Have you tasted licorice candy? You could have come across several licorice flavored foods, licorice flavored tobacco or chewing gum. Liquorice or licorice is the root of plant which belongs to Asia and South Europe. Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has typical aroma and flavor which is very similar to anise or fennel. Root of Licorice has been widely used for its medicinal purposes in Ayurveda and Chinese herbal medicine. It offers anti microbial properties, reduce inflammation, helpful in respiratory disorders, relieves hyperacidity and have benefits for women related disorders. The root powder is sweet in taste and hence called sweet root.
Licorice Nutritional facts
Benefits of Licorice root comes from phytochemcials – saponins, flavonoids and chalones present. Popular saponin present in Licorice root is glycyrrhizin (salts of glycyrrhizic acid), is what gives it its characteristic flavor. It is over 50 times as sweet as sugar. Various health benefits of this chemical is being researched. Other constituents include ﬂavonoids, xenoestrogens and chalcones, which offer yellowish color to licorice like licoﬂavonol, liquiritin, liquiritigenin and others. Aroma of licorice root is complex, however contains mainly anethole.
Health benefits of licorice or Mulethi
History of Licorice is long and widespread. It has been used in various ancient medicines in India, China, Egypt, Roman and Greek. Liquorice offers plethora of benefits to body, some of them are discussed here.
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Licorice for Gastrointestinal disorders
Licorice root is used in dealing with digestive problems. It offers reduction of inflammation of digestive system and potentially helps in stomach discomfort. It soothes intestinal and stomach lining and enhance their functions. It is mild laxative and helps in bowel movements and relieves constipation. Since it is sweet in taste and has mild laxative effect, it is used for children. Try this as home remedy for digestive problem, mix equal quantity of licorice root powder, fennel powder and Indian gooseberry powder; take this along with water before going to bed.
Licorice fights microbes
Liquorice root extracts have been found effective in preventing various bacteria, fungi and virus. Preliminary lab tests suggest its effectiveness in controlling malaria and influenza virus. Licorice extract is often used in treating herpes infection and related sores. It reduced severity of sores and helps suppress herpes virus. It is believed that Glycyrrhizin present in licorice inhibits growth of DNA and RNA virus.
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Licorice improves immunity
Liquorice root extracts while preventing body from attack of microbes, also helps body increase its immunity by increasing production of white blood cells. It also helps providing relief from immunity related allergies and autoimmune diseases. It is advised to consume a teaspoon of mulethi powder daily as tonic to increase immunity.
Licorice for hyperacidity and GERD
Licorice is age old home remedy for heartburn, gastro esophageal acid reflux and hyperacidity. Glycyrrhizin helps in production of compound carbenoxolone which helps heal acidity. It also stimulates secretion of saliva which helps in maintaining pH levels in stomach and prevent acidity. It is effective in treating allergic cough as result of GERD. Liquorice tea made by boiling licorice root in water is home remedy for heartburn and acid reflux.
Licorice for pain relief
Phytochemicals in licorice root in proper doses offer analgesic effect. It is traditionally used in relieving pain. Decoction made from licorice root and cinnamon soothes muscle pain. Another traditional way is soaking powdered licorice root powder in water overnight and consuming it with cup of rice gruel in morning. Cumin along with licorice root powder mixed in honey is helpful in treating headache.
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Anti-Inflammatory properties of Liquorice
Liquorice offers anti-inflammatory properties to body and helpful in reduction of inflammation. It is useful in treating chronic inflammation like arthritis, rheumatic disease, some skin disease and eye irritation. Glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetic acid are responsible for anti-inflammatory properties of licorice.
Licorice and treatment of diabetes
Studies have suggest benefits of Licorice in reducing blood sugar and treating diabetes. An animal study confirmed hypoglycemic properties of licorice root in drug induced diabetic rats.
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Licorice and cancer cure
Flavonoids in Liquorice root have shown promising results in treating cancer in lab studies. Polyphenols in licorices have demonstrated cell death in cancer cells. More clinal trials would be essential to demonstrate benefits of licorice extracts in treatment of cancer. National Cancer Institute has identified Licorice for its cancer preventive properties.
Licorice in depression treatment
Research has suggested used of Glycyrrhizic acid present in licorice root in treatment of depression and nervousness. Licorice root controls secretion of coritsol from adrenal glands which helps in relieving anxiety, fatigue and stress. Licorice also contains amino acid Asparagine which helps in proper functioning of nervous system.
Licorice improves memory
Liquorice root supports the adrenal glands and in turn influence brain. Flavonoids in licorice offer antioxidant properties and were found to have protective effect on brain cells. Animal study on mice showed improved learning and memory in mice treated with licorice extracts. Root extracts also decreased effects of amnesia.
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Diuretic properties of licorice
Licorice tea has a diuretic effect, helping to ease water retention and buildup of toxins. It is also helpful in getting rid of unneeded water and salts in body. Licorice effect is quite similar to water pills taken by people with hypertension. This diuretic property is helpful in treating liver and kidney problems like cirrhosis and kidney stones.
Benefits of licorice for cardiovascular system
Studies suggest that licorice helps in reducing harmful blood cholesterol. Licorice root has ability to affect bile secretion which control cholesterol in blood. It also reduce inflammation in cardiovascular system and prevents damage of blood vessels by free radicals. Liquorice root extract reduced the risk of atherosclerosis and other heart diseases in animal studies.
Anti-ulcer activity of licorice
Licorice root extracts have been long used in treatment of ulcers in mouth, stomach and intestine. This is possible due to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of licorice. It also reduces gastric secretions and promotes development of protective mucus lining in stomach. Compound carbenoxolone is synthesized in body from lycyrrhizin present in licorice that is helpful in healing gastric and mouth ulcers. Gargling licorice root powder along with luckwarm water is home remedy for mouth ulcers. Decoction made from licorice root is used in treating gastric ulcers.
