Licorice root, or sweet root, is a common ingredient for sweetening beverages and candies. People have also taken it for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. It’s a typical herbal tea enjoyed for its licorice flavor and hints of anise. (x)
You might want a cup to help support your respiratory system or digestive tract. But there are even more benefits to taking licorice root extract, which the medical industry is finally acknowledging.
What is Licorice Root Extract?
Licorice root contains glycyrrhizin, a substance that’s up to 50 times sweeter than sugar. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many often confuse licorice with the confectionary known by the same name. (x)
But licorice root is a perennial medicinal herb that originates from the Mediterranean — treasured for its therapeutic benefits for centuries. Indeed, Egyptian papyri and Assyrian clay tablets recorded the use of licorice root.
In ancient Arabia, it was famous for treating coughs, while ancient Greece also used it for coughs related to asthma. In China, the herb eased spasms in the digestive tract and irritation of mucus membranes. (x)
Almost all Chinese herbal preparations contain licorice as it helps with gastrointestinal absorption and brings the herbal blends into line. It enhances the properties of other herbs.
In India, ancient Ayurvedic medicine considers licorice a spasm-relieving expectorant and anti-inflammatory demulcent that affects how the adrenal glands work. (x)
Licorice Root Extract Benefits
Is licorice good for you? Yes, of course! Licorice has over 300 different compounds, some of which contain antimicrobial and antiviral properties. (x) Before taking any new supplement, discuss it with your physician.
Some studies looking into the possible benefits of licorice root have shown promising results, especially in these areas:
- Helps Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Conditions
In people with high cholesterol, taking ethanolic extract of licorice — glycyrrhiza glabra — for a year reduced LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and blood pressure levels. (x)
However, standard licorice that contains glycyrrhizic acid and glycyrrhizin can increase blood pressure and make the body excrete more potassium, which can cause heart conditions to worsen. You might want to discuss this with your primary health care provider. (x)
- Licorice Root for Skin Health
Eczema is a clutch of skin diseases that affect over 30 million Americans. It can cause itching, scaling, redness and inflammation. (x)
According to an Iranian study, licorice root extract can help fight off bacteria that may infect the skin. (x) The study revealed antimicrobial action against Staphylococcus aureus — bacteria that may cause skin infections like folliculitis, cellulitis and impetigo. In this study, researchers used roots and leaf extracts of the plant.
- Licorice for Acid Reflux and Heartburn
The study used deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) in the study, leaving participants with no adverse side effects of glycyrrhizin.
- Anti-inflammatory Properties
A 93-paper analysis showed that licorice root extract contains anti-inflammatory properties. (x)
In mice, licorice supports regulatory Treg cells, suggesting that it can protect against inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. (x)
Ethanol extract of the plant also relieved alcohol-induced liver damage in mice by lowering significant liver inflammation markers by enhancing the antioxidant defense. (x)
- Helps Treat Leaky Gut
Systemic health problems may mean the leaky gut syndrome is sometimes difficult to treat. As a demulcent (soothing) and anti-inflammatory herb, licorice is a natural treatment for ulcers and maybe a helpful supplement for tackling leaky gut syndrome, such peptic ulcers caused by ibuprofen. (x)
- Treats PMS and Menopause
Licorice also seems to have estrogen-like effects in women, making it an option for treating fertility and menstrual-related issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome — heavy or stopped periods —, including PMS. (x)
In menopause treatment, licorice root proved in one study to be better at shortening the length of hot flashes than hormone replacement therapy. (x)
- Relieves Sore Throat and Cough
Licorice root is hugely beneficial for a cough or sore throat as a potent expectorant, loosening and expelling mucus that your cough is attempting to remove. Its demulcent, anti-inflammatory properties may quickly relieve a sore throat.
Demulcents must come into contact with the body part that needs soothing, so extracts in syrups and teas, as well as cough drops, are most effective. (x)
- Helps with Tooth Decay
Some studies suggest that licorice root can help kill oral bacteria that bring about tooth decay. (x)
But while licorice has shown antibacterial action in the lab environment, human studies haven’t yet shown that it’s got any power to fight cavities. However, its ability to hinder the growth of bacteria in the mouth suggests that it may be helpful as a cavity treatment in the future.
- Helps You Sleep
One kind of licorice root, Glycyrrhiza glabra, may help bring on sleep and increase its duration. (x)
The GABA receptor helps induce sleep. In mice, Gabrol and Liquiritigenin induced sleep through the GABA receptor. Therefore, it decreased the time needed to fall asleep and increased non-REM sleep duration without reducing deep sleep. (x)
- Helps with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
In PCOS patients, glycyrrhetinic acid can lower testosterone levels while stimulating regular ovulation. Two other metabolites of licorice (glabrene and glabridin) have estrogen-like properties that may help treat PCOS. (x)
- Treats Hepatitis C
Glycyrrhizin can help treat a virus of the liver, hepatitis C. If left untreated, hepatitis C may cause long-term liver damage and inflammation. According to researchers, glycyrrhizin shows antimicrobial action against hepatitis and may be a potential future treatment for the virus. (x)
- Weight Loss Aid
In rats and mice, licorice flavonoid oil helps with weight loss by increasing fat oxidation during light exercise. (x) Licorice powder could also reduce fat deposition and body weight gain in mice. (x)
- Aids Cancer Treatment
Some research shows that licorice root may help treat prostate and breast cancers. (x) Certain Chinese practices also use it in cancer treatment. While the FDA hasn’t yet approved this treatment option in the United States, research is ongoing.
