flavor or for added medicinal properties. (Note: Some essential oils are not intended for internal use; if you’re not sure whether an essential oil is safe to consume, consult a health-care professional.) Wintergreen and peppermint essential oils make excellent flavoring agents.
3. Thicken the mixture with carob or unsweetened cocoa powder to form a thick, smooth paste. Knead until smooth.
4. Break off small bits of dough and roll them into small, pill-size balls. You can roll the pills in carob or cocoa powder for a finished look, if you like.
5. Dry the pills in a dehydrator, or place them on a cookie sheet and dry them in the oven at a low temperature (around 150 degrees, or with just the oven light on). Sun-dry them in warm, dry weather.
6. Once dried, these pills will keep indefinitely. Store these throat soothers in a glass jar in a cool, dark location.
Excerpted from Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs © Rosemary Gladstar. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.