Licorice is an herb used for centuries to treat a variety of health ailments. It has a sweet flavor and is used as a sweetener in candies. It is also used by certain manufacturers to mask the flavor of certain medicines.
Licorice refers to the root of a plant known as Glycyrrhiza glabbra. This plant is native to Europe and Asia and is classified as a weed in those areas.
Licorice is available in many forms such as candies, herbal teas, liquid extract and capsule of dried herbs.
Benefits of Licorice
There are numerous compounds in licorice that are known for their antiviral and antimicrobial properties(1)
Licorice Helps in Stomach Discomfort and Ulcers
A Licorice root help soothe gastrointestinal problems such as food poisoning, ulcers, and heartburn. It works by speeding up the repair of the stomach lining and restoring balance, which is because of the anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties of glycyrrhizic acid.
A study found that glycyrrhizic acid prevents the growth of bacteria (H.pylori) in the gut.(2)
A double-blind study found that glabridin and glabrene, flavonoids present in licorice roots were effective in relieving stomach discomfort.(3)
Benefits of Licorice in Cleaning the Respiratory System
Licorice is often recommended for respiratory problems. It can be taken as an oral supplement as it helps the body produce healthy mucus.
It is also used as a sore throat remedy. A study found, licorice solution being effective as ketamine gargle when used for 15 minutes before surgery. It was successful in reducing the incidence and severity of POST (postoperative sore throat)(4)
Stress leads to the constant production of cortisol and adrenaline and this can leave adrenal gland exhausted. Licorice supplements give adrenal glands relief. It also stimulates the adrenal glands to promote healthy cortisol levels in the body.
Skin Inflammation and Infection
The licorice root extract is found to be beneficial against bacteria that lead to a skin infection.(5) It was found in a study that the antimicrobial activity of licorice was effective against staphylococcus aureus that leads to infections such as impetigo, cellulitis, and folliculitis.
Hepatitis if not treated can lead to inflammation and long-term liver damage.
Glycyrrhizin helps treat hepatitis C that infects the liver. The antimicrobial activity of glycyrrhizin against hepatitis C may be a promising treatment for this virus in the future.(6)
It inhibits the growth of oral bacteria and can be used as a treatment for a cavity in the future.
Can Help In Cancer Treatment
A few studies show licorice root can help in the treatment of breast and prostate cancers. It is also used in certain Chinese practices for cancer treatment.
It is yet to be approved by the FDA and the American cancer society is carrying the research to known about its effect on cancer treatment.
Dosage & Side Effects of Licorice
The dosage of licorice depends on the condition for which the treatment is taken. However, it should not be consumed in excess in food or supplement form.
Those with high blood pressure or low potassium levels should avoid licorice and glycyrrhizin supplements.
The side effects of Licorice include:
- Low levels of potassium that can lead to muscle weakness
- High blood pressure, swelling and irregular heartbeat
- Hypertension in children
Pregnant and breastfeeding females are advised to avoid licorice completely to avoid the side effects to the mother and the child. A study found consuming licorice could harm the developing brain of the fetus and lead to cognitive problems in later life.(8) Its heavy consumption could lead to preterm birth.(9)
There are certain medications that would interact with licorice and it is therefore recommended to consult a doctor if taking them and planning to start with licorice. These medicines include:
- Blood pressure medications
- Blood thinners
- Drugs that lower potassium
- Heart rhythm medications
- Birth control pills
Licorice is an ancient remedy that has a few proven health benefits. But it is recommended to consult your doctor before taking it along with any other medication.