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The medicinally used part of licorice is the root and dried rhizome of the low-growing shrub Glycyrrhiza glabra . Currently, most licorice is produced in Greece, Turkey, and Asia. Licorice has been used in ancient Greece, China, and Egypt, primarily for gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and ailments of the upper respiratory tract. Ancient Egyptians prepared a licorice drink for ritual use to honor spirits of the pharaohs. Its use became widespread in Europe and Asia for numerous indications. In addition to its medicinal uses, licorice has been used as a flavoring agent, valued for sweetness (glycyrrhizin, a component of licorice, is 50 times sweeter than table sugar). The generic name "glycyrrhiza" stems from ancient Greek, meaning "sweet root." It was originally used as flavoring for licorice candies, although most licorice candy is now flavored with anise oil. Licorice is still used in sub-therapeutic doses as a sweetening agent in herbal medicines, lozenges, and tobacco products (doses low enough that significant adverse effects are unlikely). Licorice has a long history of medicinal use in Europe and Asia. At high doses, there are potentially severe side effects, including hypertension (high blood pressure), hypokalemia (low blood potassium levels), and fluid retention. Most adverse effects have been attributed to the chemical component glycyrrhiza (or glycyrrhizic acid). Licorice can be processed to remove the glycyrrhiza, resulting in DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice), which does not appear to share the metabolic disadvantages of licorice.
Bilberry, a close relative of blueberry, has a long history of medicinal use. The dried fruit has been popular for the symptomatic treatment of diarrhea, for topical relief of minor mucus membrane inflammation, and for a variety of eye disorders, including poor night vision, eyestrain, and myopia. Bilberry fruit and its extracts contain a number of biologically active components, including a class of compounds called anthocyanosides. These have been the focus of recent research in Europe. Bilberry extract has been evaluated for efficacy as an antioxidant, mucostimulant, hypoglycemic, anti-inflammatory, "vasoprotectant," and lipid-lowering agent. Although pre-clinical studies have been promising, human data are limited and largely of poor quality. At this time, there is not sufficient evidence in support of (or against) the use of bilberry for most indications. Notably, the evidence suggests a lack of benefit of bilberry for the improvement of night vision. Bilberry is commonly used to make jams, pies, cobblers, syrups, and alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages. Fruit extracts are used as a coloring agent in wines.
Neem has a long history of use in India. The leaf and bark extracts were recommended by herbal practitioners for gastrointestinal upsets, skin ulcers, infections and malaria. Neem twigs were used regularly as toothbrushes, and the leaf gel was used to fight periodontal disease (inflammatory disease of the gum). The extracts from neem often have a pungent smell similar to garlic. This is because they contain sulfurous compounds. Neem has been reported to reduce plaque formation, act as a mosquito repellent, treat psoriasis vulgaris (chronic skin disease with reddened lesions covered by silvery scales) and aid in the healing of gastroduodenal ulcers. However, there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend for or against these uses. In the United States, neem is used mainly for its antibacterial, antifungal, insect repellant, contraceptive, and hypothetical "life extension" qualities.