Understanding How Licorice Root Benefits You
Black jelly beans - you either love them or you hate them for their licorice flavour. But if you’ve only ever experienced licorice in candy form, you might be surprised to learn that licorice root benefits have long been known in Traditional Chinese Medicine!
Luckily the rest of the world has slowly been catching on. After all, licorice is an often overlooked herb with an impressive list of possible benefits.
Licorice root does need further mainstream medical support, but it’s revered by herbalists and alternative medicine practitioners as a botanical superhero. It’s understood to be especially helpful for stress, infection, inflammation and digestive distress.
Once I tell you a bit more about what’s behind those black jelly beans, I’m sure you’ll be ditching the licorice candy altogether and going straight to the source! (Which is a good move - as most licorice candy contains very low, or even no actual licorice extract - often anise oil instead).
So about that source...
Licorice has been used around the world for centuries - in Greece, China and Egypt for a start, where it was traditionally prescribed for stomach inflammation and upper respiratory problems.
Licorice is a leafy green legume, native to Asia and the Mediterranean region. The key health benefits can be found in licorice root, the underground part of the legume.
The botanical name of licorice is Glycyrrhiza glabra or Glycyrrhiza uralensis. Glycyrrhiza is from the Greek words Glycos (sweet) and rhiza (root), and its main constituent - glycyrrhizin - is up to 50 times as sweet as sugar!
Fun fact: Licorice is often added to chewing tobacco or cigarettes to make them sweet.
Licorice root supplements can be found as capsules, tablets, liquid extracts or in powder form. We include licorice root powder in Athletic Greens.
Today licorice root is most commonly sold as a digestive tonic, to help with a sore throat and to help with repairing the adrenal glands.
But licorice root offers so much more...
Licorice Root: Benefits And Features
So what are the key licorice root benefits?
Let’s talk a bit more about that super-sweet constituent: Glycyrrhizin. (Try and say that 10 times in a row fast!)
The major constituent of licorice root is glycyrrhizin or glycyrrhizic acid, which refers to a collection of chemicals responsible for licorice’s sweet taste.
Glycyrrhizin has a number of actions, including:
As a demulcent (a substance that soothes and heals mucous membranes)
Glycyrrhizin is like a plant-based steroid-hormone (a substance secreted by the adrenal glands, involved in stress, immune and inflammatory responses), and for this reason can be thought of as nature’s anti-inflammatory.
For all its benefits, glycyrrhizin may be problematic because it has a potassium-excreting effect, which can increase blood pressure in susceptible individuals. For this reason, licorice root is also available in ‘de-glycyrrhized’ form to counter these effects.
Other elements in licorice root include:
→ Flavonoids, polyphenols and bioactive polysaccharides
While Licorice root contains many other active compounds which may exert anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune-enhancing effects, so far glycyrrhizin has attracted the most scientific attention.
The Most Useful Licorice Root Benefits
Licorice is one of those rare herbs that enjoys a wealth of research and evidence. Licorice root powder is therefore known to provide support for the following:
All things immune
→ Acting as an antiviral
→ Enhancing the function of immune cells
→ Dampening allergic responses
→ For treating asthma
→ Soothing sore throats
→ Clearing upper respiratory congestion
All things gut
→ Treating and healing ulcers
→ Alleviating indigestion
→ Overcoming gut infections like Helicobacter pylori
→ As a gentle laxative
→ Preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol
→ Lowers total cholesterol
→ Reduces vascular permeability (‘leaky’ blood vessels)
→ Treating hepatitis (both viral and autoimmune)
→ Treating liver toxicity
→ Improving liver function
→ Supplying corticosteroid-like compounds to ‘take a load off’ the adrenal glands
→ Increasing cortisol (at high doses)
Mood and cognition
→ May have antidepressant effects
→ May enhance memory
Metabolic and hormonal imbalance
→ PCOS - may reduce androgens in women
→ Symptoms of menopause
Licorice root also plays a role in skin health and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effectsand anti-cancer effects. Licorice root has been used in folk medicine for everything from constipation to kidney stones, snake bite, insomnia and haemorrhoids. These are as yet unsupported by scientific evidence.
How To Enjoy Licorice Root Benefits
As I mentioned earlier, there’s still work to be done fully understanding licorice root benefits. However, so far doses of between 150 - 300 mg are generally considered therapeutic, with up to 1800 mg per day not associated with adverse effects (for short term use).
It’s important to note that licorice root is contraindicated in patients with hypertension, gallbladder or liver disease, low potassium levels, kidney disease, during pregnancy or taking corticosteroids.
And it’s very important that individuals with high blood pressure or kidney disease shouldn’t take licorice without medical supervision. Prolonged use of licorice (more than six weeks) at high doses may cause fluid retention. This is due to increased sodium levels and increased potassium excretion which may cause increased blood pressure in some individuals.
Licorice root benefits realized in Athletic Greens
As we’ve talked about above, licorice is well supported for digestive disorders and inflammation, infections and immune dysfunction, cardiovascular health, metabolic and adrenal imbalance and a range of inflammatory, immune-related conditions.
So it goes without saying that licorice root powder is yet another superhero in our greens mix.
Licorice root is very complementary to many areas and ingredients in Athletic Greens. It works well with:
Vitamin C and zinc to help boost the immune system,
Citrus bioflavonoids to suppress and treat asthma
Ginger to help with soothing digestive discomfort
Policosanol, beta glucans and lecithin to maintain healthy cholesterol levels
Milk thistle, globe artichoke and dandelion root to maintain healthy liver function
Ashwagandha, rhodiola and eleuthero to help maintain healthy adrenal function
Gotu kola for enhanced memory
Alpha Lipoic Acid for treating some of the symptoms of PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)