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Herbal Education: Licorice Root

October 26, 2018 Camille Wilcox

Halloween is coming, and with all the types of candy that are consumed during its observance, few are as polarizing and controversial as classic black licorice. Most people have a very strong opinion about licorice, they either love it or hate it! Nowadays, that familiar licorice flavor is usually replicated by the similarly flavored anise seed or artificial flavorings, but you can still get genuine licorice candy — you just have to be a label reader! Let's learn more about the healing properties of Licorice herb, what you learn may change your opinion about this traditional treat!

Licorice root has long been used as a flavoring and sweetener in candies and beverages, and its historical herbal use dates back centuries. The root of the licorice plant, Glycyrrhiza glabra has been a staple in most herbalist's medicine chests from ancient Egypt to today.

Licorice Root's anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties make it a useful remedy for a myriad of digestive and respiratory complaints including ulcers, heartburn, colic, gastritis, sore throat, bronchitis, cough, and infections caused by bacteria or viruses. Licorice root tea can be very soothing to the throat and is often used as a remedy for laryngitis. Licorice root also helps the body more efficiently regulate the stress hormone cortisol, thus supporting adrenal function and alleviating adrenal stress. Licorice root is also useful to help regulate blood sugar levels, in what some researchers call an "anti-diabetic effect". 

If licorice root is such a miracle herb, why isn't is more widely used? Well, the short answer is that there is a component in Licorice root called glycyrrhizin (yes, it's a real word!). In large amounts and with long-term use, the glycyrrhizin in licorice root can cause high blood pressure and low potassium levels, which could lead to heart and muscle problems, so it is not recommended to exceed six to eighteen grams per day. Licorice that has had this removed (called DGL for deglycyrrhizinated licorice) may not have the same degree of side effects and can be taken at higher doses, but those with heart, blood pressure, liver, or kidney issues and those who are pregnant should not take licorice root except under the supervision of their health provider. 

So if you are a fan of the sweet, spicy flavor of licorice, go and gobble up a couple of pieces this Halloween without guilt! 




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