Licorice is a herb used for thousands of years by individuals to cure a range of ailments. While licorice has medicinal effects, only some of its uses are confirmed by scientific evidence, and it may not be safe for everyone.
Licorice is also popular as a sweetener in candies because of its sweet taste, and manufacturers also use it to mask the flavor of medications. Some licorice candies do not contain any portion of the licorice plant, but instead use anise oil as a flavoring since it tastes similar to licorice and smells similar.
Licorice is available in many forms, such as herbal teas, candies, capsules of dried herb, and liquid extract.
Benefits of licorice
Over 300 different compounds, some of which have antiviral and antimicrobial properties, are found in licorice.
Promising results have been achieved in some clinical studies investigating the potential benefits of licorice, especially in the following areas:
Skin inflammation and infection
Itching, redness, scaling, and inflammation can occur from eczema.
According to a report in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Science, glycyrrhiza glabra extract, or licorice root extract, may be effective against bacteria that can infect the skin.
Antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, which may cause skin infections such as impétigo, cellulitis, and folliculitis, was demonstrated in the report. The researchers used extracts from the leaves and roots of the plant in this analysis.
Stomach discomfort and ulcers
In a double-blind study, an extract containing glabridin and glabrene, flavonoids present in the root of licorice, was found to be successful in relieving stomach discomfort. The extract decreased nausea, pain in the stomach, and heartburn.
In certain persons, infection with bacteria called Helicobacter pylori can cause peptic ulcers. Research suggests that a licorice extract may help kill H. Pylori bacteria. A clinical study of 120 people showed that H substantially improved with the addition of licorice extract to the standard treatment. eradication of Pylori.
Glycyrrhizin can help with the treatment of hepatitis C, a liver-infecting virus. Hepatitis C can cause inflammation and long-term liver damage without therapy. Researchers have stated that in cell samples, glycyrrhizin demonstrates antimicrobial activity against hepatitis C and may hold promise for this virus as a potential therapy.
To treat people with chronic hepatitis C who do not respond to other therapies, doctors in Japan use an injectable form of glycyrrhizin. The findings of laboratory studies in Japan indicate that this could be beneficial.
Some studies indicate that licorice can help destroy bacteria that cause tooth decay in the mouth.
However, although in the laboratory setting, licorice has shown antibacterial activity, human tests have not yet shown that it has any cavity-fighting capacity. Its ability to suppress oral bacteria growth indicates, however, that it has potential as a possible cavity treatment.
As a sore throat cure, many people think of licorice. A small study recruited individuals who before surgery, had a breathing tube inserted into their windpipe. The breathing tube may cause a postoperative sore throat, known as POST, following its removal.
The researchers found that gargling 1-15 minutes before surgery with a licorice solution was as effective as a ketamine gargle in reducing the incidence and severity of POST.
Another related study found that higher-concentration liquorice solutions were more effective in improving POST than less concentrated solutions.
The dosage of licorice depends on the condition that needs treating. However in the form of food or supplements, individuals can never eat excessive quantities of licorice.
Licorice supplements in the form of deglycyrrhizinated licorice are available without glycyrrhizin (DGL).
Side effects can result from consuming large amounts of glycyrrhizin, including:
Lower potassium levels
Eating too much licorice can lead to a drop in potassium levels. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this can result to:
- abnormal heart rhythms
- high blood pressure
- congestive heart failure
The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that a glycyrrhizic acid limit of 100 milligrams per day will be “unlikely to cause adverse effects in most adults.”
However the exact amount of glycyrrhizic acid in the substance is not specified in many candies and supplements. This lack of detailed information, particularly for children who eat lots of licorice candy over prolonged periods, makes overdose a possibility.
In one event, a 10-year-old boy who had consumed large quantities of black licorice for 4 months experienced high blood pressure and seizure-causing syndrome.
Another event involved a woman who was drinking eight cups of licorice-containing herbal tea a day. With high blood pressure and low potassium, which all addressed when she started drinking tea, she went to the hospital.
Significant amounts of licorice should not be eaten by pregnant women or liqueur root should be taken as a substitute.
One study found that glycyrrhiza in licorice could damage the fetus’ developing brain, leading later in life to cognitive problems. An older study found that heavy licorice usage during pregnancy could lead to preterm birth.
For those who wish to take licorice for extended periods, DGL may be a better choice. Without first discussing it with a doctor, pregnant women should not take DGL or any other supplement.
Potential drug interactions
Medications that interact with licorice include:
- drugs that lower potassium
- blood pressure medications
- diuretics, also called water pills
- heart rhythm medications
- blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin)
- estrogen, hormone therapy, and birth control pills
To prevent these experiences, some individuals may be able to take DGL supplements, but they should first ask a doctor.
How to use licorice root
Chewable tablets, a liquid extract, capsules, a powder and a loose herb are available in the form of licorice.
People may use licorice for medicinal purposes in a number of ways, such as:
- Mixing the herb with a skin-friendly gel, such as aloe vera gel, to help eczema.
- Steeping loose herbs in hot water to make tea for a sore throat or purchasing a prepared herbal tea that has licorice as a primary ingredient.
- Adding liquid licorice extract to a beverage or taking it under the tongue as a treatment for ulcers or stomach problems.
- Taking licorice capsules and chewable tablets according to the instructions on the packaging or the advice of a healthcare professional.
Without first speaking to a doctor, people do not drink licorice candies, teas, or vitamins for long periods. When high blood pressure or low potassium levels are a problem, it is safer to use DGL supplements rather than licorice.
Licorice is an ancient remedy which in clinical studies and laboratory tests, has shown some potential health benefits.
Although for some health conditions it can be helpful, individuals should always verify with a healthcare provider that it would not interfere with any drugs or cause adverse side effects.