Licorice root – also known as Glycyrrhiza glabra – is a naturally sweet and moistening herb which has numerous benefits. Licorice also has known side effects with long-term use, and you should be aware of its side effects. Useful to treat throat irritations, upper respiratory tract infections, digestive complaints, coughs and to strengthen the liver and adrenals, when used correctly, licorice root tea can be a tremendous herbal ally.
Soothes Digestive Distress
Licorice root tea has been used to treat digestive problems, such as acid reflux and stomach ulcers. The demulcent – or moistening – effect of licorice root is thought to coat the esophagus and stomach, preventing damage from stomach acid. Licorice root tea has also shown some benefit to canker sores, or mouth ulcers, when used as a wash. Michael Tierra,, an accupuncturist and naturopathic doctor licorice root is also an effective treatment for duodenal ulcers and acts to strengthen overall digestion.
A Potent Women's Herb
Some of the components to licorice root tea have shown distinctly estrogenic effects, which may make licorice a useful estrogen replacement for post-menopausal women. According to research published in the “Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology,” licorice root may provide protection from cardiovascular disease in post-menopausal women due to its estrogenic effects. Another study found in “Molecular Nutrition and Food Research” determined that glabridin – a constituent of in licorice root tea – has anticancer effects particularly for breast cancer by inhibiting migration of cancer cells, stopping invasion of cancer cells into breast tissue and preventing angiogenesis – or the formation of new blood cells with which cancer cells migrate into the body.
Upper Respiratory Savior
Licorice root tea is a tasty and soothing remedy for a scratchy throat, dry, unproductive cough and helps to expel mucous, writes Tierra in “Planetary Herbology.”
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Liver and Adrenal Support
Licorice root tea has been used to treat a number of liver conditions – from hepatitis to high liver enzymes – and has a protective effect on the liver according to naturopathic doctor and master herbalist Sharol Tilgner. She also recommends licorice for adrenal fatigue and conditions with high liver enzymes or the need for liver detoxification like mononucleosis and chronic fatigue syndrome, because licorice lengthens the half-life of cortisol in the body.
Side Effects and Precautions
The main constituent of licorice root tea is glycyrrhiza, which has been shown to cause edema, loss of potassium, high blood pressure and other serious side effects when used for an extended time. Tilgner warns that doses of 3 or more grams a day should not be taken for more than six weeks and licorice root tea is contraindicated for anyone suffering from high blood pressure, heart failure, kidney disease, liver cirrhosis and during pregnancy.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice is often suggested as an alternative to the whole root because it causes less long-term side effects, however it may also limit the medicinal qualities of the remedy.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Licorice
- Planetary Herbology; Michael Tierra
- Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: Estrogen-Like Activity of Licorice Root Constituents: Glabridin and Glabrene, in Vascular Tissues in Vitro and in Vivo
- Molecular Nutrition and Food Research: Glabridin, an Isoflavan From Licorice Root, Inhibits Migration, Invasion and Angiogenesis of MDA-MB-231 Human Breast Adenocarcinoma Cells by Inhibiting Focal Adhesion Kinase/Rho Signaling Pathway
- Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth; Sharol Tilgner
Amy Myszko is a certified clinical herbalist and nutritional consultant who has been helping people find greater health and balance through diet, lifestyle and natural remedies since 2006. She received her certification from the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism in Boulder, Colo. Myszko also holds a BA in literature from the University of Colorado.