Also called ‘sweet root’ (as it contains a compound that makes it 50 times sweeter than sugar), licorice root is particularly known to improve gastrointestinal health, in addition to offering numerous other benefits.
The root even enhances the efficiency of other herbs and can make your life easier with its anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties. All of this, and several other properties, make licorice root a welcome addition to your diet.
Table Of Contents
- What Are The Health Benefits Of Licorice Root?
- Any Other Ways Of Using Licorice Root?
- Where To Buy Licorice Root?
- Any Fast Facts On Licorice Root?
- Any Side Effects Of Licorice Root?
- What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Licorice?
- Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) Vs. Licorice Extract – Which Is Better?
- What Is The Recommended Dosage Of Licorice Root?
What Are The Health Benefits Of Licorice Root?
Primarily known for its ability to heal the gastrointestinal system, licorice root benefits the human body in numerous other ways. Thanks to the glycyrrhizin (the active compound in licorice that accounts for its sweet taste), the root helps fight cancer and inflammation. Other important bioactive compounds in licorice root help boost brain function and aid diabetes treatment, while the fiber helps in weight loss. Licorice root might also be beneficial for the skin and hair.
Please note that when we say licorice, we don’t mean the candy (which is a type of wax containing sugar). Real licorice root is not laden with sugar.
1. Improves Gastrointestinal Health
Talking about conditions like acid reflux, licorice root can do a great job. And this is especially true with DGL, or deglycyrrhizinated licorice (a form of licorice root, which we will discuss in a little while). DGL is known to increase mucus production, and this can protect the stomach lining from excess acid. Licorice is also known to treat ulcers.
The root can also treat heartburn and acid reflux associated with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and its other symptoms like vomiting and nausea.
And being an anti-inflammatory and demulcent (relieves irritation and soothes), licorice root can also help treat a leaky gut (1). The root also speeds the recovery of the stomach lining. This can be attributed to the presence of glycyrrhizic acid in the root, which restores balance in the gut. The acid suppresses the growth of the H. pylori bacteria, which can cause various issues with digestion
2. Assists Cancer Treatment
One American study talks about how licorice and its derivatives can offer protection against carcinogenic DNA damage. The polyphenols in the root also induce cancer cell death, as per the study (2).
In fact, some amount of research states that licorice can work better than chemotherapy in killing cancer cells. In fact, its action is selective – it protects the healthy cells in the process, unlike chemotherapy that destroys everything.
The glycyrrhizin in licorice induces cancer cell death in prostate cancer too. Studies reveal its therapeutic potential against prostate cancer (3).
3. Aids Diabetes Treatment
This might appear counterintuitive, given that licorice is 50 times sweeter than sugar and all. But research revelations are surprising. The molecules in licorice root are found to possess anti-diabetic properties (4). And what’s even better – these molecules are very well tolerated by the human body.
More interestingly, diabetic rats that were given licorice extract experienced a drop in their blood sugar levels. A couple of substances in licorice, namely glabridin and amorfrutin, were deemed responsible for this benefit (5).
4. Can Help With Weight Loss
Studies have some interesting results here. One study showed that intake of 3.5 grams of licorice a day could reduce body fat by 4% (6). And licorice also contains fiber, which might help one feel full.
Preliminary research also states how licorice can decrease body fat mass. The root also has desirable effects on the thickness of body fat (7). Studies have also shown how supplementing with licorice flavonoid oil might reduce obesity. Licorice tea might also help reduce body fat.
5. Boosts Liver Health
The anti-inflammatory properties of licorice have been found to protect the liver from alcohol-induced injury. The root is also known to improve the antioxidant defense in the condition (8).
Licorice root extract might also help with the liver’s natural detoxification process.
6. Fights Inflammation
We have already seen the anti-inflammatory effects of licorice root. The root is particularly effective in treating inflammation of the digestive tract. The glycyrrhizin in the root also inhibits tissue inflammation by reducing the generation of reactive oxygen species, or ROS.
Licorice, as per studies, can protect against chronic inflammation and related conditions like arthritis (11). Further research also states how licorice acts like the body’s natural corticosteroids (compounds that reduce inflammation). The root also prevents the production of certain enzymes that are responsible for inflammation.
7. Boosts Brain Health
One compound in licorice, namely carbenoxolone, was found to reduce stress and slow down brain aging. In addition, it was also found to keep mental skills sharp (12).
Another compound in licorice, called liquiritigenin, was found to have a positive effect on brain cells, and as a consequence, could also prevent Alzheimer’s. And as per a report by the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation, licorice root extract could also help prevent other brain diseases – and even improve memory (13).
Some sources say licorice might also aid depression treatment – however, we need more research on this.
