Licorice root, also known as sweet root, is known mostly for its use as a sweetener in candies and beverages. However, licorice root has also been used for centuries for its medicinal benefits. It’s important to note that some of these benefits are not proven by medical research. However, the overall holistic benefits of licorice root are becoming more accepted in the medical community. Licorice is available in many forms, either containing glycyrrhizin or as DGL, deglycyrrhizinated licorice.
History of Licorice Root
The early Egyptians loved licorice root and used it in tea as a cure-all concoction. Licorice was later imported to the Chinese and also became an important herb in their medicinal tradition. The word “licorice” actually refers to the root of a plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra, which is native to Europe and Asia. In fact, the plant is classified in those areas as a weed.
Here are its benefits.
Soothes Your Stomach
Licorice root has been used to soothe gastrointestinal problems. In cases of food poisoning, stomach ulcers, and heartburn, licorice root extract can speed repair of the stomach’s lining and restore balance. This is due to the anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties of glycyrrhizic acid. Studies claim that glycyrrhic acid can suppress the toxic bacteria H. pylori, and can even prevent it from growing in the gut. However, research also shows that patients suffering from peptic ulcer disease, heartburn, and gastritis have improved symptoms when taking DGL. DGL is the safer form of licorice and is able to be taken over the long term if needed.
Cleanses Your Respiratory System
Licorice is also recommended to treat respiratory problems. Taking licorice as an oral supplement can help the production of healthy mucus. Although increasing phlegm production seems counterintuitive to a healthy bronchial system, the opposite is actually true. The production of clean, healthy phlegm keeps the respiratory system functioning without old, sticky mucus clogging it up.
Over time, stress can leave the adrenal gland exhausted by the constant work of producing adrenaline and cortisol. The adrenal gland can get relief with the support of licorice supplements. The adrenal gland can be stimulated and balanced by licorice root extract, which promotes a healthy level of cortisol within the body.
Assists Cancer Treatment
Some studies say licorice root can potentially aid the treatment of breast and prostate cancers. It’s already being incorporated into some Chinese practices for cancer treatment. The FDA has yet to approve such treatment methods in the United States, but, according to the American Cancer Society, research is ongoing.
Protects Your Skin and Teeth
Topical gels including licorice are recommended for the treatment of eczema. Licorice is often used as a successful dermatological treatment due to its antibacterial properties. Along that line of reasoning, holistic health practitioners often suggest applying licorice treatment to the site of tooth decay to kill bacteria.
Dosage and Forms
Licorice extract is the most commonly found form of licorice. Used as a commercial sweetener in candies and beverages, licorice extract consumption by an individual should not exceed 30 mg/ml glycyrrhizic acid. Ingesting more could produce unwanted side effects, as warned by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Licorice powder can be purchased by the ounce at health food stores and online specialty retailers. It can be combined with a gel base to create a topical ointment that clears the skin. In its powder form, licorice is especially helpful in the treatment of eczema and acne. The powder can also be poured into vegetable capsules and ingested orally. Always remember that the recommended dosage of licorice root is less than 75 milligrams per day, according to the WHO guidelines.
Licorice plant leaves, dried and crushed into a tea leaf form, have become a popular herbal tea. These teas can be purchased at supermarkets and health food stores. They are used to promote digestive, respiratory, and adrenal gland health. When you see herbal teas that are cited as aids for “bronchial wellness” and “cleanse and detox,” they usually contain forms of licorice. The popular throat remedy known as “Throat Coat” tea is a combination of marshmallow root, licorice root, and elm bark. It is not recommended that individuals ingest more than 8 ounces of licorice tea daily.
DGL is licorice with the glycyrrhizin removed, which reduces your risk of consuming licorice. DGL should contain no more than 2 percent glycyrrhizin and is recommended for gastrointestinal symptoms, as long-term intake may be needed. DGL is available in chewable tablets, capsules, tea, and powder. Consume no more than 5 grams of DGL daily.
Possible Side Effects
Too much licorice root extract can lead to low levels of potassium in the body, which causes muscle weakness. This condition is called hypokalemia.
Fluid retention and metabolism abnormalities have occurred in studies where subjects ingested too much licorice root in a two-week period.
High blood pressure and heartbeat irregularity are negative side effects that can result from consuming too much licorice. While many modern licorice-flavored products simply mimic the natural flavors of licorice, some continue to use the original recipes that include glycyrrhizic acid. Children as young as 10 years old have been hospitalized as a result of hypertension when too much licorice was ingested.
Women that are pregnant or breast-feeding are advised by the FDA to avoid licorice in all forms altogether. Individuals with hypertension should also avoid licorice root.