Wild Licorice
Glycyrrhiza lepidota
Family: Fabaceae, Pea
Genus: Glycyrrhiza

General: aromatic, glandular plant, 30-120 cm tall.
Growth habit: erect perennial from deep, extensive, woody
Stems: leafy, sticky with stalked or stalkless glands.
Leaves: alternate, with 11-19 lance-shaped leaflets, 2-4
cm long, entire, glandular-dotted under magnification,
abruptly sharp-pointed. Stipules small, linear, membranous,
soon withering.
Flowers: yellowish-white, 10-15 mm long, numerous in
dense, long-stalked, bracted, clusters from leaf axils.
Banner only slightly reflexed from the narrow wings and the
sharp-pointed keel. Calyx with 5 teeth, awl-shaped, the
upper two partially fused.
Flowering time: May-August.
Fruits: pod brown, 10-15 mm long, stalkless, 1-celled,
, staying closed, covered with hooked bristles.

var. glutinosa and var. lepidota, see below.

Disturbed and low ground, especially common along
streams, in all parts of MT. Also from B.C. to Ontario and
MN, s. to CA, AZ, AR, TX and n. Mexico.

Edible and Medicinal plant: see below.
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English Names Index
Scientific Names Index
Family Index
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Edible Uses:
The roots of wild licorice can be eaten, raw or cooked. They are long, sweet and fleshy, and when slow roasted are said to taste like sweet potatoes. The were used for food by the Montana and Northwest Indians. They can be used as a flavoring in other foods as well and can also be chewed raw as a masticatory, making an excellent tooth cleaner and also very good for teething children. The root contains 6% glycyrrhizin, a substance that is 50 times sweeter than sugar. The tender young shoots can be eaten raw in the spring, and were used for food by the Cheyenne Indians.

Medicinal Uses:
Blackfoot Indians used wild licorice leaves to make poultices for earaches. All parts of the plant are medicinal, but the roots are the most active part. Roots were used for toothache, fever and to strengthen the voice for singing by the Keres and Bannock Indians. A tea of the root was used to speed the delivery of the placenta after childbirth, it was also used to treat coughs, diarrhea, chest pains, fevers in children, stomach aches etc. It was also used as a wash or poultice on swellings.The Pawnee Indians used a poultice of steeped leaves applied to ears for earache. They also made a decoction of the root as a febrifuge for children with fevers. The Lakota Indians used the roots and Canadian milk vetch roots used for spitting of blood, and they chewed the roots as a remedy for the flu, and for toothache. The Cheyenne Indians used an infusion of roots or leaves taken for diarrhea.
Clinically wild licorice is useful against gastric and duodenal ulcers, bronchial asthma and is an additive in cough syrups. Wild licorice can increase blood pressure as well. Glycyrrhizin, the sweet tasting compound is the acid ammonium salt of nitrogenous tri-basic acid, called glycyrrhizic acid. The potassium acid salt of this acid is very sweet. The free acid, prepared from the lead salt, forms a brown, gelatinous mass soluble in hot water and has a bittersweet taste and acid reaction. The root of wild licorice contains up to 6% Glycyrrhizin. Licorice can induce a hypermineralocorticoid syndrome. Current literature usually refers to the effects of sweets containing glycyrrhizin, but little is known about the consequences of prolonged intake of "pure" licorice.


var. glutinosa (Nutt. ) Wats:
Plant with stalked glands throughout the flower clusters and often also on the leaf stalks and main stem. Only in s. and w. MT.

var. lepidota:

Plant with stalked glands only on the calyx. The most common in MT.

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