Many people associate licorice with the dark, chewy candies that they remember getting as a child on Halloween. But this sweet-smelling member of the bean family has been used for thousands of years by indigenous people as both a culinary and medicinal herb. With the benefit of modern research tools and studies, we have learned more about the ways that licorice can support our well-being. The root of the plant is most often used as medicine, which contains flavonoids, polysaccharides and the sweet-tasting constituent glycyrrhizin. Flavonoids are well-known for their antiinflammatory effects. They and polysaccharides also have immune-balancing effects, along with the ability to form a soothing coat over the lining of the digestive system.
Glycyrrhiza glabra, commonly known as licorice. Image permission granted under GFDL by Kurt Steuber
Glycyrrhizin also has antiinflamatory effects but is better known for its ability to slow the breakdown of cortisol, one of the main stress-managing molecules in the body. Licorice has a strengthening effect on the kidneys and adrenal glands, which are involved in energy and stress management according to Eastern and Western medicine, respectively. It can be useful in cases of burnout and "adrenal fatigue," where the body is not able to maintain the proper balance of stress hormones. Just because licorice is a herb though, it does not mean that it is safe to use for everyone. Licorice root can be harmful to some people, especially when taken longterm. So always be sure to consult a healthcare specialist before taking this or any other herbal medicine. The potentially harmful effects of licorice can be greatly reduced by removing the glycyrrhizin. This form of the root is known as DGL (AKA deglycyrrhizinated licorice). It can be a useful remedy for acid reflux, upset stomach, irritable bowel disease and similar digestive complaints. The most common forms are chewable tablets or powder that can be mixed with water, to be taken before meals. Let us know your experiences using licorice or other natural remedies! While articles like this one can be useful as general information, they are no substitute for an individual medical consultation and should not be taken as medical advice.
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