Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Yashtimadhu- Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Dr. Hemant Vinze (M. S.)
Yashtimadhu-Licorice/Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)  exhibiting pleotropic pharmacological activity  has been used  as a medicine worldwide since ancient times. In India it has been in vogue as a traditional medicine for more than 3000 years.  Its use as a medicine has been described in Ayurveda, a system of medicine in ancient India.  

The word yashtimadhu is made up of two words: yashti and madhu where yashti stands for stalk (stem of a plant) or cudgels (a short, thick stick), and madhu stands for honey or sweet; thus literally meaning a "sweet stem" or a "sweet stick". The word licurice or liquorice also means a "sweet root". 
The genus-name " Glycyrrhiza" is derived from two Greek words: Glykys, meaning "sweet" and Rhiza meaning "root".  The species-name glabra (from glaber) means " bald or hairless". Thus the botanical or taxonomic name literally means " a bald or hairless, straight, thick, sweet root or stalk"  [1]
The German name Suβholz or Sussholz or Lakritze, the French  Relisse or Zoethout and the Finnish Lakritsikasvi or Lakritsi   are directly translated from Liquorice.  
In Ayurveda and traditional medical practices in India, more than 1250 polyherbal formulations containing yashtimadhu are described. In Indian tradition, special foods serving to eliminate excess of fat, toxins and replenish deficiencies contain     yashtimadhu as one of the ingredients. Herbal medicinal formulations prescribed for rejuvenation and restore physique  contain yashtimadhu.    
In Chinese yashtimadhu is known by various names: "Gam chou, Gam cao, Kan tsau" etc. References to the effectiveness of Gam chou as medicine are contained in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, the first Chinese dispensary. In Chinese book of medicines, medicinal plants are classified in three classes: (1) plants with lowest side-effects and non toxic for use in health  care. (2) plants with lowest toxicity or weak toxicity and can be used as medicines with due care and (3) toxic plants that can     be used as medicines with much care. Gam chou is described as belonging to class one. Gam chou is recommended for lengthening one's life span, improving health, healing of wounds, reducing swelling and edema, and for its detoxification    effect. In the earlier Chinese medicinal book "Shang Han Lun" seventy prescriptions include Gam cao. [2], [3] 
In Japanese yashtimadhu (licorice) is known as " Kanzo" (pronounced as kanzou). Despite being in use as medicine for centuries and despite the high demand, no strain of Kanzo was cultivated in Japan. It means Kanzo used in pharmaceutical industry in Japan is mostly imported from places such as China or the Middle East. As this caused the price of Konzo to increase year by year, the Japanese have now started cultivating Kanzo. In Japanese Pharmacopoeia only Glycyrrhiza glabra and Glycyrrhiza uralensis are permitted to be used for medicinal purpose. [4]  
In the Western world the history of licorice can be traced back to 3000 years. The Egyptians and Assyrians used licorice as medicine and food flavoring agent. 
For their long grueling campaigns the Roman battalions considered licorice an indispensable ration. It was said that the Roman soldiers could go on up to ten days without eating or drinking water as the properties of licorice helped them to build stamina and energy which allayed both hunger and thirst (??).     
The Benedictine monks who migrated from Spain during the crusades (a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church), brought licorice plant to their monastery in ancient West Yorkshire. In Pontefract town, UK, initially licorice was grown and its extract was used to flavor drinks. Around 500 years ago, the locals started to make locorice candies and known as Pontefract Cakes (AKA Pomfret cakes and Pomfrey cakes). While licorice plants do not exist anymore in Pontefract, the candy is still made to this day. In the year 1305, King Edward I, levied a duty on the sale of licorice, which went to help finance the repair of London Bridge. [5]. [6] 

In the USA licorice is a weed of moist roadside sites. Licorice is also cultivated as a crop plant particularly in Russia, Spain and Middle East. [7]    

Yashtimadhu is used in small amounts in many formulas to harmonize the action of the other herbs. Hence it is called the "peace-maker"      

