Licorice, also known as mulethi, is an herb from the legume family. It is widely used as a flavoring agent in sweets, chewing gum, toothpaste and beverages like soft drinks and beer.
For medicinal purposes, the dried root of this herb is used. In fact, it is one of the most widely consumed herbs used for medicinal benefits across the world.
One of the main constituents of licorice is glycyrrhizin that gives it the characteristic sweet taste. This herb is much sweeter than regular table sugar. It also contains a wide range of nutrients and flavonoids.
It is a good source of B vitamins and vitamin E. It also has minerals like phosphorous, calcium, choline, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, silicon and zinc.
In addition, it is a storehouse of many essential phytonutrients, including beta-carotene, thymol, phenol and quercetin.
Its medicinal use is mainly due to its expectorant, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, laxative, antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-tumor properties.
Licorice root is readily available in the market in different forms. You can find it in sticks, dried root, powder, extract or capsule form. However, it is suggested to consult your doctor before using this herb as a medical aid.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of licorice root.
1. Combats Digestive Ailments
Licorice root is helpful in treating digestive problems, such as constipation, acidity, heartburn, stomach ulcers, inflammation of the lining of the stomach, and acid reflux. Its mild laxative effect plays a key role in regulating bowel movements.
Its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties also help reduce inflammation in the stomach and protect the stomach’s inner lining from infection.
A 2013 study, published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, highlights the healing effect of licorice on Helicobacter pylori-infected peptic ulcers.
- As a digestive aid, add 1 teaspoon of licorice powder to a cup of hot water. Cover, steep for 10 minutes and strain it. Drink this tea 2 or 3 times a day for a week.
- You can also take 250 to 500 mg of standardized deglycyrrhizinated licorice 3 times a day, after consulting your doctor.
2. Fights Respiratory Infections
This herb can treat respiratory tract infections, such as a sore throat, cold, cough and asthma. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help reduce inflammation of the bronchial tubes and calm the airways. It even loosens and thins mucus in airways, which eases congestion and coughing.
In addition, its antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiviral properties fight microbes that cause respiratory illnesses and an overproduction of mucus.
- When suffering from respiratory problems, drink a few cups of licorice root tea until you get relief from the symptoms.
- You can also mix ½ teaspoon of licorice powder with a little honey and have it twice daily for a few days.
- To soothe throat irritation, you can even suck on some licorice candies.
3. Heals Canker Sores
Licorice also helps treat canker sores due to its anti-inflammatory and mucosa-healing properties. It helps fight the herpes virus, too.
- Chew a couple of 200 mg deglycyrrhizinated licorice capsules two or three times a day.
- You can also dissolve a few DGL pills in water and gargle with it 4 times a day.
4. Protects Your Liver
Licorice also helps treat liver disorders, such as jaundice, hepatitis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Its natural antioxidant property protects the liver from damage due to free radicals and toxic materials. In addition, its anti-inflammatory property helps soothe liver inflammation due to hepatitis.
A 2012 study published in the Phytotherapy Research journal found that licorice root extract helps in the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Drink a cup of licorice root tea to promote liver health. To make the tea, add ½ teaspoon of licorice root to a cup of hot water. Cover, steep for 5 to 10 minutes and strain it. Drink this tea once daily for a week, take a break for a couple of weeks and then repeat.
- You can also take licorice supplements, but only after consulting your doctor.
5. Aids Weight Reduction
Obesity is a serious condition that you can combat with licorice. The flavonoids in this herb help reduce excessive fat accumulation in the body.
In a 2009 study published in the Obesity Research and Clinical Practice journal, researchers found that licorice flavonoid oil helps reduce total body fat and visceral fat in overweight people.
Those who took 900 mg of the oil daily for 8 weeks noticed a significant decrease in visceral fat area, body weight, body mass index (BMI) and bad (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) cholesterol.
Eating licorice (or licorice flavonoid oil) may help in the prevention and treatment of obesity. However, avoid licorice candy, which is loaded with added sugar.
6. Supports Oral Health
This herb also promotes oral health. Its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties can prevent the growth of cavity-causing bacteria, reduce plaque, fight bad breath and keep your teeth and gums strong and healthy.
A 2012 study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Natural Products confirmed the oral health benefits of licorice root.
In another 2012 study, published in the Anaerobe journal, researchers gave the green light to use licorice root extracts in oral hygiene products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash.
- Use dried licorice root powder to brush your teeth or use a mouthwash containing licorice to maintain oral health.
- You can also use a soft stick of licorice like a toothbrush to brush your teeth daily.
7. Boosts Immunity
A strong, healthy immune system plays a vital role in keeping your body free from viruses, bad bacteria and infections.
Licorice aids in the production of chemicals called lymphocytes and macrophage, which improve your body’s natural defense mechanism. It also contains powerful antioxidants that help improve immunity.
To give a boost to your immune system, drink licorice tea or take supplements after consulting your doctor.
8. Eases Menopausal Symptoms
Licorice can even help in dealing with many problems associated with menopause. The phytoestrogenic compounds in this herb help correct the hormonal imbalance in the body to ease symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, depression, vaginal dryness and mood swings.
In addition, the B vitamins in licorice help regulate hormones like estrogen and progesterone to help fight these symptoms.
A 2012 preliminary study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research highlights the positive effects of licorice on menopausal hot flashes. However, more research is needed.
Before taking licorice root extract, consult your doctor for the correct dosage.
9. Fights Arthritis Symptoms
This herb has anti-inflammatory properties that can help treat chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
It has an aspirin-like action that can help soothe pain and swelling, two common symptoms of arthritis. In addition, it reduces free-radical damage that causes inflammation and pain.
In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, researchers found the anti-inflammatory effects of licorice and roasted licorice extracts to be beneficial in preventing and treating arthritis.
To ease arthritis pain and inflammation, drink a few cups of licorice tea daily or take a supplement after consulting your doctor.
10. Treats Depression
This herb also helps treat depression. The glycyrrhizin in licorice root improves the functioning of the adrenal glands, which help fight nervousness and depression.
In addition, it has essential minerals like magnesium, calcium and beta-carotene as well as flavonoids that help lift depression.
Licorice is even effective in combating pre- and post-menopausal depression in women. According to a 2003 study published in the Journal of Molecular Neuroscience, licorice inhibits serotonin re-uptake, which helps treat mild to moderate depression in pre- and post-menopausal women.
You can take this herb in the form of tea or supplements to fight depression. Consult your doctor before taking supplements.
- Avoid taking large amounts of licorice for longer than two weeks, as it can be harmful. It may cause side effects like high blood pressure, fluid retention and metabolism abnormalities.
- If you take diuretics or anti-hypertensive drugs, consult your healthcare practitioner before taking this herb.
- If you have diabetes, kidney disease or low potassium level, avoid this herb altogether.
- This herb is not suitable for pregnant women or infants.