Liquorice or licorice root and also called glycyrrhiza glabra in Latin is a sweet root from the licorice plant. Licorice has been used since ancient times for medicinal and ritual purposes. Research found that this sweet root is 50 times sweeter than sucrose or table sugar but tastes different. The sweetness comes from a compound called glycyrrhizin or glycyrrhizic acid.
The medicinal value of glycyrrhizin is that it acts as an expectorant, demulcent or soothing agent. It aids in the removal of mucus from the lungs by coughing phlegm out. Glycyrrhizin has an anti inflammatory effect and are has the potential to treat chronic hepatitis C. It may also aid in cirrhosis treatment.
Clinical studies found that licorice root has anti viral properties. It has shown to prevent the activation of the herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2. It is also used as a remedy to treat shingles.
But if glycyrrhizin is taken in overdoses or over a certain period, it increases blood pressure, causes edema or water retention in your body tissues and reduces the level of potassium. So, one of the ways to take licorice root extract if you are concerned about the side effects of licorice is to take licorice extract that is deglycyrrhizinated. A deglycyrrhizinated licorice or also called DGL is liquorice with the glycyrrhizin removed.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice is used in pain relief associated with canker sores. GDL may be effective in treating gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, mouth ulcers and peptic ulcers.
Licorice extract may help treat skin problems such as eczema when it is applied topically on the skin. It also helps in treating respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis. It is also used for coughs and sore throats.
Even though there is no scientific evidence, licorice extract may promote adrenal gland function. It is also been used as a colon cleanser and treat stomach and gastrointestinal tract problems. There are claims that licorice may also reduce body fat. A compound called glycyrrhetinic acid in licorice assist in inhibiting the production of an enzyme called 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase in fat cells.
You can make licorice tea from the dried stem and root by placing it in hot water. It acts as a mild laxative and diuretic. It may also be used as a mouth freshener by biting or chewing licorice stick.
Licorice extract is obtained from its underground stem and root. As a health supplement, it is available as dried root, in powdered form, capsules, tablets, creams, cough drops, licorice tea and liquid extract. The liquorice candies that are sold have only a minimum licorice extract and other herbs such as anise is added to bring in the flavor.
People with heart problems, fluid retention, high blood pressure are diabetics and have kidney or liver disease should avoid taking licorice extract. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should also avoid it because it may cause undesirable side effects. Anyone who is on prescription medication must consult a doctor first.