I just received this info on licorice in an email:
Herb of the Month - Licorice (gan cao)
Licorice is a plant originally grown in central Europe, but now found all across Europe and Asia. Aside from its medicinal properties, it has been used to flavor foods for centuries. Today, licorice remains one of the most important herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.
The two most important components of licorice are glychrrhizin and flavonoids. Glycyrrhizin works as an anti-inflammatory and antiviral and inhibits the breakdown of cortisol. Licorice flavonoids are powerful antioxidants; they work to protect liver cells and help digestive tract cells heal. In addition to its use as a flavoring, licorice has traditionally been employed to sooth coughs and sore throats; coat the digestive and urinary tracts; and treat various conditions ranging from diabetes to tuberculosis.
Licorice root can be found at some health food stores and most Asian markets. Many health stores also sell standard licorice tablets, capsules and extracts.
Licorice products that contain glycyrrhizin may increase a person's blood pressure and cause water retention. Consumption of more than seven grams of licorice per day for more than seven days consecutively could increase blood testosterone levels. According to the German Commission E monographs, licorice should not be used by pregnant women or people with liver and/or kidney disorders. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking licorice or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds.) The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, pp. 161-2.
Murray MT. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1995, pp. 228-39.
Soma R, Ikeda M, Morise T, et al. Effect of glychrrhizin on cortisol metabolism in humans. Endocrin Regulations 1994;28:31-4.