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Licorice - Treats more than a sweet tooth

October 28, 2009 Reviewed by Copley 9 Comments
Black licorice is not exactly an acquired taste. Quite simply, you love it or you hate it. Either way, you will hardly get any therapeutic benefits from licorice candy, which contains little to no actual licorice. The roots of real licorice (otherwise known as liquorice, sweet root, and glycyrrhiza glabra) contain coumarins, flavonoids, volatile oils, plant sterols, and glycyrrhizin. Packed with hundreds of potentially healing substances, licorice root has been used worldwide to treat a variety of ailments including asthma, baldness, body odor, bursitis, chronic fatigue, dandruff, depression, gout, yeast infections, tooth problems, and of course, skin conditions.

In traditional Chinese medicine, licorice is one of the most common drugs, drawn on for everything from the common cold to liver disease. The herb is highly esteemed for its soothing effects on inflamed membranes and its expectorant properties in removing phlegm and mucus from the respiratory tract. In both East and West, it is popular for relief from respiratory ailments (i.e. allergies, bronchitis, sore throats), as well as acid reflux, heartburn, and digestive tract inflammation. A recent survey of Western medical herbalists placed licorice as the 10th most important herb used in clinical practice.

The anti-inflammatory powers of licorice extract are undisputed. A study appearing in the July 24, 2008 edition of the journal Shock found that mice treated with glycyrrhizin extract from licorice experienced markedly reduced inflammation, swelling, and tissue damage after induced spinal cord injury. As if lab mice hadn't suffered enough, another study administered licochalcone A, extracted from licorice root, to mice that had been induced with ear and paw edema. Proving to be very effective against acute inflammation, the licorice root significantly reduced paw edema compared to controls four hours after injury.

The increased emphasis on natural therapies for skin conditions has led to clinical studies involving licorice and inflammatory skin dermatoses. In its June edition, the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology reported that licorice is an effective treatment for rosacea, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and drug-induced skin eruptions. Besides being used to treat stomach ulcers, licorice root is now being applied on canker sores, as reported in the March/April issue of General Dentistry. When housed in a medicated, dissolving oral patch, licorice root takes on a mild taste and significantly decreases ulcer size.

When licorice extract is added to cosmetic formulas in active quantities, it can control redness, flushing, and other types of inflammation. A natural skin lightening alternative to chemical hydroquinone, licorice extract contains an active called glabridin, which inhibits tyrosinase, the enzyme that causes pigmentation in response to sun exposure. It can also help diminish the dark pigmentation resulting from scars. As far as hair goes, licorice is helpful for controlling scalp sebum and keeping dandruff under control. Ayurvedic medicine believes that licorice induces hair growth and that a paste composed of licorice and milk can be applied on bald patches to restore hair.

Licorice extract can be found on an ingredients list under the name dipotassium glycyrrhizate, an anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory salt with skin-soothing properties. Clinical tests point to this ingredient as an effective treatment for atopic dermatitis because of its ability to reduce redness and irritation. Another one of the active components of licorice root is glycyrrhetinic acid, which seems to have mythical powers over a traumatized epidermis. Not only has it been credited with anti-inflammatory abilities, but it also demonstrates anti-allergic, anti-viral, antibacterial, and hepatoprotective benefits.

It's worth noting that glycyrrhizin extract should not be used during pregnancy or by persons with diabetes, glaucoma, heart disease, high blood pressure, and history of stroke. Excessive consumption of glycyrrhizin can cause a hypersensitivity to aldosterone, a hormone produced by the adrenal cortex. This condition may result in fatigue, headaches, and high blood pressure. As a result, some licorice root extracts, called deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), have had the glycyrrhizin removed and seem to be equally effective at reducing inflammation.
  • April 13, 2016

    by Ann

    I would like to know what is a great makeup that is oil free and has licorice in it to help with hyperpigmentation? Would appreciate hearing from you. THANK YOU.

  • November 6, 2009

    by marta

    Patrice, this is the link: http://www.truthinaging.com/face/reviewed-and-recommended-horse-chestnut-for-broken-veins-and-a-diy-solution

  • November 5, 2009

    by patrice podvoj

    where is Marta's DIY broken vein recipe? I see the ad, but going to NEXT brings me to another product?

  • October 31, 2009

    by marta

    Mark, you are probably insane. But certainly inspired. And getting synergistically to rhyme is damn impressive.

  • October 30, 2009

    by Mark

    Donna - I hope you're selected to try the Hydrospherex and you receive glowing results. You deserve it - best wishes.

  • October 30, 2009

    by Mark

    In the Hallowe'en spirit I prepared an incantation you can say before applying your favorite product. No magic promised, just a laugh:

    Potion that I now hold in my hand
    Here are the things of you I command.
    Feet of crows now take flight
    revealing a more youthful sight.
    Butcher’s broom sweep away
    so veins of spider no longer stay.
    Root of licorice calm my skin
    make me radiant once again.
    Miracle serum you will not shirk,
    the claims you made
    you will now work.
    Science, botanicals & brews from the sea
    combine to work, synergistically.
    Matryxil control, defend & boost
    wrinkles no longer are welcome to roost.
    Vitamins work & spin-traps spin,
    a more youthful countenance give me again.
    Then in the morn I will awaken to see
    you’ve done your work so beautifully.

  • October 29, 2009

    by michlny

    I really wish they would pour as much money into studying the potential of natural herbs, substances, foods, flowers, et al, found in our environment, as they do on drugs. I believe all that we need can be found in nature. IMHO.

  • October 28, 2009

    by Donna

    My treat for my birthday this Saturday (yes, Halloween) would definitely be the chance to try the Mango Madness Hydrospherex. I've spent the past 10 months fighting breast cancer & treatment seems to have really sped the aging of my skin. Now that that's all done, I'm desperately looking for a regimen to help bring some brightness back to my face. All the Mango Madness products you reviewed sound very promising. I can't tell you how much I really enjoy & appreciate the information I get from this website.

  • October 28, 2009

    by aerwin

    Thank you for this info! I have asthma and allergies. I am going to try the supplements!

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