Other names
Latin/Botanical/ Scientific/Taxonomic: Glycyrrhiza glabra L
Sanskrit: Yashtimadhu, Madhuka, Klitaka, Yashtyahva 
English: Licorice, Liquorice, Sweet wood, Spanish Juice, Black Sugar
Arabic: Aslussieesa
Bengali: Jashtimadhu, Jaishbomodhu
Gujarati: Jethimadhu
Hindi: Mulethee, Mulaithi, Jothimadha, Jethimadhu
Kannada: Yashtimadhuka, Atimadhuraa
Kashmiri: Shanger
Maraathee: Jeshthamadha 
Malayalam: Iratimadhuram
Oriya: Jatimadhu
Tamil: Atimadhuram
Telugu: Atimadhuranu, Yashtimadhukam
Urdu: Mulathi [8], [9], [10]

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Viridiplantae
InfraKingdom: Streptophyta (Land Plants)
Super Division: Embryophyta
Division: Tracheophyta (Tracheophytes or Vascular Plants)
Sub Division: Spermatophytina ((Spermatophytes or Seed Plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida
Super Order: Rosanae
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae ( Peas & Legumes)
Genus: Glycyrrhiza
Species: Glabra (Cultivated Licorice) [11]

Different Varities of Yashtimadhu (Glycirrhiza glabra)
A) According to Ayurveda:
1. Jalaja: Growing near rich water supply
2. Sthalaja: Growing on dry land
B) According to availability in India:   
1. Glycirrhiza glabra (Typical): Spanish Licorice
2. Glycirrhiza glabra (Glandulifera): Russian Licorice
3. Glycirrhiza glabra (Violacea): Persian Licorice. [12] 

Adulterants and Substitutes:
For medicinal purpose Glycirrhiza glabra is considered as par excellence. Other varieties such as Glycirriza uralensis are substitutes or adulterants. [13]   

Geographical distribution

Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is native to Eurasia, northern Africa and western Asia. It grows up to 1200 meters            above sea level. It has been introduced to USA where it grows as a weed of road side sites. It is also cultivated as a crop           plant in Russia, Spain and Middle East. Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra) enjoys fertile, sandy soil near a river  or stream where plenty of water is available for the plant to flourish in the wild or under cultivation where it can be irrigated. The                 plant is naturalized in the oases but it is not used for therapeutic value. Waste land and slightly saline areas could also be used to cultivate Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra).   
In India Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is found in Jammu, Kashmir, Dehradun and Delhi.   [14], [15], [16]

Plant Morphology


The Plant                         


Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is an herb belonging to pea and bean family. Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a perennial, robust shrub. It grows in subtropical and temperate zone. It reaches a height of 1 to 2 meters. It is cultivated for its underground stems. 

The Root


The root is a long, sturdy, primary tap root, about 15 cm long, subdivides into 3 to 5 subsidiary roots reaching   up to 1.25 meter in length, wrinkled, brown in color, scaly yellow texture inside when the outer skin is removed. Secondary and tertiary roots originate from primary root which may reach 8 meters in length. It has a       characteristic pleasant smell.    

The Stem

The stems are stolons. The underground stems grow horizontally up to 2 meters in length, highly branched.  The stems are sturdy, erect, hairy, branched from the base or from further up, rough at the top.
[Note: In botany, stolons are stems which grow at the level of soil surface or just below ground that form adventitious roots at the nodes, and new plants from the buds. The stolons are often called runners. The rhizomes, in contrast, are root-like stems that may either grow horizontally at the soil surface or in other orientations underground. Thus, not all horizontal stems are called stolons. Plants with stolons are called Stoloniferous   plants. Thus Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhizaglabra) is a Stoloniferous plant.]            

The Leaves


The leaves are conjoint, alternate, ovate, divided into 9 to 17 leaflets, odd pinnate 10 to 20 cm long; leaflets in 3 to 8 pairs, along a central axis, 2 to 4 cm long, bear dotted glands on the surface, stipules small and drooping. The leaflets are covered with soft hairs on underside.  