[ Read: Tips To Build Mental Stamina ]
8. Relieves Adrenal Fatigue And Other Hormonal Issues
Some sources state how licorice can prevent adrenal exhaustion. It supports the adrenal glands and even helps balance hormones. In fact, the root has been traditionally used to balance female hormones, thus relieving the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and menopause. The flavonoids in licorice were found to have an estrogenic effect on human cells.
And talking about polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, licorice root is known to be used in herbal supplements specifically prescribed for treating the condition. However, we need more information in this aspect.
9. Enhances Immunity
Licorice root has antiviral and antimicrobial properties, and these can help boost immunity. In fact, the glycyrrhizin in licorice can stimulate immunity and help fight several viral infections, as per studies (14). It also prevents other bacterial and fungal infections.
Licorice root also plays a great role in relieving cough and other ailments of the respiratory tract. It cures colds and soothes a sore throat as well. The root also coats the throat with a thin film of mucus, and this protects the delicate tissues in there. It also helps clear congestion from the lungs and bronchial tubes – thereby helping bring up phlegm.
10. Might Improve Male Fertility
Studies have shown how licorice root can help treat erectile dysfunction. The root improves overall health on a cellular level. It also has beneficial effects on male hormonal levels (15).
According to another Italian study, licorice intake might also increase serum testosterone levels – which directly impact fertility (16).
However, studies are contradictory in this regard. We suggest you talk to your doctor before using licorice for this purpose.
11. Relieves Symptoms Of PMS And Menopause
Licorice root is known to offer relief from menstrual cramps. It can moderate the spasms and alleviate pain. The root has an estrogen-like effect in women, and this helps relieve symptoms of PMS and menopause (17).
In one study, licorice was found to be much better than therapy in reducing the duration of hot flashes (18).
12. Betters Oral Health
Research has shown that licorice root can cut cavities and gum disease. Two of the important compounds in licorice, namely licoricidin and licorisoflavan A, were found to be the most effective in inhibiting the growth of bacteria that cause cavities. The root also helps prevent periodontitis, which is a serious oral disease that destroys the gums and bones and tissues that maintain the teeth (19).
The root is also known to freshen breath naturally. And it prevents tooth decay as well (20).
13. Aids Sleep
One type of licorice root, called Glycyrrhiza glabra, is known to induce sleep and even increase sleep duration (21). Two other compounds in licorice root, namely gabrol and liquiritigenin, also help induce sleep. They also reduce the time required to fall asleep. More importantly, these compounds increase the length of non-REM sleep without disturbing deep sleep.
14. Improves Skin Health
The use of licorice brightens your skin. You can prepare a face mask by mixing turmeric powder and fuller’s earth with licorice tea. Apply the pack on your face and allow it to dry. Rinse off the face pack with normal water. To keep the skin hydrated, you can add a few drops of coconut oil, olive oil or almond oil to it.
Regular use of licorice helps to fade blemishes and dark spots.
Application of cool licorice tea is known to help in healing a number of skin disorders Some of them are eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, and skin rashes. Its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and demulcent properties help to heal various skin conditions, such as redness and inflammation.
Incorporating licorice tea in one’s diet can protect the skin from the harmful UV rays. A licorice root decoction can be used as a sunscreen lotion to protect the skin from sunburns and tan. To treat sun damage, you need to apply a pack prepared by mixing the crushed cucumber in licorice tea.
15. Is Beneficial For Hair Health
Licorice root is packed with elements like flavonoids, phytoestrogens, and other essential oils. The root not only promotes the health of the scalp but also takes care of the hair.
The amazing demulcent properties of licorice root help in soothing the scalp by reducing various scalp conditions like scabs and dandruff. The root also boosts hair growth and might even combat premature balding. Even though not scientifically proven, licorice tea is consumed by people to combat premature balding.
It can be used in preparing packs for the effective treatment of various hair conditions. A pack can be prepared by adding amla powder and henna in licorice tea and mixing them well. It helps in treating many conditions, including dandruff, dull hair, split ends, and sun-induced hair damage.
That’s with the superb list of benefits. But the greatness of licorice root is not limited to these.
Any Other Ways Of Using Licorice Root?
You can use licorice root in a number of ways to avail the benefits:
- As a gel or cream, where you can apply it to the affected areas on your skin. You can powder the root, mix it with water and prepare a paste. Or you can also purchase licorice root gel from the nearest store.
- As a tincture, where you can take 3 to 4 drops of the juice.
- As tea, where you can place the root in boiling water and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. You can take a cup before going to bed.
