Licorice root, also known as ‘sweet root’, is used mostly as a sweetener in candies and beverages. It contains beneficial compounds that help treat heartburn and gastrointestinal issues. Due to the glycyrrhizin present in the root, it is also effective for combating cancer and inflammation. The other bioactive compounds in licorice root also help support brain function, and treat diabetes, while the fiber helps aids in weight loss. Licorice root might also boost skin and hair health.
The Health Benefits of Licorice Root
Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of licorice root.
Licorice root contains antimicrobial and antiviral properties that can help enhance immunity. As a matter of fact, the glycyrrhizin found in licorice can help stimulate immunity and fight viral infections. The root also averts other bacterial and fungal infections. Licorice root also relieves coughs and other conditions of the respiratory tract. The root can treat colds and soothe a sore throat too. It also helps to decongest the lungs and bronchial tubes by bringing up phlegm.
Supports Liver Health
Licorice has anti-inflammatory properties that protect the liver from alcohol-induced injury. According to studies, the root can provide some relief in non-alcoholic fatty liver ailment such as jaundice. In addition, licorice root extract might also support the liver’s natural detoxification process.
Improves Gastrointestinal Health
Licorice root can help health conditions such as acid reflux. It increases the production of mucus, which can protect the stomach lining from too much acid. Licorice is also known to treat heartburn, ulcers, and acid reflux linked with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and its other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
Enhances Oral Health
According to some studies, licorice root can cure cavities and gum disease. In fact, licoricidin and licorisoflavan A are both compounds in licorice root that are effective for preventing the growth of bacteria that result in cavities. The root prevents periodontitis, which is an oral disease that destroys the gums and bones and tissues that help maintain the teeth. In addition, the root freshens breath naturally and prevents tooth decay.
Studies have shown that the polyphenols found in licorice root induce cancer cell death. In fact, some studies suggest that licorice root is more effective than chemotherapy in eliminating cancer cells. Unlike chemotherapy that destroys everything, licorice root is selective in protecting only the healthy cells.
A type of licorice root known as Glycyrrhiza glabra is known to induce and improve sleep. Gabrol and liquiritigenin, two other compounds found in licorice root can also help induce sleep. These compounds also help reduce the time required to fall asleep. The compounds also increase the length of non-REM sleep without interrupting sleep.
Aids in Diabetes Treatment
Since licorice root is 50 times sweeter than sugar, it might seem counterintuitive to expect it to treat diabetes. However, studies have shown that the molecules in licorice root contain anti-diabetic properties. And interestingly, the molecules are well-tolerated by the human body.
Prevents Adrenal Fatigue
Licorice root supports the adrenal glands and helps to balance hormones, especially in females. It helps to relieve the menopausal and premenstrual syndrome symptoms. The flavonoids found in licorice also possess estrogenic effect on cells.
Supports Weight Loss
According to studies, licorice root can reduce body fat as it contains fiber, which gives the feeling of being full.
Owing to the anti-inflammatory effects of licorice root, it is particularly effective in the treatment of inflammation of the digestive tract. In fact, the glycyrrhizin present in the root also prevents tissue inflammation by reducing the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Licorice root can also protect the body against chronic inflammation such as arthritis. The root also inhibits the generation of certain enzymes that cause inflammation.
Maintains Mental Health
Carbenoxolone, a compound found in licorice could help reduce stress and minimize brain aging. In addition, licorice root can improve memory and keep mental skills at its optimum. One other compound in licorice known as liquiritigenin also has a positive effect on brain cells which, in turn, prevents Alzheimer’s.
Treat Males Infertility
According to some studies, licorice root can help treat erectile dysfunction as it is beneficial for male hormonal levels. The consumption of licorice might also increase serum testosterone levels, which can impact fertility directly. However, it is advisable to talk to your doctor before using licorice for treating infertility.
Relieves Symptoms of PMS and Menopause
Licorice root has shown to help bring some relief for menstrual cramps, treat spasms, as well as alleviate pain. The root actually has an estrogen-like effect in women, which helps to relieve the symptoms of PMS and menopause such as hot flashes.
Good for the Hair
Licorice root is loaded with components such as phytoestrogens, flavonoids, and other essential oils that promote the health of the scalp and hair. The demulcent properties of licorice root also help in soothing the scalp by treating scalp conditions such as dandruff. The root also enhances hair growth and might prevent premature balding.
Improves Skin Health
Licorice root helps to brighten the skin by fading blemishes and dark spots. The roots help in treating a host of skin disorders, including psoriasis, eczema, skin rashes, and dry skin. Its demulcent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic properties help to heal certain skin conditions such as inflammation and redness.
Adding licorice tea to your diet can protect the skin from the harmful UV rays, sunburns, and tan.
Side Effects and Precautions
Despite how beneficial licorice root can be, there are certain precautions to take.
- There isn’t enough evidence on the benefits of licorice root for treating heart conditions as it might actually worsen heart ailments. In fact, the root can increase blood pressure, cause fluid retention, and even lead to congestive heart failure.
- Although there are reports that licorice can increase testosterone levels, there are indications that the root can do quite the opposite. So, check with your doctor before using the root for this purpose.
- Licorice can significantly cause low potassium levels. This means that if you already suffer from hypokalemia, you should avoid licorice.
- Licorice root is unsafe for pregnant women as it can result in premature delivery. Breastfeeding mothers should also avoid the root.
- An excessive use of the root can lead to kidney problems.
- Licorice root can interfere with blood pressure. It is, advisable to stop use at least two weeks before a surgery.