Licorice is a medicinal plant, also known as glycirriza, regaliz or sweet root, is a type of medicinal plant known to be among the oldest in the world. It is used in the treatment of various health conditions such as stomach problems, inflammation and respiratory diseases.
Although it has several health benefits, excessive use of licorice can cause adverse side effects to the body. This is because licorice is rich in glycyrryzic acid, a substance that prevents conversion of cortisol into cortisone. This will cause the kidneys to stop functioning properly and they will end up eliminating excess potassium. This will result in other serious health problems including changes in the heart beat.
The scientific name of licorice is Glycyrrhiza glabra. It can be purchased from natural product stores, pharmacies as well as during free fairs. However, its consumption should only be done under the guidance of a health professional who understands how to use it.
According to various studies done on licorice, here are some of the proven benefits:
1. Eliminates fungi and bacteria
Licorice has substances that have the ability to eliminate different types of bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogens. For this case, it can be used as an aqueous extract or alcoholic extract.
Moreover, licorice has been proven to have great action against fungi. It is effective in the elimination of infections caused by drug-resistant Candida albicans. According to a study done o HIV patients, licorice tea is an excellent option in the treatment of fungal infections that affect the mouth.
2. It has antioxidant action
Several laboratory tests have been done to demonstrate the antioxidant effect of licorice. This was justified by the presence if substances such as glabridine, apigenin and liquiritin.
3. Regulates blood sugar
Studies done on rats have shown that licorice can regulate blood glucose levels in people who suffer from diabetes. In addition, several reports also indicate that using licorice decreases symptoms of diabetes such as excessive thirst and frequent urge to urinate.
4. Fighting malaria
Licorice contains a substance known as licochalcona A, which has high anti-malarial action, that can eliminate the malaria parasite without causing any adverse side effects. For this reason, there are three diferent species of licorice in China that are included in pharmacopoeia as a complementary form in the treatment of malaria.
5. Stimulates the immune system
Laboratory tests have been done to show that licorice is capable of increasing production of some lymphocytes and macrophages, which are important cells of the immune system. In addition, licorice also has antiviral action, hence protecting the body from viral infections, especially those that cause influenza.
6. It has anti-inflammatory action
In some studies, licorice has been proven to have strong anti-inflammatory action. It presents a superior efficacy to hydrocortisone, a type of corticosteroid that is widely used in the treatment of inflammations such as arthritis and skin problems.
Unlike anti-inflammatory and pharmacy drugs, using licorice does not affect the lining of the stomach.
7. Protects the stomach and liver
Carbenoxolona is a synthetic substance that is used in the treatment of gastric ulcers. It was originally created with a structure similar to another substance found in licorice that helps in protecting the stomach.
In addition, glycyrryzium acid also contains hepatoprotective action that decreases inflammation of the cells of the liver and it also helps in tje prevention of the growth of cancer in this organ.
8. Stimulates the elimination of phlegm
Although the mechanism action of licorice is not known, several studies show that licorice aids in decrease of irritations that affect the throat as well as helping in elimination of phlegm.
For this reason, the pant is widely used in he treatment of respiratory problems, especially when the cough is accompanied by phlegm as is experienced in bronchitis.
How to use licorice
The part of the licorice plant that is utilized is usually the root, as this is where the active substances are secreted from. One of the most popular forms of using licorice is in the making of tea which can be made using the following procedure
- Licorice tea: Place 5 grams of licorice root in 500 ml of water and boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Then allow to cool, then drink at least 2 cups per day
However, the best way to consume licorice for medicinal purposes is to take it in form if capsules under the guidance of a herbalist, who will prescribe the best daily dosage, depending on the problem to be treated.
Licorice can have adverse side effects when consumed in excess, therefore it is not recommended to exceed a dose of 100mg of glycyrrylic acid per day.
Possible side effects
Licorice is known to be a safe plant for consumption, but when it is taken in excess, it cause side adverse side effects due to the presence if glycyrrylic acid, which will increase the levels of cortisol in the body. This will result in increased levels of potassium in the blood and this can in turn cause an increase in blood pressure, muscle weakness and changes in the heart beat.
Although it is rare, licoroce may cause poisoning when it is consumed in large amounts for a long period of time. This poisoning can cause kidney failure, heart problems and accumulation of fluid in the lungs.
Some licorice supplements found in the market can be used as they do nit contain glycyrrylic acid. However, this acid is the most important component of licorice as it is the one responsible for the numerous therapeutic effects.
Who should avoid licorice
Due to its adverse side effects, licorice should only be taken under the guidance of a doctor, herbalist or a health professional who understand s how to use medicinal plants.
It should not be used by people who suffer form high blood pressure, heart disease and low levels of potassium in the blood. In addition , licorice should also be avoided during pregnancy and when breastfeeding.
In conclusion, licorice may interact with other medications such as high blood pressure medications, anticoagulants, diuretics, contraceptives and anti-inflammatory drugs.