Licorice Root

Licorice is a woody-stemmed perennial botanical. It can grow to heights of six feet, with dark oval leaves and flowers that range in color from cream to mauve. Licorice grows wild in Southwest Asia and bordering Southeast Europe. It is also cultivated for various commercial uses all over the world. When the plant reaches three to four years of age, the roots are harvested and divided. The harvested sources make their way to commercial production, while the divided remains are once again planted for continued cultivation. [1]


Licorice is one of the most widely used botanical medicines today. It is also well known for its use in the confectionary business, due to its sweetening ability. Licorice is believed to be 50 times sweeter than sugar and can be found in a wide variety of popular candies and chews. This sweetening ability also makes it a welcome addition to many herbal preparations.


Licorice has a vast history. Its origins date back to ancient Egyptian and Greek civilizations. In fact, its nickname is derived from the Greek word Glycyrrhiza, meaning ‘sweet root.' [2] Licorice has also been well received by many traditional societies as a healing herb; including Chinese, Kampo (Japanese), and Ayurvedic medicine. Traditional uses for licorice include; cough, consumption (tuberculosis), bronchitis, asthma, canker sores, irritated mucous membranes, digestive ailments, relaxant, constipation, and as a general tonic, used to tonify the life energy.


In the 1950-1960's licorice gained notoriety for its use in peptic ulcer disease. It was well researched and results confirmed that licorice could actually assist in the healing of peptic ulcers. A pharmaceutical drug, carbenoxolone, was manufactured based on licorice's efficacy and widely used to treat ulcers. However, the widespread use of licorice in the non-traditional dosages found in this drug resulted in an increased number of patient reported side effects. These adverse reactions were thought to be caused by naturally-occurring compounds found in licorice root; namely glycyrrhizin.


To combat the side effects of glycyrrhizin, a new herbal preparation was developed without the inclusion of this harmful component, called Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). This drug could be safely used to treat peptic ulcers, without the side effects caused by glycyrrhizin.


Besides being anti-ulcer, licorice also possesses other properties, including:


  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-viral
  • hepatoprotective
  • anti-microbial
  • mucoprotective
  • demulcent
  • expectorant
  • anticariogenic
  • adrenal tonic
  • phytoestrogen, or estrogen receptor binding action
  • anti-oxidant

The main constituents in licorice are the triterpenoid saponins - glycyrrhizin at concentrations of 2 - 6% in the root. It also contains glycyrrhetinic acid (a metabolite of glycyrrhizin) flavonoids, chalcones, isoflavones, and sterols. The Isoflavones formononetin and glabridin interact with estrogen receptors. [3] Other flavonoids give licorice its purported anti-oxidant action due to the ability of these substances to quench free radicals and decrease oxidation. Several constituents (i.e. licorilcidin, glycyrin, glycyrol, and glycycoumarin) have also been shown to exhibit antibacterial activity. [4]


Licorice has adrenal tonifying action, as it inhibits the breakdown of cortisol. This action supports cortisol by increasing its effect on specifically designated tissues. Licorice also has produces similar inhibitory effects on other steroid hormones such as Prednisone; taken as a pharmaceutical prescription for many conditions. Licorice's mild anti-inflammatory effects are thought to be due to its relationship with cortisol, since cortisol is anti-inflammatory in nature. However, there is still some confusion regarding licorice's anti-inflammatory mechanism. [5]


Licorice may also produce mild aldosterone-like effects, which are responsible for the majority of the side effects produced by licorice. [6] This effect causes a decrease of potassium within the body and an increase in water and sodium retention; increasing the risks for the onset of high blood pressure and edema. On the other hand, this mild aldosterone activity could be helpful for individuals who have low blood pressure, or high potassium.



Products Containing Licorice Root
Name Price Rating Serving Price # of Servings Manufacturer Health Condition
Acnepril $27.99
 
(2)
$0.47 60 Acne
ClearPores Herbal Formula $43.19
 
(0)
$0.00 0 Acne
Hombron $9.95
 
(0)
$0.17 60 Absolute Nutrition

 

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