When most people think of liquorice, they think of the lolly but it is also a remedy that has many health benefits. Read on to find out if it can be of use to you.
Liquorice is harvested from the root and dried rhizomes of the low-growing shrub, Glycyrrhiza glabra. Currently, most liquorice is produced in Greece, Turkey, and Asia. It has been used medicinally for thousands of years, from the time of Ancient Greece, China, and Egypt. As well as its medicinal uses, liquorice has been used as a flavouring agent and it is valued for its sweetness – a compound called glycyrrhizin is 50 times sweeter than table sugar. Liquorice was originally used to flavour liquorice lollies but these lollies are now flavoured using anise oil.
Liquorice has a wide range of benefits. These include:
• liquorice is very helpful for treating peptic ulcers – a form called DGL is used as this form remove the glycyrrhizin from the liquorice as the glycyrrhizin can cause high blood pressure. DGL has no side effects.
• Liquorice helps to trigger interferon, the body’s virus fighting agent.
• Has similar effects to hydrocortisone when applied topically and can be used to help treat dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis.
• Can be used to speed the healing of cold sores and reduce the associated pain.
• Can be helpful in treating chronic and acute hepatitis due to the compound, glycyrrhizin.
• Has a mild estrogenic effect and may help to balance estrogen levels in the body by reducing estrogen. This is helpful in PMS.
• In the treatment of respiratory problems such as coughing, asthma, sore throats, and bronchitis.
• Supports the adrenal glands, and a compound in liquorice helps to block the breakdown of cortisol which in turn raises cortisol levels, helping the body to fight against stress and chronic fatigue syndrome.
• Can make LDL (bad) cholesterol more resistant to oxidation.
• Contains many anti-depressant compounds and is an excellent alternative to St John’s Wort.
• Increases bile flow and lowers cholesterol levels.
• Glycyrrhizinic acid can stop the growth of many bacteria and viruses such as influenza A.
Because liquorice can raise blood pressure, cause sodium and water retention, and the loss of potassium, it is important to be responsible in its usage. Liquorice should not be used for the long term – four to six weeks at a time is recommended. Liquorice consumption is not recommended during pregnancy. It should be used cautiously by people that suffer from congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, kidney or liver disease, fluid retention, high blood pressure, underlying electrolyte disturbances, hormonal abnormalities, or those taking diuretics. Generally speaking, prescription drugs should be taken one hour before liquorice or two hours after as liquorice can increase the absorption of many drugs.