The Benefits of Licorice – Moving Beyond The Candy Flavour
You probably know licorice as the long, twisted red or black candy that you get at the movies. While that’s true, it’s also a powerful herb with many health benefits. Known in the scientific literature as Glycyrrhiza glabra, licorice is both the inspiration for the traditional candy and a revered herb with many applications in natural health.
What is licorice?
Licorice root is a medicinal herb that can be found in dried, tinctured or capsule form. It has a long history of use in Ancient Egypt and China. Today, it is recognized as a beneficial supplement for gut health conditions like gastric ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Aside from protecting the gut, licorice also shows benefits to help relieve symptoms of menopause, soothe a persistent cough, and in fighting bacterial and viral infections.
The many health benefits of licorice
The sweet-tasting flavour of licorice doesn’t mean it’s not therapeutic. Licorice contains many active compounds including triterpenoids, flavonoids, and glycyrrhizin, which have been shown to be:
- Equipped with antioxidant properties
Licorice and inflammatory diseases
Licorice supplements are recommended for a variety of inflammatory diseases, especially when it comes to the digestive tract. Inflammation in the gut, gastric ulcers, oral ulcers, and ulcerative colitis all respond well to licorice supplementation. The anti-inflammatory effects of licorice are due to its high antioxidant content, which helps lower oxidative stress and reverse free radical damage.
Licorice and hormones
Licorice offers benefits to women’s health too. The hot flashes commonly associated with menopause can be severe and challenging to treat. However, there are beneficial phytoestrogens found in licorice that can help provide relief. Phytoestrogens mimic estrogen in the body, a hormone that decreases during menopause and leads to side effects like hot flashes, mood swings, and absent periods.
A double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial studied the effect of licorice supplementation on ninety menopausal women who complained of hot flashes. The dosage was 3 capsules daily containing 330 mg of licorice, or a placebo, for a duration of 8 weeks with a 4-week follow-up. The results showed that licorice root helped decrease the frequency and severity of hot flashes. The treatment was well accepted by the menopausal women, with no complications recorded.
Licorice and breast cancer
Licorice may show potential in the fight against breast cancer as well. Research has uncovered a substance extracted from licorice root that has been shown to have anti-tumor activity in acute breast cancer cells. What’s more, another compound in licorice – an isoflavan called glabridin – has been shown to have beneficial estrogenic properties and that help slow the spread of breast cancer cells.
Licorice and immunity
Licorice extracts offer protection and support for the immune system. Boosting your immunity helps guard against viruses, bacteria, and pathogens. The immune benefits of licorice have been attributed to its active constituents, including the polysaccharides naturally occurring in licorice root. These therapeutic compounds work by effectively modulating the immune response, which strengthens your immunity and makes it more adaptable.
Licorice and gut health
Did you know licorice can fight against H. pylori infection? The harmful gut bacteria known as Heliobacter pylori can cause damage to the gut lining and cause peptic ulcers. But licorice has been shown to exert a positive impact against the bacterial presence of H. pylori in the gut. It achieves this by protecting the gut lining against H. pylori secretion of protective polysaccharides. This makes your gut inhospitable to harmful bacteria. Licorice also helps repair the damage caused by H. pylori-related peptic ulcers thanks to its strong antibacterial and stomach-soothing properties.
In a randomized controlled clinical trial, licorice root was associated with a significant reduction in the symptoms caused by H. pylori, such as pain, burning in the stomach, bloating, and nausea.
Should I take advantage of licorice’s health benefits?
While the short-term use of licorice supplements in their recommended dosage is considered safe, it’s not right for everyone. This includes individuals with high blood pressure or kidney disease, since licorice can affect potassium levels. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, along with small children, should also avoid licorice root, since the safety of licorice during pregnancy and breastfeeding hasn’t been studied extensively.
If you experience gastritis, acid reflux and indigestion, digestive upset, or an infection with Candida or H. pylori, you may be a good candidate for the health benefits of licorice. Try licorice capsules with activated charcoal for the best results.