The Flowers

The flowers, the axillary inflorescences, upright, spike-like, bluish to pale violet in color, held in loose conical spires 10 to 15 cm long, pedicle short; calyx short, bell shaped, glandular and hairy; the tips of calyx longer than the tube, pointed, lanceolate; petals narrow; the caryna petals are not fused, pointed but not beaked.   

The Fruits (Pods)       



The fruits are pods, reddish brown in color, 1.5 to 2.5 cm long and 4 to 6 mm wide, erect, splayed, flat with thick sutures, glabrous, reticulate, pitted, contains 2 to 5 seeds.

The Seeds


The seeds in pods, 3 to 5, brown to blackish in color, reniform in shape. [17], [18], [19], [20], [21], [22] 

Microscopic Characteristics



The transverse section of stolon is more or less rounded. Phellem (Cork) several layered with tabular cells; outer layers filled with reddish brown contents, inner colorless. Phellogen (the meristematic cell layer responsible for the development of the periderm) indistinct; phelloderm three to five layered, collenchymatous; some of the cells contain calcium oxalate crystals and minute starch grains. Secondary phloem with numerous concentrically arranged bundles of phloem fibres and surrounded by a parenchymatous sheath containing prisms of calcium oxalate. Medullary rays distinct, biseriate to multiseriate, parenchymatous, in continuation with those of xylem. The rays are narrower in xylem region and wider in phloem region. Xylem consists of vessels, fibres and lignified wood parenchyma. The unpeeled drug shows the presence of polyhedral tubular brownish cork cells. In stolons, pith is present and is parenchymatous.  


The root is nearly cylindrical, up to 2 cm in diameter, externally wrinkled with patches of cork. The root is characterized by the presence of tetrarch xylem and absence of pith;fracture, coarsely fibrous.        


The powder is identified by (1) the character and location of starch-grains and crystals; (2) the numerous bast-fibers (also called phloem fibers) of peculiar appearance and almost identical wood-fibers; and (3) peculiar sieve tissue. The starch grains are irregularly spheroidal or polygonal, mostly solitary, 1.5 to 20 µ in diameter, contained in medullary-ray and parenchyma-cells, often associated with prismatic calcium oxalate crystals and sometimes oil-globules. The bast (phloem) and wood-fibers are yellow, thick walled and doubly pointed. The cavities of sieve-tubes are obliterated by thickening of cell wall.   [23]    

Unpeeled ones yellowish brown in color with longitudinal wrinkles, peeled ones yellow in color with longitudinal ridges. In case of stolons, scars of buds can be seen

Coarsely fibrous in the region of the bark and splintery in the wood. The fractured surface shows long fibers projecting outwards.       

1. Periderm (Corky outer layer of a plant stem) 

Several layers with tabular cells, outer layers are filled with reddish brown contents and inner few are colorless.

Phellogen (A layer of tissue giving rise to cork tissue)
Indistinct Phelloderm: 3 to 5 layered, immediately below cork, parenchymatous cells whose corners thickened with cellulose (collenchymatous); some cells contain prism shaped calcium oxalate crystals and minute starch grains.  

2. Secondary phloem

Wide zone with numerous concentracally arranged bundles of phloem fibers, each bundle is surrounded by a parenchymatous sheath whose cells contain prism shaped crystals of calcium oxalate. Radially the fiber bundles alternated with soft phloem elements and tangentially with medullary rays.

3. Medullary rays

Distinct, biseriate to multiseriate, parenchymatous, in continuation with those of xylem, however the rays narrower in the region of xylem and wider in the region of phloem.

4. Secondary xylem

Well represented, divided by large medullary rays at regular interval. Xylem consists of vessels, fibers, and lignified wood parenchyma. The vessels which are relatively wide show scalariform and bordered pitted thickenings, wood fibers unsheathed by a layer of parenchyma containing crystals and starch grain.  

