Licorice Root: Miracle Herb?

Licorice plants comprise the genus Glycyrrhiza and include about 20 different plants native to Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Australia. Licorice has wide-ranging applications and the herb is used for culinary and medicinal purposes across the globe. While it's technically part of the pea family, many Westerners mistakenly associate Licorice with the strongly scented anise oil used to flavor the eponymous candies.[1]

Glycyrrhiza glabra

Glycyrrhiza glabra

But licorice has a long and storied history outside of the West. In traditional Chinese
medicine. Chinese licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) is known as gan-cao, or "sweet herb". Many of the earliest surviving herbal documents allude to licorice, and its use dates back at least 2000 years. In Chinese herbalism, which relies on complex blends of ingredients, as many as half of the major herbal formulas contain Chinese licorice root. It is often used as a flavor enhancer, or as a "guiding" herb to improve the body's reception to an herbal formula's active ingredients.

Other species of licorice, like Glycrrhiza glabra, have begun gaining popularity in the West for their health benefits. Many scientific experts regard licorice as an effective expectorant, anti-inflammatory agent, and as a demulcent. Recent research on glycyrrhizic acid, the active compound within licorice, has shown that the chemical acts directly on the adrenal cortex, stimulating the production of hormones. Ongoing studies suggest that licorice may prolong the effects of cortisone, and improve general adrenal function. Another recent report in the New Zealand Medical Journal reveals that licorice may have untapped potential for treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

But, while Glycyrrhiza can improve blood flow in moderate doses, prolonged or heavy use of licorice can have several known side-effects, including hypertension and potassium depletion. And while many herbalists prescribe licorice for a variety of conditions, most practitioners will caution against the extended use of licorice without medical oversight.  The herb is also used widely for its anti-stress and anti-anxiety properties. Glycrrhiza has demonstrated in clinical environments that it can enhance circulation and improve blood flow.  Enhanced circulation has numerous corollary benefits, such as improved respiration and better blood sugar regulation.[2]

1 http://www.stevenfoster.com/education/monograph/licorice.html

2 http://www.acupuncture.com/newsletters/m_may12/licorice.htm

This article is intended to provide only general background information, about a natural ingredient that is present in one or more of our formulas. This background article may mention particular diseases, possible mechanisms of action, or other interesting areas of recent health research. While we believe these statements to be accurate, they do not mean that our products are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent these diseases, or that the ingredient is included in any of our formulas for any of these reasons. If you have questions about your own health conditions, or the suitability of a particular ingredient or formula, you should consult your health care practitioner.