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Benefits and Side Effects of Licorice Root

Licorice is famous for its candy flavor. It has up to 50 times the sweet taste of sugar. That’s why Licorice root is popularly known as “sweet root” and is frequently added to chocolate for sweetening effects. However, the herb and its root, which is a known adaptogen, have many different beneficial properties.  The most important benefit is probably as a remedy for leaky gut.

The licorice plant grows relatively tall and has many branches. The taproot can grow up to 4 feet deep, with many smaller branches coming off of it. It is said to resemble the head of Medusa. The Licorice flowers are purple to lavender and the fruit is a small one-celled pod.

Licorice root has been used for its medicinal purposes as far back as the Roman Empire. Hippocrates and Pliny referred to licorice root in their writings. In the 15th century this herb was first introduced to Europe. Across the Atlantic, the Blackfoot Indians used wild licorice for both medicinal and culinary purposes.

In the Chinese medicine, licorice was considered valuable for its anti-inflammatory properties, and was very often mixed with countless other herbs, which makes it one of the most widely used herb in this ancient healing tradition.

Even if you plan to use black licorice for its sweet taste, you simply can’t ignore the powerful impact of its healthful components.

In the medicinal sense, licorice was traditionally used to treat fever, earaches, menstrual cramps, menopausal symptoms, dropsy, urinary infections, cough, constipation, influenza, ulcers, bronchitis, and hypoglycemia. That’s a lot of use for something that most people think of as just being a candy.

Uses and Health Benefits of Licorice

Within the root of this plant there are many active compounds, and according to some sources, their number approaches 170.  Among the most important ones are the coumarins, flavonoids, stilbenoids, and triterpenoids.

Flavonoids are usually present in deep colored plants, like the blue color of blueberries. In this case, the black color of licorice root comes as a result of bio-active flavonoids, which also deliver powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action. The other compounds are of polyphenol type, and are also considered to fight inflammation and to be strong antibiotics.

Modern use of licorice includes flavoring and coloring in tobacco. More than 90% of all licorice imported to the United States ends up in tobacco. This is a real shame, because there are so many good uses of this herb. Extract from this root is frequently found in cough syrups and cough drops, because it is soothing to the throat and helps loosen phlegm. Other benefits of licorice include arthritis relief and laxative purposes.

Licorice root extract is added to eye drops to reduce eye inflammation and shampoos to relieve dandruff. Recent research has discovered anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects.

Licorice is frequently found combined with other herbs, both to increase their activity and to improve their taste. Other health benefits of licorice root include the fact that it helps open skin pores and is frequently combined with other herbs in facial treatments.

Remedy for Leaky Gut

If you have leaky gut, you know how difficult it can be to deal with it. To that aim, licorice can be used as a beneficial supplement. Being an anti-inflammatory and soothing plant, it can also work as a remedy for stomach ulcers.

Cortisol Regulation

Cortisol is another name for the most important stress hormone in the human body. Produced by the adrenal glands, too much of it can lead to chronic stress and various physical and mental disorders. Licorice is one of the handful of herbs that can help your body regulate the excess of cortisol and give your adrenal glands a break.

Remedy for Acid Reflux

The extract of this herb has been identified as an effective remedy against stomach pain, heartburn, nausea, and indigestion. A special form of licorice extract, DGL licorice, which is also relatively safe for human consumption, is available as chewable pills and can help if you have some of the above mentioned symptoms.

Cough Remedy

Licorice can help you with sore throat problems and cough. Because of its expectorant properties, it can help lose and expel mucus very easily. As an additional benefit, this herb’s anti-inflammatory properties kick in and enable very effective relief. Make sure you use it in a form of syrup, tea, or cough drops because of its direct contact with the affected areas.

​Boost of Immunity

One just has to say that Licorice root is an adaptogen and no other explanations are necessary. It will strengthen your entire body’s immunity, just like ginseng root, or ashwagandha root for example. In addition, it is an antioxidant and the triterpenoid compounds found in it are antiviral compounds.

Side Effects

If you want to use Licorice pills and extracts, or use it in any other form, there are side effects you have to be aware of. Therefore, consult with your physician first.

The general safety guidelines would be the following:

Do not use licorice if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems, liver problems or low potassium, Do not use licorice daily for more than 4-6 weeks.

The main source of concern of Licorice Root is a compound called Glycyrrhizin. Glycyrrhizin is a triterpenoid and is the main active component of licorice. It amounts for between 5 and 20 percent of the plant mass.

Glycyrrhizin can cause headaches, lethargy, potassium secretion, water and salt retention, raised blood pressure, variable cardiac performance, and even cardiac arrest. Because of this possible health hazard, glycyrrhizin is sometimes removed from the licorice supplements.

If your health is impaired, for example, if you have kidney or liver damage, high blood pressure, or if you are pregnant of breast feeding, there is an alternative: the deglycyrrhized licorice, known as DGL Licorice. This form comes with removed glycyrrhizin and is generally much safer for wider use.

Otherwise, if you are a healthy adult, keeping the glycyrrhizin in can be beneficial, as it has some positive sides too. In any case, as indicated above, give your body a break from time to time to be on the safe side.

Licorice root extract has mild estrogenic capabilities. This makes it useful for the prevention and treatment of menstrual and menopausal complaints. However, due to that, pregnant women should avoid medicinal doses of licorice, as should those who may be more susceptible to breast cancer.

If you are breastfeeding, licorice has a plant safety rating of ‘B’: May not be appropriate for self-use by some individuals or dyads, or may cause adverse effects if misused. Seek reliable safety and dose information.

Licorice Tea

Licorice root tea is a great option if you are a tea enthusiast. It can help you with a number of conditions, like common cold or upset stomach. Just remember to take another look at the good and bad effects of glycyrrhizin (the most dominant active compound) on human health. Check with your physician if you are allowed to drink this type of tea, or maybe you can choose one without glycyrrhizin. Remember never to give it to infants and young children, during pregnancy and while nursing.

The traditional Licorice Chinese tea is made of licorice root and dried tangerine peel. It takes about 60 grams of fresh root and about 30 grams of dried tangerine peel. To treat stomach ulcers and gastritis, the following mixture is recommended: Licorie root 100 grams, Chamomile 50 grams, Lemon balm 50 grams, and Common Mallow 50 grams.

The Egyptian Licorice tea is a combination of licorice root, ginger root, cinnamon bark, cinnamon bark oil, cardamom seed, black pepper, clove bud, and orange peel, all of them in their organic form. Enjoyable and delicious, it is caffeine free, so you can drink it any time, even at night.

Other Licorice Products

DGL Chewable Licorice Extract Tablets or Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice is licorice with the glycyrrhizin removed. It is frequently used to treat stomach ulcers and other gastric upsets.

Liquid extracts are usually absorbed much faster than tablets or pills, and can be much more potent. Great to be used for adrenal fatigue.

Licorice together with senna, cascara sagrada, and aloe vera can produce a quick colon cleanse, detox, and even weight Loss.

Take Away Points

Use Licorice root supplements with caution if you have medical conditions. DGL pills may be your best choice.

For healthy persons, Licorice can have plenty of health benefits, including dealing with adrenal fatigue like no other herb.

Licorice could be a valuable medicine, especially if you have stomach problems, like acid reflux and leaky gut.

Due to the possible side effects, consult with your doctor before using.

It shouldn’t be given to pregnant women and children.

Even if you are totally healthy, remember to make breaks. Continuous for more than four to six weeks is not recommended.

Photo 1 courtesy by denAsuncioner

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