Since thousands of years, people around the world have experimented with various substances to enhance sexual responses. Known as aphrodisiacs, these substances range from foods to herbs and even animal parts. Among these, foods and spices have proved one of the most widely used means of stimulating sexual desire. Licorice is one such ingredient which is believed to contribute to a heady feast of love.
Botanically known as Glycyrrhiza glabra, licorice or liquorice is a perennial herb belonging to the family of legumes. It is native to southern Europe, Middle East, and parts of Asia where its root has long been used in herbal preparations.
How licorice works as an aphrodisiac
The secret to use of licorice as an aphrodisiac could lie in its unique smell which has been shown to stimulate the male libido in a number of scientific studies. In one of them, Alan Hirsch M.D., neurological director the Chicago-based Smell and Taste Treatment Research Foundation conducted a study that evaluated how different types of smells influenced sexual arousal. Hirsch and his researchers found that the smell of black licorice was particularly stimulating to men and in fact increased the blood flow to the penis by 13 percent.
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Yet another reason why licorice may have been used in many parts of the world to enhance sexual arousal may be due to its effect on the endocrine system of the human body. According to some sources, certain chemicals present in licorice may lower the amount of serum testosterone in the body which affects the level of free testosterone. In the male body, Testosterone is the primary sex hormone which influences libido and a rise in the level of free testosterone can have a major effect on sexual stimulation. In this way, licorice can either help a person suffering from erectile disorders to be sexually aroused or it can lead a healthy individual to have a more satisfactory sexual experience.
For centuries the licorice root has been used as a natural flavoring agent. In fact the generic name of the licorice plant Glycyrrhiza is derived from the Greek term ‘glyks’ meaning sugar. Licorice root is believed to be ten times sweeter than sugar because of the presence of the main active compound known as glycyrrhizin. In the natural state licorice root exudes an intense bitter-sweet flavor which is vastly appealing to the sense of taste and consequently may be sexually stimulating too.
Licorice has also been used as a way of boosting physical stamina among men. According to a historical anecdote, licorice formed an indispensable part of the rations of Roman legions as they set out for long military campaigns. This was probably because of the rich nutritional qualities of licorice which enabled the soldiers to carry on even as rations of food and water were in limited supply. In this way, heightening the physical vigor and vitality of men, licorice may act as an important aphrodisiacal aid.
Besides being used as an aphrodisiac for it taste and smell, licorice is widely employed for its healing properties in a variety of medicinal preparations. Ten types of bioflavonoid have been identified in licorice which are believed to hold the key to its therapeutic properties. Licorice-based herbal preparations have been known to soothe sore throats and offer relief in congestion. Herbal teas containing licorice have figured in traditional medicine of China and other cultures as a treatment of stomach and intestinal ulcers, as a way of lowering acid levels and providing the intestinal walls with a protective coating of gel-like substance. Among other conditions which may benefit from therapeutic uses of licorice are rheumatism, arthritis, disorders of blood sugar and even menstrual irregularities among women. While none of these uses of licorice have a direct impact on the libido, the very action of healing the body of various disorders is indirectly but crucially related to experience of healthy sex.
The roots and rhizomes of the licorice are believed to contain most of the therapeutic and flavorful properties of the plant. As a dietary supplement or herbal treatment, licorice root is generally used in the form of capsules of its extract or a liquid extract. The usual dosage of powdered licorice root containing 4-9 % glycyrrhizin is one to four grams taken by mouth three to four times a day. These days, there are two kinds of licorice extract products available - standard licorice and deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), for the treatment of different conditions. The standard licorice containing glycyrrhizin is used for respiratory infections, chronic fatigue syndrome and even topical treatment for herpes. DGL is prepared without the glycyrrhizin that affects the adrenal glands and may be better suited for conditions of the digestive tract, such as ulcers. For treatment of peptic ulcer, the usual dosage is 0.4 to 1.6 g of DGL extract three times per day.
Licorice root is also a popular ingredient in various types of herbal teas. A tea can be made by adding approximately 4g of chopped or freshly grated licorice roots to a cup of hot water. After steeping for 10 to 15 minutes and straining it, the infusion is ready to be consumed. In many parts of the world, the root is consumed in its natural form, either fresh as in some pockets of Southern Italy where it is chewed as a mouth freshener or dried in the form of licorice sticks, which in fact makes a healthy snack for dieters. However the most extensive use of licorice is as a flavoring agent in candies, soft drinks and pharmaceutical products.
Possible side effects of using licorice
Use of high licorice in very high doses can lead to limited problems like fatigue, headaches, and muscle cramps or serious ones like loss of salt from blood, heart irregularities and high blood pressure. Licorice should not be taken by pregnant and breastfeeding women and those people who have a history of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, heart, liver and kidney conditions.
Cultures across the world have used licorice for ages to promote the cause of love. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed to stimulate sexual desire while in ancient Indian love treatises like Kamasutra include several licorice-based recipes for increasing sexual vigor. The ancient Romans too considered licorice root an important aid to maintaining male vitality and physical stamina. When one thinks about the intense taste and smell of the licorice root together with its healing properties, it is not difficult to understand why it was regarded by so many people as an incredible way of boosting one’s love life.