Licorice or Glycyrrhiza glabra grows in the wild in some parts of Asia and Europe. Licorice has an extensive branching root system and it grows up to three to seven feet high. Licorice roots are yellow on the inside but brown on the outside. Licorice supplements are made out of the underground stems of the plant and roots.
Licorice is a type of plant that has been used for so many years in food and as a remedy to certain diseases. Licorice root contains a compound that is 50 times sweeter than sugar that is why it is also called “sweet root.” Licorice root was known to act as an expectorant, since it helps rid of phlegm, and as a demulcent, a soothing, coating agent. It has been widely used in both Western and Eastern medicine to treat various types of diseases such as liver disease and common cold. As of today, Licorice is still being used to treat many types of conditions. However, majority of its uses are not supported by scientific research.
Licorice that contains an active ingredient known as glycyrrhiza could cause serious adverse effects. On the other hand, a type of licorice called deglycyrrhizinated licorice or DGL does not seem to cause serious adverse effects and is sometimes used to treat conditions like canker sores, peptic ulcers, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Many medical practitioners recommend whole licorice for asthma, cough, and other lung problems. Furthermore, licorice can also be used as a topical preparation to treat skin conditions like dermatitis (skin eczema) and many more.
Licorice has been used as a traditional remedy for asthma, cough, and sore throat. One research study showed that gargling with licorice prior to getting anesthesia could reduce the incidence of postoperative sore throat by about 50 percent.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice or DGL has been found to have the ability to treat stomach ulcers; however, there are no enough evidence to prove its effectiveness. Some studies show that deglycyrrhizinated and antacids could relieve ulcers as well as some prescription medications. On the other hand, since antacids have been taken in combination with deglycyrrhizinated, it is not possible to determine how much benefit deglycyrrhizinated could give when taken alone.
A study conducted on animals discovered that aspirin coated with licorice could decrease the number of ulcers in mice by about 50 percent. However, high dosages of aspirin usually cause ulcers in mice. Another study conducted on humans in which licorice root fluid extract was administered to 100 participants with stomach ulcers, 86 percent of whom have no improvements with conventional medications, for about 6 weeks. As a result, 90 percent of them got better and 22 of them experienced disappearance of ulcers.
Some studies show that a specific formula that contains licorice known as STW 5 or Iberogast can help reduce the symptoms associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. This herbal formula also contains chamomile and peppermint, both of which are commonly used to treat indigestion.
One research study concluded that gargling with deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) dissolve in warm water for at least 4 times a day could help relieve pain among individuals suffering with canker sores.
One study suggests that taking licorice could help reduce body fat. 15 individuals who have normal body weight consumed 3.5 grams of licorice per day for about 60 days. Their body fat was measured before and after treatment. It was found that licorice has the ability to suppress the hormone aldosterone and reduce body fat mass. However, the participants in the study showed increase water retention.
A study conducted on humans suggests that a topical preparation of glycyrrhetinic acid, which is a component of licorice, could decrease the thickness of fat on the thigh. Another study discovered that taking a 900 mg dosage of licorice flavonoid oil every day for about 8 weeks could significantly reduce body mass index (BMI), body weight, and low density lipid (LDL) cholesterol levels. However, despite of all the mentioned benefits of licorice in terms of reducing body fat, there are only few evidences available and a lot more is needed in order to strongly prove its effectiveness. In addition, taking long-term utilization of licorice was known to cause some health problems.
One study suggests that applying licorice gel to the skin could help relieve that symptoms of skin eczema such as swelling, itching, and redness. A gel containing 2 percent licorice works more effectively than a gel with 1 percent licorice.
Licorice is known to be safe for most individuals when taken in amounts found in foods. It is also safe when taken at high amounts for medicinal purposes and when applied to the skin for a brief period of time. On the other hand, using large amounts of it for more than 4 weeks could be unsafe and can lead to the development of some health problems. Taking licorice every day for several weeks or more can cause serious side effects such as hypokalemia (low potassium levels), hypertension (high blood pressure), paralysis and weakness, or worse, brain damage in otherwise healthy individuals. As for those individuals who have a high-sodium diet, consuming a small amount of licorice (5 mg per day) can cause problems like high blood pressure, kidney problems, and heart disease.
Individuals who habitually chew licorice flavored tobacco may develop high blood pressure and other serious health problems. Other side effects of licorice include absence of menstrual period in women, fatigue, increased sodium and water retention, headache, and reduction in sexual function and interest in men.
Since licorice could cause potentially life-threatening side effects, it is highly recommended that you should not use licorice longer than 1 week without consulting first your doctor. Your doctor should be the one to determine the appropriate dosage of licorice for you.
Do not give licorice to a toddler or infant, and do not give licorice tea to a child for more than a day without first consulting your healthcare provider. Older children who are suffering from sore throat can drink licorice tea or chew a piece of licorice root. It is important that you talk to your doctor in order to determine the most appropriate dosage for your child.References:
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