- Adrenal Fatigue Remedy
We are in a reasonably uncomplicated era, but mental, physical and environmental stress disorders can happen. We’ve overworked our adrenal glands like we’re being pursued by a lion when we’re simply trying to balance the books.
It’s where licorice comes in. This herb is fantastic for regulating the stress hormone cortisol levels, giving your adrenal glands much-needed rest. (x)
- Cleanses the Respiratory System
Licorice root is ideal for relieving respiratory issues. Taking the herb by the mouth can help your body make healthy mucus.
Increasing the production of phlegm may not seem beneficial for a healthy respiratory system. The opposite is true, though. The production of healthy, clean phlegm keeps your respiratory system working well without sticky, old mucus clogging it.
Licorice Root Extract Dosage
Your licorice dosage will depend on the disorder you’re treating. However, you should never take too much licorice in any form and talk about it with your physician.
As a nutritional supplement, take ¼ teaspoon (600 milligrams) of licorice root extract powder per day or as instructed by your physician.
People with low potassium levels or high blood pressure should avoid glycyrrhizin supplements and licorice candy altogether. Licorice supplements come without the glycyrrhizin — as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL).
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Why Take Licorice Root Extract?
You should take licorice to ease discomfort from stomach ulcers, chronic indigestion, canker sores and heartburn.
Licorice also helps relieve common cold symptoms and is an essential ingredient in many non-prescription lozenges and cough syrups.
Licorice Root Extract Side Effects
While licorice root has many benefits, excess or long-term use may cause unwanted health problems and complications. Side effects are mainly caused by the glycyrrhizic acid. Taking DGL can help prevent these side effects (x) unless the intended benefit relates directly to glycyrrhizic acid itself. Some known side effects include:
- Decreased Libido
Licorice intake may cause reduced testosterone levels in men and increased prolactin and estrogen levels in women. It can reduce libido in both men and women. However, more tests are necessary before any clear-cut conclusions. (x) (x)
Studies have also shown how a licorice compound, isoliquiritigenin, interferes with ovarian sex hormones. It interferes with their production. (x)
Glycyrrhizin can cause headaches.
A Massachusetts study discovered that excessive intake of licorice root extract could cause the dilation and constriction of cerebral arteries, typically resulting in thunderclap headaches. And they can worsen by hemorrhagic strokes in rare cases. (x) While the condition is curable, the symptoms may be severe.
- Raised Blood Pressure Levels
Many studies speak of this. Moreover, some reports even recommend avoiding licorice altogether if you have hypertension.
Licorice root extract can cause water and salt retention as it suppresses aldosterone — the hormone responsible for regulating the body’s sodium levels. One study shows how licorice tea caused high blood pressure in patients and avoiding it resolved the problem. (x)
Licorice may also be an underlying cause of secondary high blood pressure. The root has glycyrrhizic acid, which causes its pro-hypertensive properties. (x)
- Slows Drug Metabolism
Multiple licorice compounds, including isoliquiritigenin and liquiritigenin, suppress the cytochrome P450 enzymes and the CYP3A4 gene. Inactivation of cytochrome P450 enzymes may slow down medication metabolism, increase their level in blood, and upping the risk of medication side effects. (x)
- Lower Potassium Levels
Consuming excess licorice can lower your potassium levels. The FDA says that this may lead to:
- High blood pressure
- Congestive heart failure
- Abnormal heart rhythms
Other Side Effects and Warnings
Some rare licorice side effects include stroke and heart attacks, but only a few studies have revealed these results. (x)
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid all forms of licorice as it can cause health problems with premature birth (x) Excess licorice consumption has caused hypertension in young children. If you have hypertension, you should steer clear of the licorice root. (x)
The Bottom Line
Licorice is a medicinal herb that originates from the Mediterranean, central and southern Russia, Iran, Asia and Turkey. Many species are present throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Licorice has been helpful for centuries in treating many different ailments. While the herb has medicinal properties, scientific research only supports a few of its applications, which might be unsafe for some people.
Since it is super sweet, licorice is also a common ingredient to sweeten candies, and some even use it to mask the taste of medications.
While licorice may help treat certain health disorders, you should always consult with your healthcare provider to ensure that it doesn’t cause adverse side effects or interfere with any medicines you’re taking.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.