8 Surprising Health Benefits of Licorice
You might think of licorice as just a candy, but the potent herb has health benefits that go beyond just satisfying your sweet tooth.
What exactly is licorice?
When you think of licorice, your first thought may be of those black jelly beans that you always threw away in favor of the more fruity flavors. But licorice root is an herb that contains many bioactive compounds, the most prominent being glycyrrhetic acid. It has been used for centuries for its medicinal benefits, and it is available in many forms, including licorice extract, powder, and licorice root tea. Speaking of jelly beans, check out these eight surprising facts about the favorite Easter candy.
Possible side effects of eating too much licorice
Although licorice root can be a healthy addition to your diet, it’s important to note that there is the possibility of too much of a good thing. “If excess licorice is consumed, it may lead to dangerously low potassium levels, which can lead to heart conditions as well as muscle weakness,” says Julie Upton, MS, RD. The herb can be contraindicated for many people who have specific medical conditions or take certain medications that will interact with its bioactive compounds. For example, certain heart disease medications should not be taken with licorice, as well as individuals with some kidney conditions.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that eating two ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital, so limit the number of days you consume the herb and be sure not to consumer more than two ounces at a time. If you are someone over 40 who has a history of heart disease and/or high blood pressure, be sure to closely watch the amount you consume (and be sure to avoid these other foods that are bad for your heart). Otherwise, licorice root is safe to eat and can be used to benefit many aspects of your health.
Licorice soothes your stomach
“Licorice is often used for GI symptoms including heartburn, stomach ulcers, colitis, and gastritis or any inflammation of the lining of the stomach or upper GI tract,” says Upton. It is a soothing anti-inflammatory, so it can help protect against ulcerative disorders. One study published in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is a safe and effective alternative to over-the-counter stomach ulcer medications. Here are more surprising stomachache remedies.
Licorice fights against stress
If you’re someone who is stressed often, licorice root can help fight the negative effects of adrenal fatigue. In the medical journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, the herb was found to help the body more efficiently regulate the stress hormone cortisol. “This gives your adrenals a break,” says Dr. Josh Axe. “It turns out it’s one of the main adaptogen herbs to lower cortisol.”
Licorice improves respiratory health
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“Licorice can be used for the treatment of severe respiratory issues, including cough, sore throat, asthma, and bronchitis,” says Rebecca Lee, RN. It not only provides alleviation from upper respiratory infections caused by viruses and bacteria, but it can help get rid of mucus from the lungs and help relax bronchial spasms.
Licorice helps with PMS and fertility issues
“Licorice is great for treating PMS symptoms, such as irritability, bloating, and breast tenderness,” says Lee. High estrogen levels combined with low progesterone levels are a likely cause of PMS symptoms, and licorice root can lower estrogen levels while raising progesterone levels, helping to alleviate those pesky period problems. Find out more unusual remedies for cramps.
Licorice helps with pain relief
Licorice root can help with a number of ailments, including abdominal and muscle cramps as well as joint pain, according to Dr. Axe. When applied topically, it can also alleviate some skin issues, including eczema discomfort and other dermal conditions, as it acts similarly to hydrocortisone.
Licorice boosts your immunity
According to Dr. Axe, licorice has the potential to help treat and prevent diseases such hepatitis C, HIV, and influenza thanks to its antiviral properties. One study published in the journal Food Chemistry found the herb to have “antioxidant, free-radical scavenging, immunostimulating” properties. Here are more habits that boost your immune system.
Licorice improves your skin
“Licorice is beneficial for the skin when used internally and externally,” says Lee. “It helps to heal skin ailments such as eczema, psoriasis, inflammation, sunburn, persistent skin redness, and athlete’s foot.” Topical solutions with licorice extracts can be used in relieving swelling and itchy skin, while ingesting the herb can strengthen the skin’s immunity and resilience. Find out more spices that give a boost to your skin-care routine.
Licorice improves your dental health
This multipurpose herb can also help keep your teeth and gums healthy. One study from the Journal of Natural Products found that licorice root contains two effective antibacterial compounds that can prevent the growth several major bacteria connected with cavities and gum disease. Here are more foods that give you stronger, whiter teeth.