Licorice Root

Glycyrrhiza glabra

Deriving it’s name from the Greek word ‘glukurrhiza’ which means “sweet root”. It is one of the most widely consumed herbs across the world and has been in used for thousands of years. It contains glycyrrhizin , which is 30-50 times sweeter tasting than sugar but doesn’t cause any increase in blood glucose levels or trigger insulin release. In addition to it’s use as a natural sugar free sweetener, it includes a host of other health benefits including anti-viral properties for chronic viral infections like herpes (cold-sores and shingles) [1] and Hepatitis [2] and a wide range of uses across cultures for millennia [3].

Such a tasty root that can fight viruses and has been prized for so long certainly deserves the super-food distinction!

A Multifaceted Root

1. Ancient Pharmacopoeia

Used across the world for thousands of years, licorice is featured in the tombs of ancient Egyptians up to 3,000 years old and on Assyrian tablets reference licorice as medicine from the second or third millennia b.c. China and Eastern Asia licorice has been used for at least 2,000 years and is included in Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic [4].

In Chinese medicine it is used in many prescriptions and considered to synergize with and enhance the effects of other herbs. [5]

In modern times it is studied for a range range of positive health effects from heart disease to skin issues. [6]

There are potential risks (high blood pressure, potassium imbalance, and related issues) of taking too much licorice in highly concentrated forms long term. [7] It’s not recommended as a regular part of diet while pregnant. [8]

 2. Digestive Support

Licorice is used by many to support gastrointestinal health – specifically for ulcers, gastrointenstinal reflux and related symptoms. It has been studied clinically and shown effective against a placebo [9].

3. Cough, cold, throat and lungs

Licorice is a popular ingredient in cold and throat lozenges and teas [10]

4. Anti-Viral

Licorice is recommended both topically and internally as an antiviral [11. Licorice’s glycyrrhiczic acid (GA) has been shown to kill cells with a type of herpes virus [12] and is research and used regularly in Japan to treat chronic hepatitis C patients. [14]

5. Liver Support

Hepatitis C is a liver based disease combated by licorice, but licorice has also been studied as a protective in fatty liver disease and overall liver health. [15]

6. Menopause and Premenstrual Symptoms

Licorice lowers estrogen levels and raises progesterone levels through it’s action as an enzyme inhibitor. It’s phytoestrogenic activity can modulate estrogen in the body, which can reduce PMS symptoms.

It can also support PMS symptoms in other ways through it’s binding with aldosterone receptors and reducing the hormone’s impact.

It supports the adrenal system and can support those with stress related PMS symptoms. [16, 17]

It has been studied clinically for reducing the effects of hot flashes. [18]

7. Skin Health

Licorice extract is applied topically to help improve skin rashes and canker sores and eczema [19,20,21].