Used to flavor drinks for pharaohs in ancient Egypt, in candy, and medicines in Western Asia, Southern Europe, the Middle East, and Greece, sweet licorice root and licorice extract remain among the most-used herbs when it comes to herbal remedies.
What Is Licorice Root?
Hailing from the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant (also known as the licorice plant), licorice root has a rich history as an herbal remedy.
The main active compound in the licorice–also spelled liquorice–root is glycyrrhizin.
Glycyrrhizin gives the licorice root its sweetness and is where much of the root’s benefits stem from. However, glycyrrhizin may lead to potentially dangerous side effects–especially when consumed in large amounts or high doses.
Instead, you can find licorice root products where the glycyrrhizin has been removed and replaced with Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL).
What Can Licorice Root Do for the Body?
When taken in small doses over a short period, the root of this herbaceous legume may support your physical wellbeing in several ways.
Supporting digestive health is perhaps the licorice root’s most common use. The compounds found within the root of the licorice plant may help reduce digestive acid levels, which can provide relief for heartburn and indigestion.
The anti-swelling properties of the licorice root can also soothe irritation in the digestive tract.
With over 300 active compounds, licorice root has a wealth of antioxidants that can help reduce potentially harmful oxidative stress in the body.
Antioxidants can help stabilize free radicals that form in the body. Free radicals can destroy healthy skin cells, leading to wrinkles and premature signs of aging. By disarming free radicals, antioxidants can help protect skin cells.
Along with beneficial antioxidants, licorice can support the immune system through its anti-swelling, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
Licorice root has been used to soothe many a sore throat through the years and has been a tool to support the body in fighting off colds for centuries.
Thanks to glycyrrhiza’s properties, licorice root may help prevent cavities and mouth sores, which are often associated with bacteria.
Some evidence suggests that licorice root can support weight management by helping maintain regular digestive functioning. However, more research is needed on this.
Relief from Discomfort
While swelling is an essential tool of the immune system in fighting infection, chronic swelling can lead to discomfort, especially in joints and muscles.
Luckily, the naturally soothing properties of the licorice compounds can help reduce swelling and provide temporary relief as needed.
By working with the endocrine system–which helps maintain homeostasis in the body through the use of hormones–licorice root is thought to help reduce cortisol levels.
The body can overproduce cortisol hormones during times of stress. By supporting a healthy level of cortisol production in the adrenal gland, licorice can help boost feelings of calm and relaxation throughout the body.
Within the endocrine system, licorice root may also affect adrenaline production, which can help increase energy and ready you for the day ahead.
How Does Licorice Help the Body Detox?
Our bodies have many mechanisms in place to naturally remove toxins. The liver and kidneys play a huge role in flushing waste out of our system.
While the body already engages in a healthy form of detoxing, consuming certain nutrients and foods may help support the digestive tract and liver by removing chemicals and substances from the body.
The digestive tract helps metabolize and expel waste within the body. Licorice root may help support a healthy digestive tract by stimulating the production of digestive fluids and helping soothe intestinal swelling.
Licorice root tea may also help promote bowel movements, effectively removing waste from the body.
The liver plays a key role in flushing toxins from the body, so keeping the liver healthy is vital. Licorice root may help support healthy liver function due to its anti-swelling and antioxidant properties.
How Can I Use Licorice Root?
Licorice root is commonly dried and ground into powder for supplements, tablets, and capsules. You can also find licorice root teas and chews.
When using a supplement containing licorice root such as the Digest Well, be sure to follow the instructions and not exceed the recommended dosage.
For a sweet and soothing tea, you can mix one tablespoon of dried licorice root (sliced or chopped) with eight ounces of boiling water and simmer for 30-45 minutes before straining.
You can also use a tea blend containing licorice root. Licorice root can work synergistically with other herbs, such as our sweet and floral Cosmic Cleanse tea.
Precautions To Consider
While typically considered safe to consume in small doses, some side effects are associated with licorice root.
Consuming licorice root products that contain glycyrrhizin in large doses or over long periods can cause it to accumulate in the body. This accumulation could lead to raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol and unbalanced electrolyte levels.
High levels of glycyrrhizin in the body can ultimately lead to low potassium levels, raised blood pressure, muscle weakness, and abnormal heart rhythms.
More extreme effects of licorice poisoning due to overdosing are rare but possible. This can include kidney failure, congestive heart failure, and pulmonary edema. You should also avoid licorice root if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Licorice root may also interfere with certain blood thinners, blood pressure medication, cholesterol medication, and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or aspirin. If you take any other supplements or drugs, you should talk to a healthcare provider to avoid potentially harmful interactions.
Make sure you only purchase licorice root products from trusted manufacturers that use third-party lab testing (like us!) and do not take more than the dose recommended on the label.
The World Health Organization currently recommends consuming no more than 100 mg of glycyrrhizin a day–including that which you may find in sweeteners and flavored drinks. Check-in with a healthcare provider to make sure you take licorice root safely, especially if you are considering using licorice root long-term.
The Bottom Line
Licorice root has been used for thousands of years, and, if taken safely, the benefits can be rewarding! There are many ways to enjoy licorice root, from sore-throat-soothing sweet teas to stomach-settling supplements.
Before trying new supplements, always talk to a healthcare provider, especially if you have certain medical conditions or taking prescription medication. When used properly, licorice root can be safe and effective.