Licorice root is the second most prescribed herbal nutritional supplement in China following ginseng. A purple-flowered shrub, it is native to southern Europe, Asia and the Mediterranean and it is specifically cultivated in Russia, Spain, Persia and India.
Licorice has a variety of uses. It is a widely used as flavoring in candy, cough syrups, cough drops, laxatives, beer, frozen desserts, gelatins, puddings and meat products. More importantly, it is a powerful herb that is included in most Chinese combinations to balance other herbs.
The most common medical use for licorice is for treating upper respiratory ailments. It decreases the spasm of smooth muscle or skeletal muscle that takes place in asthma and allergic reaction.
Licorice root is also used to treat coughs, hoarseness, sore throat and bronchitis. It loosens the mucus in the airways to allow the cough to bring up phlegm and other mucus. It relaxes bronchial spasms and is effective in fighting lung congestion and bronchitis. It is used in cough syrups because it soothes soreness in the throat.
Scientists in Europe used licorice as an effective ulcer treatment. They removed 97% of its glycyrrhetinic acid to eliminate its water retention side effects. They then tested it against an ulcer drug and found that the licorice root was more effective in protecting against recurring ulcers in the small intestine. Today it is used to treat ulcers, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and coat the stomach wall with a protective gel.
Licorice has anti-inflammatory properties. Applied to the skin, it can reduce the inflammation and relieve itching and burning of skin irritations. It is also used as treatment for relief of inflammation in arthritis.
Licorice contains phytoestrogens which have a mild estrogenic effect which helps ease certain menstrual symptoms such as bloating and breast tenderness. It balances the natural decline in women’s estrogen levels during menopause.
In a small study in Oregon and Washington, 13 women who were experiencing hot flashes were treated with licorice root and a placebo. After 3 months, 6% of the women on the placebo reported relief from the hot flashes while 100% of the women on licorice reported relief.
Licorice root protects and promotes healing in the liver. It can help fight hepatitis with its anti-inflammatory properties. It has also shown liver-protecting ability in people with cirrhosis. Licorice root is a common remedy for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
Licorice Side Effects
Large amount of licorice can cause water retention and thus increase blood pressure, so only recommended dosages should be used.
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