Which would you rather have as a medicine, Red Vines or Twizzlers? Unfortunately, licorice candy doesn’t have any healing qualities (sorry to get your hopes up), but licorice root does. Licorice is actually a plant that is classified as a legume, plants in the pea family that produce pods that naturally open along the stem, and is native to Southeastern Europe, India, and certain parts of Asia. It goes by various names including Glycyrrhiza Glabra, sweetwood, black sugar, liquorice, and sweetroot.
What Conditions Does it Address?
Licorice root is an herbal medicine. It has various healing substances such as flavonoids and phytoestrogens. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant. Like other antioxidants they help reduce the free radicals in the body which are toxic to cells. However, unlike antioxidants, flavonoids have antihistamine and antimicrobial properties. Phytoestrogens are xenoestrogens derived from plants, better known as dietary estrogens. The intake of these can reduce the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, to name a few.
While these are great benefits, licorice root actually has a long list of conditions that it has been known to address. The most common one being depression. Licorice is able to help with depression because of its Glycyrrhizic acid. This acid has been shown to improve adrenal function. The adrenals control stress hormones. If your stress hormones are low, it can cause fatigue, anxiety, and greater susceptibility to infections.
Licorice root has also been shown to help with various digestive issues. It has the ability to lower the acid level in the stomach. By lowering that level people can experience relief from indigestion and heartburn. Due to the flavonoids, licorice root can address inflammation of the digestive system while simultaneously soothing. Studies have been conducted regarding its ability to improve stomach ulcers, as well. According to St. Luke’s Sugar Land Hospital 90% of patients with stomach ulcers experienced some form of improvement in their symptoms while 22 out of 100 people were ulcer-free after a six week treatment with licorice root.
Many skin care products already contain some sort of licorice extract and this is because licorice has been shown to effectively treat various skin conditions. It has been shown to combat eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. Also, over time licorice has shown to fade dark spots and reverse the darkening of scars. In addition to addressing existing issues, licorice can also help prevent certain issues. Due to its antioxidants licorice can fight skin-damaging free radicals and help combat the look of wrinkles. Another benefit is its ability to help regulate the skin’s oil production and act as an anti-acne regime.
Possible Side Effects
It’s important to remember that too much of a good thing, is a bad thing. Be careful to monitor your intake and speak to a doctor about the proper dose for you and your condition. Licorice comes in a variety of forms including pills, extract, and tea. Licorice root can cause several side effects; however, these typically only occur if it is taken in too high a dose. The effects include bloating/stomach discomfort, headaches, and, in extreme cases, difficulty breathing. Licorice root is not recommended as a long term treatment. With extended use (over 4-6 weeks) come other problems such as water and salt retention, reduced calcium and blood potassium levels, and low blood pressure.
While licorice is a good combat to many symptoms and issues, it is important to be aware of any other conditions you may have and refrain from taking licorice if you have any of the following or if you are pregnant/nursing.
- Heart disease or failure
- Fluid retention
- Kidney or liver disease
- Hypokalemia (low potassium)
Again it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor about adding changing your regime because you don’t want to cause a drug interaction. Licorice root can interact with the following medications.
- Diuretics or ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors for high blood pressure. Licorice could interact with these and lower the effect of these medications or it could increase the side effects of these medications.
- Insulin or any other drug prescribed for diabetes. Licorice can affect the blood sugar levels.
- Warfarin or blood thinners. Licorice can lessen the potency of this medication.
Licorice root can be a blessing in bottle (or cup) to many that are suffering from various conditions. However, like always, remember to consult your doctor before starting a new supplement or medication and determine if this is right for you and in what dose. Let us know what you use licorice root for!