Licorice Root

Licorice Root

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), also spelled as “liquorice,” is a plant native to Southern Europe and parts of Asia, belonging to the Glycyrrhiza genus in the legume family Fabaceae. The root of the licorice plant has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and culinary applications. Licorice root is known for its distinct sweet flavor, which comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound that is 30 to 50 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar).

Licorice root is commonly used as a flavoring agent in candies, beverages and herbal teas. It is also used in traditional medicine for its potential health benefits.

Health Benefits of Licorice

As a herbal medicine, Licorice Root has an impressive list of well documented uses and is probably one of the most over-looked of all herbal wonders. Licorice Root is used in traditional medicine for; soothing sore throats, relieving digestive discomfort and supporting respiratory health.

Licorice root extract is used in herbal supplements and skincare products for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains many anti-depressant compounds and is an excellent alternative to St. John’s Wort.

Licorice is useful for many ailments, which we will discuss below:

Healing Substances in Licorice

Hundreds of potentially healing substances have been identified in Licorice, including compounds called flavonoids and various plant estrogens (phytoestrogens). The herb’s key therapeutic compound, glycyrrhizin (which is 50 times sweeter than sugar) exerts numerous beneficial effects on the body, making Licorice a valuable herb for treating a host of ailments.

Licorice seems to prevent the breakdown of adrenal hormones such as cortisol (the body’s primary stress-fighting adrenal hormone), making these hormones more available to the body.

Licorice for Ulcers and Digestive Tract Health

Licorice has a well-documented reputation for healing ulcers. It can lower stomach acid levels, relieve heartburn and indigestion, and act as a mild laxative. It can also be used for irritation, inflammation and spasm in the digestive tract.

Licorice Boosts the Immune System

Licorice appears to enhance immunity by boosting levels of interferon, a key immune system chemical that fights off attacking viruses. Glycyrrhizinic acid also seems to stop the growth of many bacteria and of viruses such as influenza A.

Licorice contains powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants play a crucial role in supporting the immune system by neutralizing harmful molecules called free radicals, reducing oxidative stress and enhancing immune cell function. They help protect cells from damage, strengthen immune responses and support overall health.

Licorice for Stress and Pain Relief

Licorice has an aspirin-like action and is helpful in relieving fevers and soothing pain such as headaches. Its anti-allergenic effect is very useful for hay fever, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis and bronchial asthma.

Possibly by its action on the adrenal glands, licorice has the ability to improve resistance to stress. It can be taken during times of both physical and emotional stress, after surgery or during convalescence, or when feeling tired and run down.

Licorice for Respiratory Problems and Sore Throats

Licorice eases congestion and coughing by helping to loosen and thin mucus in airways; this makes a cough more “productive,” bringing up phlegm and other mucus bits.

Licorice also helps to relax bronchial spasms. The herb also soothes soreness in the throat and fights viruses that cause respiratory illnesses and an overproduction of mucus, such as irritating coughs, asthma and chest infections.

Licorice to Lessen Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

By enhancing cortisol activity, glycyrrhizin helps to increase energy, ease stress and reduce the symptoms of ailments sensitive to cortisol levels, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

Licorice for Liver Health and to Combat Hepatitis

Licorice both protects the liver and promotes healing in this vital organ. The herb’s anti-inflammatory properties help calm hepatitis-associated liver inflammation. Licorice also fights the virus commonly responsible for hepatitis and supplies valuable antioxidant compounds that help maintain the overall health of the liver.

Licorice also increases bile flow. Bile flow is the movement of bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver, into the digestive tract through bile ducts. Bile plays a vital role in fat digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste removal. It contains bile acids that help emulsify fats, aiding their digestion by enzymes in the small intestine.

Additionally, bile facilitates the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and the removal of waste products from the body.

Problems with bile flow can lead to digestive issues like gallstones or impaired fat digestion. Maintaining healthy bile flow is essential for optimal digestive function and overall health.

Licorice for PMS and Menstrual Problems

The situation with Licorice and phytoestrogens is complicated.

Licorice root contains compounds called phytoestrogens, which are plant-based compounds that can mimic the activity of estrogen in the body. These phytoestrogens can interact with estrogen receptors, potentially exerting estrogenic effects.

However, licorice root also contains other compounds, such as glycyrrhizin, which may have complex effects on hormonal balance. Some research suggests that glycyrrhizin may inhibit the activity of an enzyme called 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (17β-HSD1), which is involved in converting less active forms of estrogen into more potent forms in certain tissues. By inhibiting this enzyme, licorice root may indirectly modulate estrogen levels.

For this reason, Licorice can be potentially useful in easing certain symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), such as irritability, bloating and breast tenderness, as well as being helpful during the menopause.

Overall, the effects of licorice root on estrogen levels and hormonal balance can vary depending on factors such as dosage, individual physiology, and the specific compounds present in the licorice preparation. It’s essential to use licorice root cautiously and consult with a healthcare professional, especially for individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions or those taking medications that may interact with licorice.

Lower Cholesterol and Prevent Heart Disease with Licorice

Recent studies have found that by limiting the damage from LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, Licorice may discourage artery-clogging plaque formation and contribute to the healthy functioning of the heart. Research indicates that modest doses of licorice (100 mg a day) have this effect and be able to lower cholesterol levels.

Where to Buy Evening Licorice Root

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Licorice Root Herb Notes / Side Effects

Do not confuse Licorice Root with Licorice confectionery which contains very little, if any, Licorice and is in fact flavoured by Anise.

Excessive consumption of licorice or prolonged use of licorice supplements may have adverse effects, particularly for individuals with certain medical conditions or those taking medications.

Licorice can cause water retention and raised blood pressure. Prolonged use should be avoided if you suffer from high blood pressure.

Licorice can cause mild adrenal stimulation.

Latin Names

Glycyrrhiza glabra, Liquiritia officinalis

Common Names

Chinese Licorice, Gan Cao, Kan-ts’ao, Kuo-lao, Licorice, Licorice Root, Ling-t’ung, Liquorice, Mei-ts’ao, Mi-kan, Mi-ts’ao, Sweet Licorice, Sweet Wood, Yasti Madhu

Properties of Licorice

Anti-allergic, anti-arthritic, anti-inflammatory, demulcent, emollient, estrogenic (mild), expectorant, laxative, pectoral (moderate), soothing.

Licorice is Indicated for:

Addison’s disease, allergic rhinitis, arthritis, athlete’s foot, baldness, bronchitis, bursitis, canker sores, catarrh of the upper respiratory tract, chronic fatigue, colds, colitis and intestinal infections, conjunctivitis, constipation, coughs, dandruff, depression, duodenal-ulcers, emphysema, exhaustion, fibromyalgia, flu, fungal infections, gastritis, gingivitis and tooth decay, gout, hayfever, heartburn, hepatitis, inflamed gallbladder, liver disease, Lyme disease, menopause, prostate enlargement, psoriasis, shingles, sore throat, spleen disorders, tendinitis, throat problems, tuberculosis, ulcers, viral infections, yeast infections. Reducing stomach acid and relieving heartburn and indigestion. Increasing bile flow and lowering cholesterol. Improving resistance to physical and emotional stress.

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