5.  Pith 

Consists of large parenchyma with intercellular spaces and contain few starch grains. Pith absent in root. [24]



 The transverse section of stolon shows cork of 10-20 or more layers of tabular cells, outer layer with reddish-brown   amorphous contents, inner 3 or 4 rows having thicker, colourless walls; secondary cortex usually of 1- 3 layers of radially arranged parenchymatous cells containing isolated prisms of calcium oxalate; secondary phloem a broad band, cells of inner part cellulosic and outer lignified, radially arranged groups of about 10- 50 fibres, surrounded by a sheath of parenchyma cells, each usually containing a prism of calcium oxalate about 10- 35 µ long; cambium form tissue of 3 or more layers of cells; secondary xylem distinctly radiate with medullary rays, 3- 5 cells wide, vessels about 80-200 µ in diameter with thick, yellow, those of phloem; xylem parenchyma of two kinds, those between the vessels having thick pitted walls without inter-cellular spaces, the remaining with thin walls; pith of parenchymatous cells in longitudinal rows, with inter- cellular spaces.


The transverse section of root shows structure of closely resembling that of stolon except that no medulla is present; xylem tetrarch; usually four principal medullary rays at right angles to each other; in peeled drug cork shows phelloderm and sometimes without secondary phloem; all parenchymatous tissues containing abundant, simple,  oval or rounded starch grains, 2-20 µ in length. [25]

Parts used


The phytochemical composition of Yashimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has been studied extensively. The phytochemicals are----                                         

Triterpenes belonging to oleanane type: Glycyrrhizin (in the form of potassium and calcium salts), glycyrrhitic acid (agylcone glycyrrhetinic acid), licoric acid, glabrolide, isoglabrolide, deoxyglabrolide, glycyrrhetol and phytosterols 

Acids: Glycyrrhizic acid (which on hydrolysis yields one molecule of glycyrrhetic acid and two molecules of glycuronic acid) olic acid   

Flavonoids and Isoflavonoids: Liquirtin, isoliquertin, liquiritigenin and rhamnoliquiritin. quercetin, kempferol, astragalin (a glucoside of kempferol), licuraside, kumatakenin, glyzarin, glabrol, glabrone, neoliquiritin, formononetin, liciflavonol, licoisoflavonone, licoisoflavononesA and B, licoricone   
Five new flavonoids isolated from the root are: glucoliquiritin apioside, phenyllicoflavone A, shinflavanone, shinpterocarpin and 1-methoxyphaseolin

Phenylated biaurone: Licoagrone

Flavones and Isoflavones: Glisoflavone, isoflavone, 7-acetoxy-2-methylisoflavone, 7-methoxy-2-methylisoflavone, 7-hydroxyl-2 methylisoflavone liquiritigenin, isoliquiritigenin, liquiritoside, glyzaglabdrin (7,2- dihydroxy 3-4-methylenedihydroxy flavone), glabranin   

A new prenylated isoflavan derivative, kanzonol R was isolated from root   
Glycosides/ Glucosides: Quercetrin, glucopyranoside, 

Coumarins: Licopyranocoumarin, licoarylcoumarin, coumarin-GU-12, herniarin, glycyrin, umbelliferone, liqcoumarin

Chalcones: Rhamnoisoliquiritin,  echinatin, liquiritigenin, isoliquiritigenin, licochalcones A and B licuraside, neosoliquiritin and many more 
Isoprenoid-substituded phenolic compounds: Semilicoisoflavone B, 1-methoxyficifolinol, isoangustone A and licorifenone. 

Sugars: Glucose up to 3.8 percent, sucrose 2.4 to 6.5 percent

Polysaccharides: mostly glucans, starch

Volatile compounds:  which include benzaldehyde, fenchone, furfuryl alcohol and linalool oxide A and B, pentanol, hexanol, geraniol, tetramethyl pyrazine, terpinen-4-ol, α-terpineol

Various amino acids

Bitter princilpes, mannite, asparagines 2 to 4 percent and fat 0.8 percent, aspargin.
[26], [27], [28], [29], [30], [31], [32]


