Licorice: Nature’s Healing Helper
When you were a child, did you like the black jelly beans best? Then you will love drinking licorice tea or chewing on a licorice root. At one time, black licorice and other candy was flavored with licorice root extract. Although today licorice candy usually derives its distinctive taste from anise oil, the root is still prized as a flavoring agent and an herbal remedy and is used widely in the ood and health industries. Licorice may be found in the wild, but large crops are farmed to meet the demand for this important botanical.
Uses of Licorice
Licorice is used to treat a vast array of illnesses. In China, licorice is considered a superior balancing or harmonizing agent and is added to numerous herbal formulas. It is used to soothe coughs and reduce inflammation, soothe and heal ulcers and stomach inflammation, control blood sugar, and balance hormones. Licorice is great for healing canker sores and cold sores (herpes simplex virus). Licorice is a potent antiviral agent and can be used to treat flu, herpes, and even hepatitis. Licorice is also a strong anti-inflammatory agent and can be used to improve the flavor of other herbs. With all of these uses, it is no wonder that licorice finds its way into so many
Several modern studies have demonstrated the ulcer-healing abilities of licorice. Unlike most popular ulcer medications, such as cimetidine, licorice does not dramatically reduce stomach acid; rather, it reduces the ability of stomach acid to damage stomach lining by encouraging digestive mucosal tissues to protect themselves from acid. Licorice enhances mucosal protection by increasing the action of mucous-secreting cells, boosting the life of surface intestinal cells, and increasing microcirculation within the gastrointestinal tract. This improves the health of the stomach lining and reduces damage from stomach acid. One study in Ireland showed a licorice extract to be a better symptom reliever than Tagamet for a number of ulcer patients.
The remarkably sweet saponin glycoside glycyrrhizin is what gives licorice its characteristic flavor. (Glycyrrhizin is 30 to 60 times sweeter than sugar.) Glycyrrhizin is also an anti-inflammatory, and licorice also has been used to treat inflammations of the lungs, bowels, and skin. Glycyrrhizin is one of the constituents found to prolong the length of time that cortisol, one of the adrenal hormones, circulates throughout the body. Among other actions, cortisol reduces inflammation. Anything that prolongs the life of cortisol naturally helps to reduce inflammation.
Many anti-inflammatory drugs are synthetic versions of cortisol. They control conditions such as asthma, arthritis, bowel disease, and eczema by suppressing the immune systems, which halts the body’s ability to mount an inflammatory response. Licorice is not thought to suppress the immune system the way pharmaceutical steroids do. Both pharmaceutical cortisones and licorice, however, may cause the same side effects: weight gain, fluid retention, and as a possible result, high blood pressure. Still, if you use cortisone, prednisone, or a similar steroid, you should seek the advice of a naturopathic or other knowledgeable physician to determine whether your condition may be managed another way.Keep reading to learn about warnings and preparations for licorice.To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:
Licorice may be purchased encapsulated, dried, and tinctured. Licorice also is processed to form elixirs and syrups. The dosages for licorice vary a great deal: Small amounts are used as a flavoring and to balance herbal formulas; large amounts — up to 3 or 4 cups per day — are used for an ulcer flare-up or irritable bowel episode. Licorice is more often used by herbalists in a formula with other herbs, rather than used alone. Seek an herbalist’s advice on the appropriate dosage for you.
Side Effects of Licorice
Licorice may raise blood pressure in people who have hypertension. So if you have high blood pressure, even if it is controlled with medication, avoid using licorice as a medicine. Licorice does not tend to raise blood pressure in people who do not have high blood pressure. Licorice also may occasionally cause bloating and fluid retention, but this usually occurs only with very high doses, such as more than five cups of tea per day, or long-term use of lower doses, such as several months of daily consumption.
Avoid licorice during pregnancy.
A new Finnish study supports food recommendations for families with children in that women should avoid consuming large amounts of liquorice during pregnancy. The limit for safe consumption is not known.
In the study, youths that were exposed to large amounts of liquorice in the womb performed less well than others in cognitive reasoning tests carried out by a psychologist. The difference was equivalent to approximately seven IQ points.
Those exposed to liquorice also performed less well in tasks measuring memory capacity, and according to parental estimates, they had more ADHD-type problems than others. With girls, puberty had started earlier and advanced further.
The Glaku study carried out by the University of Helsinki, the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital districts compared 378 youths of about 13 years whose mothers had consumed “large amounts” or “little/no” liquorice during pregnancy. In this study a large amount was defined as over 500 mg and little/no as less than 249 mg glycyrrhizin per week. These cutoffs are not based on health effects. 500 mg glycyrrhizin corresponds on average to 250 g liquorice.
The study report was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The first author of the article is Academy Professor Katri Räikkönen from the University of Helsinki.
Researchers suggest that pregnant women and women planning pregnancy should be informed of the harmful effects that products containing glycyrrhizin — such as liquorice and salty liquorice — may have on the fetus.
In Finland, this is already reality. In January 2016, the National Institute for Health and Welfare published food recommendations for families with children, in which liquorice was placed in the ‘not recommended’ category for pregnant women. According to the recommendations, occasional consumption of small amounts such as a portion of liquorice ice cream or a few liquorice sweets is not dangerous.
Researchers underline that things should be kept in proportion. A large number of Finns have been exposed to glycyrrhizin in the womb. Glycyrrhizin is one of many factors that affect the development of a fetus but it is impossible to say whether it was glycyrrhizin expressly that affected the development of a certain individual.
As a result of animal experiments, the biological mechanism of the effects of liquorice is well known. Glycyrrhizin intensifies the effects of stress hormone cortisol by inhibiting the enzyme that inactivates cortisol. While cortisol is essential to the development of a fetus, it is detrimental in large amounts.
It has long been known that glycyrrhizin causes higher blood pressure and shorter pregnancies in humans, but such long-lasting effects on the fetus have not been proven before.
Healthy Teeth & Gums
Scientists are reporting identification of two substances in licorice — used extensively in Chinese traditional medicine — that kill the major bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease, the leading causes of tooth loss in children and adults. In a study in ACS’ Journal of Natural Products, they say that these substances could have a role in treating and preventing tooth decay and gum disease.
Stefan Gafner and colleagues explain that the dried root of the licorice plant is a common treatment in Chinese traditional medicine, especially as a way to enhance the activity of other herbal ingredients or as a flavoring. Despite the popularity of licorice candy in the U.S., licorice root has been replaced in domestic candy with anise oil, which has a similar flavor. Traditional medical practitioners use dried licorice root to treat various ailments, such as respiratory and digestive problems, but few modern scientific studies address whether licorice really works. (Consumers should check with their health care provider before taking licorice root because it can have undesirable effects and interactions with prescription drugs.) To test whether the sweet root could combat the bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities, the researchers took a closer look at various substances in licorice.
They found that two of the licorice compounds, licoricidin and licorisoflavan A, were the most effective antibacterial substances. These substances killed two of the major bacteria responsible for dental cavities and two of the bacteria that promote gum disease. One of the compounds — licoricidin — also killed a third gum disease bacterium. The researchers say that these substances could treat or even prevent oral infections.
Enrich your mind:
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of New Body You, the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization’s standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.