Health Benefits of Licorice
Health benefits of licorice include relief from canker sores, stomach disorders, respiratory ailments, pre-menstrual syndrome, peptic ulcers, menopausal symptoms and helps in fighting various kinds of infections such as herpes, HIV, hepatitis and shingles.
It is also effective in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, tuberculosis, neurological disorder, female fertility, obesity and helps in maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol. Licorice extracts contains phytoestrogens which promotes detoxification, healthy skin and hair, dental health, immune defense and helps to combat body odor and depression.
Licorice or liquorice belongs to the Glycyrrhiza plant species and is valued for its rich-flavor. It derives its name from the Greek, glukurrhiza which means ‘sweet root’. This herb is native to Southern Europe and Asia and is referred to as ‘sweet root’ attributing to a component called glycyrrhizin present in its root which is much sweeter than sugar. Licorice has been appreciated in the traditional Chinese system of medicine for thousands of years and is referred to as “the peacemaker” herb. It is amongst the widely consumed herb across the world and is currently grown in Russia, Spain, France, England, Germany, Middle-east and Asia.
Licorice is woody-stemmed perennial herb which grows to about 1-2 meters. The long and wrinkled roots of licorice branch horizontally and spread under the ground. Along with its usage in food, licorice is also valued for its diverse medicinal benefits in Eastern and Western system of medication for providing longevity and vitality since the ancient times.
Licorice: Nutritional facts
Licorice offers a wide range of healthful nutrients and flavonoids. It is a good source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin E (tocopherol). It also provides minerals such as phosphorous, calcium, choline, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, silicon and zinc. Licorice is a storehouse of essential phytonutrients such as beta-carotene, glycyrrhizin, glabridin, isoliquiritigenin, thymol, phenol, ferulic acid and quercitin.
Health benefits of licorice
Aphthous ulcers or canker sores: Licorice has been proven beneficial in the treatment of painful recurrent aphthous ulcers also known as canker sores. Canker sores are small non-contagious lesions that crop up on the tissues inside the mouth and gums. Studies have shown that treatment with licorice extract has shown significant improvement in the condition of the subjects with respect to reduction in the pain and inflammations. The healthful constituents of licorice help in accelerating the healing and aids in stimulation of body’s immune defense mechanism.
Liver protection: Studies have shown promising results regarding the hepatoprotective effect of licorice. Licorice contains glycyrrhizin which is effective in the treatment of liver disorders by reducing the intoxication and helps in stabilizing the normal functional condition of the liver. Another research has provided evidence that the flavonoid isoliquiritigenin present in licorice possesses antioxidant and inhibitory qualities which help in protecting the liver cells from high-fat diet-induced injuries and the damage cause by oxidative stress.
Stomach disorder: Glycyrrhizic acid present in licorice aids in providing protection against the growth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria and exert therapeutic effects in curing the symptoms of dyspepsia or impaired digestion.
Rheumatoid arthritis: Licorice extracts possess anti-inflammatory properties and have been proven effective in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Research has indicated that licorice may be beneficial in reducing the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and providing relief from pain and swelling.
Menopause and premenstrual syndrome: Licorice root is effective in treating the symptoms of menopause and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It is rich in isoflavones which helps in maintaining the estrogen and progesterone balance in the body. Studies have shown positive results regarding the efficacy of licorice in reducing the frequency of nocturnal hot flashes and improving the physical and psychological health in menopausal women. Licorice contains phytoestrogens and helps in elevating the levels of progesterone hormone in the body which aids in soothing the cramps and discomfort during menstruation. Licorice is also effective in the problem of water retention by blocking the hormonal effects of aldosterone hormone.
Cancer: Licorice possesses chemopreventive effects and is beneficial in the treatment of various types of cancer. Studies have demonstrated the anti-proliferative effects of licorice roots in restraining the growth of human breast cancer cells. Licorice contains flavonoids such as isoliquiritigenin which helps in suppressing colon carcinogenesis and induce apoptosis. Research has provided supportive evidence regarding the anti-tumor activity of licorice extracts which is effective in reducing the toxicity induced by chemotherapy drugs and inhibits the production of tumor cells. But cancer patients undergoing cisplatin therapy should avoid licorice extract. Licorice extracts is also helpful in treating the chronic prostatitis and prostate cancer.