1. Korhalkar Anagha, Deshpande Manasi, Lele Priya, Modak Meera, Comprehensive review on historical   aspect of yashtimadhu-Glycyrrhiza glabra L, Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med. Volume 1, Issue 12, December 2012, 687-693    
2. Korhalkar Anagha, Deshpande Manasi, Lele Priya, Modak Meera, Comprehensive review on historical   aspect of yashtimadhu-Glycyrrhiza glabra L, Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med. Volume 1, Issue         12, December 2012, 687-693    
3. http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com/engl/Glyc_gla.html
4. Ryusuke Oishi, Trading of Licorice between Japan and China: Future Market Prospects, May 3, 2017                 https://www.intechopen.com/...licorice.../        
5. Korhalkar Anagha, Deshpande Manasi, Lele Priya, Modak Meera, Comprehensive review on historical   aspect of yashtimadhu-Glycyrrhiza glabra L, Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med. Volume 1, Issue         12, December 2012, 687-693   
6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontefract_cake
7. Korhalkar Anagha, Deshpande Manasi, Lele Priya, Modak Meera, Comprehensive review on historical   aspect of yashtimadhu-Glycyrrhiza glabra L, Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med. Volume 1, Issue         12, December 2012, 687-693  
8. Korhalkar Anagha, Deshpande Manasi, Lele Priya, Modak Meera, Comprehensive review on historical   aspect of yashtimadhu-Glycyrrhiza glabra L, Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med. Volume 1, Issue         12, December 2012, 687-693  
9. http://easyayurveda.com/2012/12/08/
10. http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com/engl/Glyc_gla.html
11. Dr. Jagdev Singh, https://www.ayurtimes.com/liquorice-licorice-mulethi-Yashtimadhu-glycyrrhiza- glabra; Last updated Sep 2, 2015    
13. Korhalkar Anagha, Deshpande Manasi, Lele Priya, Modak Meera, Comprehensive review on historical   aspect of yashtimadhu-Glycyrrhiza glabra L, Global J Res. Med. Plants & Indigen. Med. Volume 1, Issue         12, December 2012, 687-693  
14. http://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:Isid:ipni.org:names:496941-1   
15. http://www.uicnmed.org/nabp/database/HTM/PDF/p94.pdf  
16. http://www.ayushveda.com/herbs/glycyrrhiza-glabra.htm
17. http://www.uicnmed.org/nabp/database/HTM/PDF/p94.pdf  
18. http://www.ayushveda.com/herbs/glycyrrhiza-glabra.htm
19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolen
20. Sheetal Vispute, Ashlesha Khopde, Glycyrrhiza glabra Linn - “KLITAKA”: A Review, International         Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences Volume 2, Issue 3,  July-Sept 2011. 
21. http://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:496941-1
22. google images
23. Source: Natural Remidies Pvt Ltd, http://www.naturalremedy.com/                 Hare, Caspari, Rusby. National Standard Dispensory (1905)  
24. Manpreet Kaur, Glycyrrhiza: Sources, Cultivation and Uses (With Diagram)       http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/
25. Sheetal Vispute, Ashlesha Khopde, Glycyrrhiza glabra Linn - “KLITAKA”: A Review, International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences Volume 2, Issue 3, July-Sept 2011. 
26. Herbal Online Pharmacy
World of Herbal Remedies and Alternative Medicine

27. The wealth of India, A Dictionary of Indian Raw Materials and Industrial Products, First supplement series, published by National Institute of Sciences Communication and Information Resources, CSIR, New Delhi. 2005; Vol. 3, D-1, 195-198.
28.  Washington DC, Food Chemicals Codex, fifth ed. National Academy Press, 2003; 25.

29.  Isbrucker RA., Burdock GA. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology; 2006, 46: 167–192.

31. Sheetal Vispute, Ashlesha Khopde, Glycyrrhiza glabra Linn - “KLITAKA”: A Review, International         Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences Volume 2, Issue 3, July-Sept 2011. 

32. http://ijpsr.com/bft-article/glycyrrhiza-glabra-a-phytopharmacological-review/?view=fulltext




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