Licorice root is a herbal dietary supplement that is commonly used for bronchitis, sore throat, stomach ulcers, and some viral infections. Licorice root has a sweet taste quite similar to star anise. The licorice root has long been known for its many beneficial uses because of its active compound known as glycyrrhizin, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It is recommended by many herbalists and holistic practitioners as an alternative remedy for various health problems and for boosting the adrenal health. In traditional medicine, licorice root is used for rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lupus and allergies. It is also known to be effective for peptic ulcer and mouth ulcers.
Active ingredient and a brief overview
The main active component in licorice root is glycyrrhizic acid, an anti-viral. In a 2009 study published in “Hepatology Research,” researchers at Tokyo’s Medical and Dental University state that this compound suppresses the replication of the hepatitis C virus. In recent studies, glycyrrhizic acid has also been tested to disrupt the latent Kaposi sarcoma, a tumor caused by Human herpes virus 8 (HHV8).
- Adrenal fatigue – The adrenal gland is responsible for hormonal release, in particular the stress regulating hormone cortisol. A 1990 study published in “the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that glycyrrhizic acid blocks the enzyme that converts cortisol to cortisone, resulting in higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol is known to have a great effect in boosting a person’s energy and endurance level, stimulates the conversion of protein to carbohydrate and suppresses inflammation.
- Anti-bacterial – Licorice root has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Licorice root can be used to treat skin problems caused by the build-up of bacteria or fungus on the skin such as athlete’s foot, dandruff, acne, and other skin problems.
- Cough relief – Licorice root can be used as an expectorant and cough remedy. Drinking licorice root tea thrice daily can help cure cough, asthma, and congestion. Licorice root has anti-inflammatory properties that will help loosen and release mucus, and will make the air passages wider so that oxygen can flow more freely. It also has a soothing effect to calm lungs.
- Laxative – Licorice root is good for the gastrointestinal tract. Licorice root can act as a laxative to help people with constipation. People with hemorrhoids can also benefit from this property of licorice root. Licorice can help in passing the bowels easier to avoid irritation and bleeding of the hemorrhoid glands.
- Blood health – Licorice root can act as a blood detoxifier and cleanser. It helps in maintaining the normal flow of the blood and cleanses it from any harmful chemicals like excess cholesterol. For people with diabetes, licorice roots can help in avoiding hypoglycemia, which is caused by low blood sugar levels. The natural sweetness of licorice roots will help slightly increase the low blood-sugar level without causing a resultant sugar spike — and it can make a great ingredient for diabetic desserts.
- Flavoring – Licorice root has been used by people since ancient times as a spice or flavoring to add to their food. Licorice root is sweeter than sugar with a slight taste similar to anise. Licorice roots can be used to make candies and teas. It is used in some Chinese, European and Middle Eastern cuisines.
- Skin disorders – Ancient civilizations have used salves made from licorice roots to treat various skin conditions and problems. In recent clinical studies, licorice root has been found to have anti-inflammatory and demulcent agents that can reduce the symptoms of eczema and other skin disorders. Topical application of licorice root extract can help in treating psoriasis, rashes, dry skin, itchy skin, and other skin disorders. To prepare a licorice root salve, bring 2 tbsp. dried licorice root and 6 cups water to a boil. Cover the pan, reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. You can add this liquid to a cold compress and apply to the skin irritation or pour it into a bath for soothing relief.
- Arterial health – Studies show that licorice root can improve the bile flow. Bile acids are responsible for the metabolism of cholesterol in the body and in eliminating the excess cholesterol. Licorice root also acts as an anti-oxidant which helps in preventing the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Daily doses of licorice root supplements can help promote good cardiovascular health, help in cholesterol regulation, and prevent heart disease.
- Hair health – Licorice root extract can be used as a shampoo as it reduces the oil in hair. Bring 2tbsp. dried licorice root and 6 cups water to a boil and let simmer for 40 minutes. Use this licorice water as a rinse for a cleansing hair treatment.
- Herpes – The anti-viral properties of the licorice root will help in suppressing the re-occurrence and progression of cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Herbalists use licorice root supplements as remedies for herpes, cold sores, and shingles.
- Cough and sore throat – The saponin glycosides found in licorice root are known to be a good expectorant, and good for breaking up and secreting built up phlegm. This can help people with asthma, bronchitis, and dry cough. The anti-inflammatory properties of licorice root can also widen the air passages wider, making breathing easier.
- Gastric problems – The flavonoid and chalcones that is found in the licorice root is used to treat different varieties of gastric and intestinal problems. The two chemicals can help in easing the infection and the inflammation of the mucus lining and intestinal tract. Licorice root also soothes the digestive system promoting good digestion and normal bowel movement.
- High blood pressure – Large consumption of the active component in licorice, glycyrrhizin, will lead to high blood pressure. When licorice root supplements are taken in combination with other medications, it can lead to a decreased potassium level, which can lead to hypertonia and hypokalemia. Talk to your doctor about possible drug interactions with licorice root.
- Allergies – People who are allergic to licorice root may have trouble breathing; develop rashes, itchy skin, nausea, and vertigo. As licorice is a member of the pea family, persons who are allergic to licorice may also have a reaction to legumes, beans, and peas.
- Miscarriage – Pregnant women should not consume any product made from the licorice root as it can induce labor and miscarriage.
- Erectile dysfunction – Taking high levels of licorice root can diminish a man’s sexual interest and may cause erectile dysfunction. As the active compound in licorice root, glycyrrhizin, affects the adrenal gland, it can lower hormonal levels including testosterone.
- Kidney disease – Overuse of licorice root can worsen existing kidney problems or kidney disease.
Licorice root has been used as a herbal remedy for centuries. It is used to treat a number of health problems such as high cholesterol, hepatitis, sore throat, asthma, constipation, and many other conditions. With its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, it is also great for skin and hair health. If using licorice for its health benefits, it is important to use either the dried root or its extract as a supplement. Many “licorice” products manufactured in the US actually don’t contain any licorice. Instead, they contain anise oil, which has the characteristic smell and taste of “black licorice.”