What is Liquorice Root?
Liquorice (licorice) root is the root of a plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra, which is an herbaceous legume native to parts of Europe and Asia. It contains many compounds and antioxidants that can be used to heal a range of conditions, so it’s no surprise that it has been seen historically as a medicinal herb.
Its uses have been documented in ancient Greece, and it has been used historically in China for treatment of the gastronomical tract and in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for its various benefits.
Below is a list of the various health benefits of liquorice roots:
1. Cleanses Your Respiratory System
In order to boost the health of your respiratory system and bronchial tracts, there should be a healthy amount of mucus. The production of new, healthy mucus is actually beneficial because it prevents the old and sticky mucus from clogging up the respiratory tracts.
One of the benefits of liquorice is that it aids in the production of healthy mucus (oral supplements are recommended for this). It is also an expectorant, which means that it will help release the old phlegm when coughing in order to loosen congestion and keep the airways clean and healthy.
Historically, the Chinese have been drinking liquorice (known in China as Gan Cao) tea to treat many respiratory conditions and allergies. This is because liquorice contains anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties that help relieve coughs, swollen airways and ease breathing problems.
Due to these properties, liquorice root has been used to relieve symptoms of conditions such as colds and flus, bronchial asthma, hay fever, conjunctivitis, and allergenic rhinitis.
2. Relieves Stomach and Digestive Problems
Liquorice root contains flavonoids which have antioxidant effects, and these can help with inflammation and discomfort in the stomach. Most gastrointestinal problems occur when there is an imbalance of bacteria in the stomach.
Studies have shown that Glycyrrhizic acid, found in liquorice root, can inhibit the growth of toxic bacteria such as H. pylori and may even prevent it from growing altogether. This may be useful to treat or soothe conditions such as stomach ulcers and food poisoning. Furthermore, it has been approved by the German Standard License to treat chronic gastritis and is used in France to treat conditions such as bloating, gas, and stomach discomfort.
Depending on the intensity of the discomfort, you may choose to drink liquorice root tea or take capsules. DGL, a safer form of liquorice is recommended if treatment is to be continued for a long period of time.
3. Stress Relief
Stress can take a lot of toll on an individual, causing depression, fatigue, anxiety; all of which can have severe effects on the immune system and the body’s resistance to infections and viruses.
Glycyrrhizic acid, found in liquorice root, has been proven to ease stress and prevent fatigue, anxiety, and depression. This is because Glycyrrhizic acid aids the adrenal gland in producing catabolic hormones such as cortisol, which helps ease stress and increase energy levels. This increase in energy levels may lead a person to exercise and become more active, which can boost endorphin activity and boost mood and happiness.
It may not be obvious, but an individual’s happiness and stress levels contribute majorly to immune system health and general wellbeing, so liquorice root can be extremely beneficial in this regard.
4. Protects Skin and Teeth
Salves containing liquorice root have been used to combat skin problems such as rashes, itchy and dry skin, psoriasis, and eczema for a long time. A medical research showed that the anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of liquorice root gel can reduce signs of eczema.
Although there isn’t much research regarding the effects it has on treating teeth bacteria, many believe that it is useful in treating cavities and oral bacteria due to its anti-bacterial properties.
In one small study, it was found that a compound similar to those found in liquorice root inhibited bacterial growth by disabling the activity of an enzyme that bacteria in the mouth rely upon to survive. Although not concrete evidence, this discovery could lead to further expansion on our understanding of the many medicinal uses of liquorice roots.
5. Treat Menstrual and PMS Problems
We know that liquorice root is useful in preventing bloating, stomach discomfort, and in relieving stress. These effects can be helpful for women while experiencing PMS. Furthermore, liquorice root has a mild estrogenic effect, which can help ease breast tenderness, menstrual cramps, and mood swings.
It may be best to start drinking liquorice tea or consuming capsules a few days prior to the expected time of the month to prevent discomfort from the start.
6. Cancer, Viruses, and Immune System
Liquorice root is believed to help the body fight against viruses and infections by strengthening the immune system and its resistance to pathogens. It is believed to help the body fight off viruses such as HIV, Hepatitis, Influenza and more. It has also been incorporated into cancer treatments in some countries such as China; however, the FDA has not approved this method in the USA due to lack of research.
Although the health benefits of liquorice are vast, it should be noted that there are some side effects and the World Health Organization warns that ingesting a large amount for a prolonged period of time can have unwanted side effects.
Side effects include muscle weakness due to low potassium levels, abnormalities in fluid retention and metabolism, high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats.
It can also cause sensitivity to some hormones in your adrenal cortex.
Pregnant or breast-feeding women are advised to refrain from consuming liquorice altogether by the FDA due to the estrogenic activity. In order to reduce the risk of side effects yet still experience the health benefits of liquorice root, Deglycyrrhizinated Liquorice (DGL) is recommended. DGL is liquorice with low levels of glycyrrhizin, and is available in tablets, powder, and tea.
If long term consumption is needed to treat your condition, definitely opt for DGL as it will reduce the risk of experiencing side effects. But as always check with a medical professional beforehand.