May 18, 2013

Health Benefits of Licorice

Licorice is the root of the leguminous plant glycyrrhiza glabra, that originated in Southern Europe and some parts of Asia. Licorice extract is obtained by chemically boiling the root of the plant and then evaporating the excess water. It contains a compound known as glycyrrhizin, which is almost 50 times sweeter than sucrose. Licorice extract is used in a wide variety of candies as a flavoring agent throughout the world.

The Goodness of Licorice

Besides its use in candies, licorice also has a wide range of applications in medicines, due to the many health benefits that it imparts. One of the most common uses of licorice is in alleviating respiratory difficulties like cold, sore throat, bronchitis, allergies and even tuberculosis, due to its effectiveness in promoting expectoration. It can dissolve mucus, as a result of which it is being increasingly used in many modern cough syrups. Besides, it is a conventional remedy for mouth, stomach and gastric ulcers. It is also believed to have laxative property. This herb may be used as an antiviral agent in the treatment of shingles and ophthalmic, oral or genital herpes.

Licorice is said to contain isoflavones, which are phytoestrogenic in nature, i.e. they can cause estrogenic and/ or anti estrogenic effects. Therefore, licorice has been found to be effective in reducing the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause. In addition to these, it can also prevent the occurrence of hyperkalemia or elevated level of potassium in blood, which can cause cardiac arrhythmia. Cardiac Arrhythmia refers to conditions which are characterized by abnormal electrical activity in the heart, that cause heart beats which are either too fast or too slow. This can lead to cardiac arrest and consequent death. However, large doses of licorice are not recommended, as the compounds glycyrrhizic and glycyrrhetinic acids found in licorice can cause hypokalemia (low level of potassium in blood) and increase in blood pressure. To avoid such a situation, deglycyrrhizinated licorice preparations should be used which are also available.

Licorice can be used in the treatment of ileitis, the inflammation of ileum (last part of the small intestine). Because of its antispasmodic property, it is effective in diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome (damaged bowel lining caused by antibiotics, toxins, parasites, etc.) and Crohn's disease. In traditional herbal medicines, it is also used in the treatment of cancer. Some studies have shown that licorice can be effective in heart diseases, while some other studies have found it to reduce the level of cholesterol.

Licorice has been found to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) in mice. Licorice is also supposed to enhance memory and cognition. Some researches have shown that the compound glycyrrhizin found in licorice may be effective in treating hepatitis B and hepatitis C. It is also found to reduce body fat. Some recent studies suggested that this magic herb can be effective in treating HIV/AIDS as it inhibits the replication of HIV and stimulate interferons, which is the virus fighting agent of the body.

However, excess consumption of licorice candies has been found to be harmful for the liver and cardiovascular system. Over-consumption of licorice causes hypertension and edema (swelling due to excess accumulation of fluid in cells, tissues and serous cavities). It is also not suggested for people having hypertension and kidney problems. To conclude, it is important to use this herb carefully and in moderate amounts for medicinal purposes, to derive maximum health benefits.


Post a Comment