Chronic fatigue syndrome: Licorice is useful in preventing the insufficiencies of the adrenal glands which is responsible for production of hormones such as cortisol to manage stress in the body and helps in improving its function. Excess consumption of licorice should be avoided. Licorice is considered effective in the people who have been prescribed steroids for a long time to counter the suppressive action of steroids on the adrenal glands. This aids in stimulating body’s resistance to stress, especially during the recovery phase after surgeries. Glycyrrhizinic acid present in licorice help in feeling more energetic and reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
Immune system: Licorice aids in improving the immune defense mechanism of the body. It helps in elevating the levels of interferon, an anti-viral agent which along with glycyrrhizinic acid stimulates the action of immune cells and helps in combating the infecting viruses and bacteria such as influenza A.
Tuberculosis: Studies have shown that the licorice is effective in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis and also helps in reducing the duration of healing. Antimycobacterial and anti-microbial action of the constituents present in licorice works valuably in the treatment of lung infections and makes it an effective antitubercular agent.
Infections: Licorice contains glycyrrihizic acid which is effective in treating various viral, fungal and bacterial infections. Research study has revealed the anti-viral effect of licorice and its constituents in inhibiting the growth of herpes virus and prevents the further development of cancer. The infection fighting quality of licorice has been found beneficial in the treatment of shingles which is caused by varicella-zoaster virus which also causes chicken pox.
Atherosclerosis: Licorice roots possess antioxidant capacity and are effective in maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol. The flavonoid glabridin along with other healthful components present in licorice exert beneficial effect in preventing the low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol and helps in reducing the risk of diseases such as atherosclerosis.
Respiratory disorders: Licorice is beneficial in treating sore throat, cough, cold, and bronchitis and lung diseases such as emphysema. It provides relief from the upper respiratory infections caused by viruses and bacteria. It works effectively as an expectorant and helps in expelling the mucus and other substances from the bronchi and lungs. This aids in relaxation of bronchial spasms. Studies have provided supportive evidence regarding the therapeutic effect of licorice in reducing the constrictions in the airways and its beneficial effects in the treatment of asthma.
HIV: Licorice is effective in treating HIV related diseases. Studies have shown that glycyrrhizin present in licorice roots helps in inhibiting the proliferation of the infecting virus by encouraging the production of beta-chemokines. It also helps in preventing the destruction of white blood cells by the HIV virus and strengthens the immune mechanism of the body.
Detoxification: Licorice possesses laxative qualities and promotes detoxification of colon and blood. Research study has shown that the component dehydroglyasperin present in licorice extracts have been proven beneficial in the induction of phase-2 detoxification and antioxidant enzymes which helps the body in discarding harmful and poisonous toxin wastes.
Female fertility: Licorice tea may help in treating fertility problems in women caused due to hormonal irregularities such as polycystic ovaries. Licorice helps to regulate the secretion of estrogen hormone and aids in curing the fertility complications in females. It is effective in normalizing irregular menstruation, helps in the restoration of regular ovulation and encourages conception. As supported by the studies, licorice helps in reducing the serum testosterone in women which makes it an effective consideration for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome and hirsutism.
Obesity: Licorice extracts may also be effective in preventing obesity. The anti-obesity action of licorice flavonoid oil indicated significant reduction in the weight of abdominal adipose tissues and triglycerides levels of the body.
Skin care: Licorice is an excellent skin healer and is beneficial in the treatment of skin ailments such as eczema, athlete’s foot and psoriasis. Studies have shown that topical usage of licorice extracts helps in relieving the swelling and itching in such conditions. Licorices extracts has skin-lightening effect and also aids in providing protection against ultra-violet radiation induced erythema, reducing inflammation and helps in improving persistent facial redness.
Hepatitis: Licorice is also effective in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus. It helps in suppressing the secretion of hepatitis B antigen and enhances the functioning of liver.
