Learn More About Licorice Root
What is licorice?
Native to parts of both Europe and Asia, licorice has achieved fame as a flavoring agent for candies and soft drinks, and even contains a compound fifty times sweeter than sugar, making it hugely popular throughout the world. When most people hear the word “licorice,” the first thing that comes to their minds is this perennial herb’s distinctive flavor.
What is licorice used for?
Licorice appears as an ingredient in over a third of all Chinese remedies, since the Middle Kingdom’s traditional healers regard it as a sort of balancing agent that often improves the absorption and action of other herbs.
A demulcent (that is, a soothing and coating agent), licorice has long found a place in the treatment of coughs and sore throats, and thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties many people take it for asthma and other respiratory conditions, including allergies. One of its compounds increases the production of the body’s own endogenous cortisone, making it potentially helpful in a number of situations that involve swollen tissues.
A particularly intriguing application of licorice is to fight adrenal fatigue. Prolonged stress can cause the adrenal glands to function improperly, and to produce insufficient levels of adrenal hormone, but licorice’s apparent ability to regulate hormone balance supports endocrine health. Those suffering from exhaustion often report that licorice gradually restores energy levels and a sense of well-being, perhaps through an ability to up-regulate glucocorticoid synthesis. For this reason some doctors claim licorice to be beneficial for chronic fatigue syndrome.
Ultimately licorice may have other important uses as well. One small study involving 15 normal-sized test subjects who took licorice for two months appeared to result in a loss of body fat, while another study which involved a topical licorice preparation yielded similar intriguing results. Much more work in this area is needed.
When a compound called glycerrhetinic acid is removed from licorice, the resultant product is usually referred to as deglycerrhizinated licorice, or DGL for short. DGL appears to improve the integrity of the stomach’s protective lining. It has therefore found considerable popularity among those who suffer from the all-too-common problems of heartburn, ulcers, and acid reflux.
How is licorice used?
Licorice can be drunk in tea form, consumed as a liquid extract, or taken in tablet or capsule form.
Those who whish to address issues such as heartburn should use the chewable DGL form, since an enzyme in human saliva is believed by some to “activate” it. Chew it twenty minutes before each meal.
Is licorice safe?
Among a small subset of those already suffering from high blood pressure, licorice may make their hypertension worse, since it can increase potassium loss. For the same reason, do not combine this herb with diuretic drugs. German medical authorities suggest taking this herb for no longer than two months.
DGL does not have this effect, and may be used indefinitely.
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