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Licorice for oral hygiene
Benefits of liquorice include its ability to eliminate bad breath. Gargling with licorice root water or chewing licorice root helps in prevention of dental caries, oral disease and preventing bad breath. Studies have demonstrated antimicrobial properties of licorice root and its use in preventing oro dental diseases. Today it finds use as ingredient in oral products including mouth wash, tooth paste, chewing gum and others.
Licorice for treatment of respiratory tract disorders
Licorice offers excellent medicinal use in treatment of respiratory tract disorders like cold, cough, respiratory tract inflammation, sore throat, bronchitis and asthma. It helps in reducing inflammation in respiratory tracts and lungs. It offers expectorant action in treatment of cough and stimulating mucus secretion. Mulethi has been used in treating hoarseness of voice. Drinking herbal tea with tulsi, licorice and mint is good for treating respiratory tract diseases. Licorice powder and ginger powder along with honey is powerful home treatment of cough.
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Licorice for weight loss
Initial research has shown indication of use of licorice root for loss of weight. Regular consumption of licorice coupled with regular diet and physical exercise helps in reduction of weight. Another study has indicated use of Licorice in reducing body fat. It should be understood that long term use of licorice as weight loss supplement has health risks.
Licorice for liver protection
Licorice has been used in traditional medicines in treatment of jaundice. It also offers antioxidant properties and helps in protecting liver from oxidative stress of free radicals and toxic materials. Studies have suggested that licorice extract inhibits liver damage.
Skin benefits of licorice
Licorice root offers antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant property which are helpful for skin. It forms ingredient of various skin creams used in treatment of atopic dermatitis or eczema. Application of paste made from licorice root powder to skin helps relieve skin inflammation and irritation. Applying licorice root powder mixed along with milk to skin can help treat dry skin and pimples and provide glow to skin. Fresh leaf of licorice is also used in treating wounds. Licorice contains phytochemcials which controls secretion of melanin in skin. It helps whitening of skin and reduces dark pigmentation. It is commonly used in cosmetics products as skin whitening agent and treating pigment abnormalities. Make this fenugreek and licorice face pack at home. Soak fenugreek seeds and licorice root separately overnight. Blend them to make fine paste. This paste can be applied to face as it offers fair and good looking skin.
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Hair benefits of licorice
Licorice is believed to prevent hair loss and repair damaged hair. It offers antimicrobial properties to keep your scalp healthy and free from infections. It is useful in treatment of eczema and dandruff. Mulethi oil is available in market for hair care. Licorice root powder along with heena is applied to hair for its benefits for skin.
Licorice benefits for women
Licorice root offers body supply of phytoestrogenic compounds which work similar to female hormone. Licorice has been traditionally used in treatment of women hormonal imbalance, mood swings and symptoms associated with menopause. It also helps in production of cortisol and helps in relieving premenstrual symptoms like mentrual cramps, nausea and mood swings. Consumption of licorice root helps reliving these symptoms. In case of nursing mothers, Licorice also helps in secretion of milk from breasts. Licorice powder is often given as traditional medicine to nursing mothers for regulating body hormones.
Licorice as an aphrodisiac
It is believed that licorice can stimulate male libido. Initial studies suggest that smell of licorice increased blood flow in men penis. Licorice is known to affect the endocrine or body hormonal system. Some believe that licorice can reduce level of serum testosterone in body and thus influences male libido. It has suggested use in treatment of erectile disorders.
Licorice in treatment of Addison’s disease
Liquorice root affects functioning of adrenal glands. Glycyrrhizic acid slows down breakdown of cortisol. It is recommended in treatment of mild Addison’s disease in which body is unable to produce cortisol hormone.
Licorice root side-effects
Long term ingestion of licorice root might cause hypertension, cataracts, and the retention of fluid in the body. It’s not advised for individuals with heart problems. People that are allergic to plants of the Fabaceae family (legume, pea, bean, or pulse) could show a reaction to licorice since it belongs to that family. Considering its estrogenic properties it should be avoided by pregnant woman and people suffering from sex hormones imbalances. Licorice contains chemicals which are similar to hormone Aldosterone. It regulates balance of sodium and potassium in body. Overdose of licorice may lead to loss of potassium in body and thus retention of fluid in body.
Licorice root is available as powder, capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts. Often licorice root products are adulterated with similar smelling anise extracts. Make sure your source of licorice is authentic. Often licorice can be found with glycyrrhizin removed known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL).
Liquorice tea recipe – To make licorice tea, all you need is some licorice root, ginger and honey or sugar for taste. Boil licorice root and ginger in glass of water. Allow it to simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the fluid and drink this lukewarm. Honey or sugar may be added as per taste.
Its name Glycyrrhiza derives from greek words – Glykys (sweet) and Rhiza (root). It is also known as lakritze (German and Italian), regliss (French), regaliz (Spanish), lakritze (Italian) and gan zao甘草(Chinese). In India it is a popular medicinal herb and has various names – Yashtimadhu, Madhuyasti, Madhuka, Klitaka (Sanskrit), Mulethi, Mulhatti, Jethimadh (Hindi), Jeshthamadh (Marathi) Yashtimadhu (Bengali), Jyeshtamadhu, Atimadhura (Kannada), Irattimadhuram (Malayalam), Athimadhuram (Tamil), Atimadhuramu, Yastimadhu (Telugu), Mulethi, Asl-us-sus (Urdu)Image Credits: Wikimedia - Chameleon, Leon Brooks, Pixabay