Licorice / Liquorice is the root of glycyrrhiza glabra from which a sweet flavour can be extracted, A native of southern Europe and parts of Asia, licorice (meaning sweet root) has a history of medicinal use in Eastern and Western medical systems. This legume has many potentially healing substances including phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), flavonoids and the main therapeutic compound, glycyrrhizin which gives it its sweetness. It finds usage in foods, beverages, cosmetics, tobacco in addition to the many medicinal uses.
The sweetness in licorice comes from glycyrrhizin (or glycyrrhizic acid) – around 30-50 times the sweetness of sugar. This sweetness is less instant and has a lasting effect. The scent of the root comes from complex and varied combination of compounds including anethole.
- Licorice has been well-documented for healing ulcers. It helps improve digestive system complaints like stomach ulcers, heartburn, colic and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also used in combination with other herbs to treat acid reflux and the associated nausea and vomiting.
- In herbal form, it is used to increase female fertility and treat polycystic ovary syndrome.
- The glycyrrhizic acid found in licorice is used for the treatment and control of chronic viral hepatitis. It protects the liver and promotes its healing.
- It helps treat the skin condition, eczema.
- Glycyrrhizin from the root stimulates immune cell function, thus helping treat sore throat, bronchitis, cough, lung inflammation and viral and bacterial infections of the respiratory tract.
- It helps improve the adrenal glands’ function and thus improving the body’s response to stress.
- The phytoestrogens in licorice are very useful in treating symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and during menopause.
- Licorice is also useful for many ailments including athlete's foot, baldness, body odour, dandruff, gingivitis and tooth decay, gout, HIV, viral, fungal and yeast infections, psoriasis, shingles, tuberculosis, prostate enlargement and arthritis to name a few.
- Licorice helps reduce the oiliness in hair when used as a shampoo.
It is recommended to store the roots in a cool, dry and dark place for best shelf life.
Licorice candy must be stored at room temperature unless otherwise directed on the package. Store the candy in a closed package to prevent it from drying out and losing its flavor. Avoid storing in the bathroom. Keep licorice out of the reach of children and away from pets. Keep away from heat, light and moisture.
HOW TO CONSUME
Licorice root is available as capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts. The peeled root is also available in dried and powdered form. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice or DGL (licorice with glycyrrhizin removed) is also available for treating peptic ulcer, follow the dosage instruction specific to the product. Chinese use licorice as a culinary spice, it is also used to flavor broths and soy sauce containing foods.
For use as a mouth freshener, the root can be dug up, washed and chewed.
Recommended dosage of dried root ranges from 1g-5g as decoction / infusion 3 times a day.
Clinical trials of injectable form of licorice extract have been shown to have beneficial effects against hepatitis C.
Avoid taking large amounts of licorice since the glycyrrhizin present in it can cause salt and water retention, low potassium levels and high blood pressure which could lead to heart problems. Large amounts also affect the body’s level of cortisol hormone and are toxic to the liver and kidney. DGL products are thought to cause fewer side effects. Licorice may act like estrogen in the body. Avoid if there is any condition that might worsen by rise in estrogen levels.
For people with heart disease, high blood pressure or for those on any other prescription medicines, it is advisable to consult a doctor before using licorice as a dietary supplement.
Licorice interacts with certain foods like grapefruit juice and salt. Avoid these foods while taking licorice.
Do not intake licorice if pregnant (might cause miscarriage or early delivery) or breast-feeding.