Gastric or peptic ulcers: Deglycyrrhizinized licorice which means the licorice which does not contain glycyrrhizinic acid has been proven effective in the treatment of gastric ulcers by the research conducted in this regard. According to the studies, licorice extracts exerted healing effect on the peptic ulcers without causing any side effects such as edema, electrolyte imbalance, hypertension and weight gain in the subjects.
Hair care: Licorice is effective in maintaining healthy hair by reducing the oil secretion and preventing the occurrence of dandruff. It helps in restraining the growth of dihydrotestosterone hormone and stimulates the hair growth.
Depression: Studies have provided supportive evidence regarding the efficacy of licorice constituents in combating pre and post-menopausal depression in women. Licorice contains essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium, beta carotene along with healthful flavonoids which help in fighting depression.
Dental health: Licorice extracts have been effective in the prevention and treatment of dental caries and gingivitis. The anti-microbial quality of deglycyrrhizinated licorice is beneficial against Streptococcus mutans and inhibits the formation of biofilms and dental plaques. Attributing to such protective anti-bacterial effects, licorice root extracts have been widely used in the manufacturing of oral hygiene products such as tooth pastes and mouthwashes.
Neurological disorders: Licorice is effective in the treatment of neurological disorders such as Bell’s palsy and Lyme disease. It helps in the prevention of involuntary flow of tears and development of other neurological symptoms such as paralysis in the patients suffering from Bell’s palsy.
Cardiovascular health: The antioxidant qualities of licorice extracts are effective in the prevention of cardiovascular stress in diabetic people. The flavonoid glabridin present in licorice roots helps in providing vascular protection under high glucose conditions, prevents the formation of plaques in the arteries and stimulates unobstructed blood flow in diabetes.
Cognitive function: Studies have provided supportive evidence showing the neuroprotective effect of glabridin in diabetes. It helps in the prevention of cognitive impairment and assists in enhancing the learning and memory functions in diabetics. The component amorfrutins present in licorice possess anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effect which helps in reducing the blood sugar inhibits the development of insulin resistance and prevents Type-2 diabetes.
Diabetic nephropathy: Studies have shown that roasted licorice is effective in curing diabetic nephropathy in which the kidney damage happens as a consequence of long-standing diabetes. The inhibitory effect of licorice helps in the prevention and treatment of symptoms such as glomerulosclerosis which can result in diabetic nephropathy because of long-term diabetes.
Culinary usage: Licorice has been used as a flavoring agent in confectionary products such as chewy sweets and candy since ancient times. Licorice is extensively used in tobacco industry in the manufacturing of cigars, cigarettes and smoking mixtures. It is used both as a flavor enhancer as well as moisture controlling agent in tobacco products. Licorice also finds its usage in beverages such as beer attributing to its foaming qualities.
Licorice- word of caution
Licorice contains glycyrrhiza also known as glycrrhizic acid which can lead to side effects in some cases. These effects include body fatigue, irregular menstruation, and edema and kidney disorders. However, licorice devoid of glycyrrhiza, also known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice has been suggested to cause fewer side effects.
Hypertension and cardiac disorders: Licorice can result in hypertension and heart complications such as cardiac arrhythmia and congestive heart failure in some people. People with an existing condition of hypertension and cardiac disorders should be watchful regarding the usage of licorice.
Sexual complications: Licorice can affect the levels of testosterone in males and reduce their interest in sex.
Licorice may interact with diuretics.
Hypokalemia: Licorice can also interact with medications that decrease the potassium content in the body causing it to drop to dangerously low levels resulting in hypokalemia. Significantly low levels of potassium can cause problems with the functioning of nerves leading to muscle complications such as hypertonia.
Corticosteroids: Licorice can interact with corticosteroids such as prednisone and affect the level of cortisol hormone which is responsible for handling stress in the body.
Licorice is effective helps in combating body odor attributing to its antibacterial qualities and is also used as a lubricating agent in enema. It is effective in the reducing age spots and treatment of allergies, tendonitis, bursitis and toxicity caused due to food or chemicals. Used cautiously, licorice helps in promoting the effects of other herbs and aids in the induction of calmness and peace.
Licorice: A herb sweeter than sugar, may be healthier too