- As capsules, which can be taken daily. Follow the dosage as mentioned on the product label. Always be sure to use licorice from a reputable vendor, and always run all supplements by your physician, as licorice can interact with various common drugs (like Warfarin, Lasix, Digoxin, Celebrex, Dilantin, Volatren) and other supplements. This is because licorice is metabolized by the liver’s Cytochrome P450 pathway, as are a lot of common drugs/supplements.
- As a liquid extract, which is the most commonly used form of licorice root. You can get it from a store.
- As a potential medication for treating Addison’s disease (a type of diabetes caused by hormonal deficiency) and lupus (an inflammatory disease caused by the immune system attacking the body’s tissues).
All good. But where can you get your licorice root from?
Where To Buy Licorice Root?
And these facts about licorice root are sure to amuse you.
Any Fast Facts On Licorice Root?
- April 12th is National Licorice Day.
- The modern licorice candy that you enjoy actually dates back to 17th century Holland.
- The licorice plant is officially a weed.
- Napoleon Bonaparte found licorice soothing during battles. It is believed he ate so much of it that his teeth turned black.
- Even Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar are known to have had endorsed the benefits of eating licorice.
No matter how beneficial the root could be, there are certain aspects we need to consider.
Any Side Effects Of Licorice Root?
- Heart Disease
Though there is very limited evidence suggesting the benefits of licorice for the heart (it might lower cholesterol), most often, it can only worsen heart conditions. The root can increase blood pressure. It can also cause the body to store water, and this aggravates congestive heart failure.
Licorice can cause excessively low potassium levels. Hence, if you already have hypokalemia, don’t take licorice.
- Kidney Disease
Overuse of the root can lead to kidney issues and aggravate kidney disease.
- Male Sexual Problems
Though some studies say that licorice can increase testosterone levels, other studies have revealed that it can do quite the opposite. Hence, please consult your doctor before using it for this purpose.
- Hormone-sensitive Conditions
Since licorice might act like estrogen in the body, stay away from it if you have any condition that could be worsened by estrogen. Consult your doctor before use.
- Issues During Surgery
Since the root can interfere with blood pressure, stop intake at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
- Issues During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
The root is unsafe during pregnancy and can lead to early delivery. And we don’t know what the intake of licorice might lead to during breastfeeding. Hence, avoid use in both the cases.
All of this doesn’t have to tarnish the image you have had about licorice. Because, licorice, after all, is good for your health. And the following section will tell you why.
What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Licorice?
The root is composed of carbohydrates (starch, and sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose), minerals, and bioactive plant compounds. It also contains both soluble and insoluble fibers.
The most important bioactive substances in licorice are:
- Glycyrrhizin, which is also called glycyrrhizic acid, is the most abundant compound in licorice root (3%) and extracts (10-25%).
- Liquiritigenin, which is another important antioxidant and a phytoestrogen.
- Other important compounds include glabridin and liquiritin.
No, we are not done yet. Because we are yet to address one very common and seemingly complicated topic.
Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) Vs. Licorice Extract – Which Is Better?
First of all, let’s keep that as DGL. And yes, remember we spoke of this somewhere in the beginning?
This thing is kind of complicated. But we will (try to) keep it simple.
There are four main types of compounds found in licorice root – flavonoids, coumarins, triterpenoids, and stilbenoids. There are several others, but these four are the most important and possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties.
Now, there is another important compound in licorice root – glycyrrhizin. We already spoke about it. It has potent anti-inflammatory properties and all.
This glycyrrhizin can have some side effects if licorice is taken in excess (remember the side effects you saw?). Hence, this compound is removed from the root during the production of standardized licorice supplements. If not, the supplement can’t be used by people with high blood pressure, kidney issues, and pregnant/breastfeeding women, etc. But without glycyrrhizin, the supplement can be used by a larger section of the society. Widespread sales, basically.
And hence the name – deglycyrrhized licorice. Yes, we also are glad for having decoded the meaning. Finally.
The normal licorice extract is the one with glycyrrhizin, and it can be used by anyone without the contraindications. They can enjoy the benefits of glycyrrhizin.
What Is The Recommended Dosage Of Licorice Root?
For a 130-pound individual, the recommended dosage of licorice root extract is 6 grams a day. And the acceptable daily intake of glycyrrhizin is 0.2mg/kg/day.
If you are going for licorice root extract (the one with gly), we advise you not to go beyond four weeks. If you are on DGL, you can take it for longer periods. Consult your doctor for more information.
Beware of the side effects. Remember the benefits. Take care of your health.
And tell us how this post has helped you. Simply leave a comment below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Is licorice a laxative?
Yes, licorice can have mild laxative effects.
How to eat licorice root sticks?
You can add the sticks to a teapot and extract the flavors. You can even chew the sticks.
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