A history of the therapeutic use of liquorice in Europe

J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Jul 14;99(3):317-24. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2005.04.015.


Liquorice root has been used in Europe since prehistoric times, and is well documented in written form starting with the ancient Greeks. In this review we compare the independent development of medical uses of this botanical drug in several ancient cultures, attempting to show the rationality of specific indications across different ethnic groups with different cultural backgrounds. Identical specific indications in different cultures highlight universally reproducible therapeutic effects that are beyond those of a mere placebo. In the first part of the review, historical sources dealing with liquorice (Scythian, Greek, Roman, and from the Middle Ages in Germany, Italy, Spain, England) have been considered. In the second part, the historical records of diseases treated with liquorice have been presented. Finally, a comparison between traditional use in and outside Europe, with the most important recent scientific studies concerning its use, is presented.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Europe
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / drug therapy
  • Glycyrrhiza / chemistry*
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Phytotherapy / history*
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / drug therapy
  • Skin Diseases / drug therapy